Innovations in measuring aggression

This paper is an oldie but goodie.

Three experiments examined how norms characteristic of a “culture of honor” manifest themselves in the cognitions, emotions, behaviors, and physiological reactions of southern White males.

Participants were University of Michigan students who grew up in the North or South. In 3 experiments, they were insulted by aconfederate who bumped into the participant and called him an “asshole.” Compared with northerners—who were relatively unaffected by the insult—southerners were (a) more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, (b) more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), (c) more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), (d) more cognitively primed for aggression, and (e) more likely to engage in aggressive and dominant behavior.

Findings highlight the insult–aggression cycle in cultures of honor, in which insults diminish a man’s reputation and he tries to restore.

Somewhat coincidentally, I have just finished reading the first book of North and South, the famed Civil War trilogy. I consume fiction voraciously with a new baby, because I have to do something while bouncing the little stinker on a yoga ball for three hours a night to get him to sleep.

It was fun to read, but a touch cartoonish for my taste. So I will not pick up books two and three. Recommended reads welcome.

6 thoughts on “Innovations in measuring aggression

  1. I’m pretty sure its been found that low levels of cortisol is related with increased aggression as opposed to the other way round.
    Also, this concoction of measures is measuring both trait and state aggression, which would then eliminate its validity to determine that the increase in aggression is due to insults.
    There is a good paper that discusses the problems with behavioural measures of aggression by Ritter & Eslea (2005) that is worth checking out.

    This is a real pet area of research for me as I still believe that despite aggression being a really important topic of research, the current methods in measuring it are all pretty rubbish.

  2. Perhaps reading a sleep book such as “save our sleep” by Tizzie Hall may reduce the need to read novels while bouncing “your little stinker” to sleep for 3 hours.

    I know sleep routines can be hard to establish (and I don’t judge). As a mother of 4 month old twins, a 2.5 year old, a 16 year old and a PhD student, i have found sleep routines well worth the effort. I don’t know how you manage to read and do all that you do without one.

    Congrats on the new baby – finally a topic i feel comfortable commenting on!

  3. I read the Hunger Games trilogy while bouncing my little stinker (aka The Awesome Mr Bean). Congratulations on keeping your intellectual pursuits a notch or two above YA lit. By the way, he’s six months old now and has worked his way into his own manageable sleep schedule (which includes putting himself to sleep in his cot). Enjoy the bouncing, it’ll be over soon.