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Keywords:

  • interpersonal aggression;
  • attitudes;
  • moral justification;
  • norms;
  • acts;
  • situations;
  • uncertainty avoidance;
  • independence vs. interdependence;
  • Japan;
  • USA;
  • Spain

Abstract

Six hundred and thirty-two university students of both sexes—242 Japanese (137 males and 105 females), 190 Spanish (71 males and 119 females), and 200 American (100 males and 100 females)—completed a questionnaire that examined their attitudes toward various kinds of aggression directed at other people in different situations that ranged from self-defense to a method of overcoming communication problems. Factor analysis revealed three factors: physical aggression (killing, torture, and hitting), direct verbal aggression (shouting and rage), and indirect verbal aggression (being ironic and hindering). The basic factor structure of the Japanese, the Spanish, and the USA samples was similar. In all samples, men showed a higher justification of physical aggressive acts in any situation and of indirect verbal aggression in nondefensive circumstances. Cultural differences were found in the degree of justification of the three factors: in all kinds of situations, Japanese students showed a lower justification of indirect verbal aggression but a higher justification of direct verbal aggression than USA and Spain samples. Physical aggression in defensive situations is justified more by Americans than by Japanese and Spanish students. These findings suggest the existence of a common basic moral code about physical aggressive acts, but there seems to be a cultural influence on moral codes concerning verbal aggressive acts. Oriental cultures, with an interdependent construal of self, seem to be more permissive of direct verbal aggression compared with Western cultures, but they have less tolerance for indirect verbal aggression. There were practically no significant differences between American and Spanish scores. Aggr. Behav. 25:185–195, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.