Victim and perpetrator accounts of interpersonal conflict: autobiographical narratives about anger

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1990 Nov;59(5):994-1005. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.59.5.994.


Subjects furnished autobiographical accounts of being angered (victim narratives) and of angering someone else (perpetrator narratives). The provoking behavior was generally portrayed by the perpetrator as meaningful and comprehensible, whereas the victim tended to depict it as arbitrary, gratuitous, or incomprehensible. Victim accounts portrayed the incident in a long-term context that carried lasting implications, especially of continuing harm, loss, and grievance. Perpetrator accounts tended to cast the incident as a closed, isolated incident that did not have lasting implications. Several findings fit a hypothesis that interpersonal conflicts may arise when a victim initially stifles anger and then finally responds to an accumulated series of provocations, whereas the perpetrator perceives only the single incident and regards the angry response as an unjustified overreaction. Victim and perpetrator roles are associated with different subjective interpretations.

MeSH terms

  • Anger*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Motivation
  • Personality Development*
  • Social Perception