The Effects of Affective, Behavioral, and Cognitive Components of Trait Anger on the Alcohol-Aggression Relation


  • This research was supported by grant R01-AA-11691 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Peter R. Giancola, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, 115 Kastle Hall, Lexington, KY 40506-0044; E-mail:


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of affective, behavioral, and cognitive components of trait anger on alcohol-related aggression in men and women.

Methods: Subjects were 300 (150 men and 150 women) healthy social drinkers between 21 and 35 years of age. Trait anger was measured using the ABC Anger Inventory. Following the consumption of either an alcohol or a placebo beverage, subjects were tested on a modified version of the Taylor Aggression Paradigm in which mild electric shocks were received from, and administered to, a fictitious opponent during a competitive task. Aggressive behavior was operationalized as the shock intensities administered to the fictitious opponent under conditions of low and high provocation.

Results: Results indicated that alcohol increased aggression only for men with higher behavioral and cognitive anger scores and only for women with higher behavioral anger scores. Results also showed that when all anger components were taken into account, behavioral anger was the only factor that put one at risk for intoxicated aggression.

Conclusions: Two recent studies demonstrated that the trait of “general” anger is a risk factor for intoxicated aggression (Giancola, 2002a; Parrott and Zeichner, 2002). The present investigation confirmed and extended these findings by examining the role of three different components of anger. The results highlight the fact that alcohol consumption does not increase aggression in all persons and in all situations. An important goal for future research is to identify which individual difference and contextual factors are most important in determining who will, and will not, behave in an aggressive manner when intoxicated.