Aggression in dyadic interaction


  • In preparing this paper we were greatly helped by the fruitful discussions with members of the staff from the Labratoire de Psychologie Sociale in Paris, especially Robert Pages, and members of the Department of Social Psychology in Nijmegen, especially Jos Jaspars and Paul Saager. For assistance in execution of the experiments, we are indebted to Miss Françoise-Marie Féral and Miss May Veldhuis.


It is shown that the notions of aggressive behavior as ‘intentional emission of noxious stimulation’ (Buss, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1971) and that of ‘injuriating goal response’ (Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mower and Sears, 1939) are identical. The usefulness of these theories to predict S's reaction to the reception of a given noxious stimulation is questioned. It is suggested that S's reactions to noxious stimulation may or may not be aggressive, depending on whether the noxious stimulation S receives is interpreted as being a behavior justified by the nom in the situation, or as reflecting an aggressive intent of O. It is hypothesized that the norms established in the situation depend on (i) victim's perception of the noxious stimulation received as being instrumental for O's goal attainment, (ii) victim's perception of the value of O's goal, and (iii) the value of victim's own goal. The establishment of norms regulating the exchange of noxious stimulation between Ss is operationalized in two experiments. Aggression, defined as an infringement of these norms, is measured. In Experiment I, participate 56 female students, and in Experiment 2, 80 male students. Subject is alternately victim (he performs a sensorimotor task and receives an electric shock) and aggressor (he shocks the other S). In Experiment I it is found that Ss counteraggress faster and more frequently if they interpret the shock received from the partner as an infringement of the norm. In Experiment 2, Ss do not counteraggress more frequently, but they do counteraggress faster and evaluate O more negatively. It is concluded that the results clearly contradict current positions and favor the authors' cognitive reformulation of the determinants of aggressive behavior.