The catharsis hypothesis, aggressive drive, and the reduction of aggression



The import of the concept of aggressive drive for the construct of catharsis, particularly the trend toward alternatives to drive concepts, is considered. Three conceptions of catharsis are distinguished—the Dramatic model, the Clinical model and the Experimental model. The Dramatic and Clinical models are seen to focus on affective engagement and change, while differing in the vicarious nature of the cathartic experience, in the degree of cognitive representation entailed, and in the nature of the interpersonal context. The Experimental model is seen to be addressed to the more general problem of aggression reduction through aggressive acts. The Dramatic and Clinical models of catharsis are viewed as more specific and germane, and the hypothesis is proposed that catharsis obtains in the case of inhibited rather than persistent or unresolved affect.