Effects of status of attacker and intensity of attack on the intensity of counter-aggression1


  • Bruce A. Drost,

    1. University of Denver
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    • 2

      This article is based upon a thesis submitted by the senior author in partial fulfillment of requirements for the M A degree at the University of Denver

  • Paul D. Knott

    1. University of Denver
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      Requests for reprints should be sent to Paul D Knott, Department of Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, 80210

  • 1

    This study was supported in part by Grant MH 17624-01 from the National Institute of Mental Health to the junior author


Male college students were exposed to a Same, Lower, or Higher status confederate, and to a small or large number of electric shocks from the stooge. Subjects in the Same and High status conditions were more counter-aggressive, both in terms of mean intensity and number of shocks, than subjects exposed to a Low status confederate. These results are in contradiction to the related human and animal data, which have generally indicated that more aggression is directed toward low rather than high status persons The major implications of the present data for other research in this area are (1) the importance of varying status of the attacked as well as status of the attacker, (2) the necessity for systematically varying the different dimensions of “status,” e g, functional (i e, powerful) vs. nonfunctional aspects of status, (3) the importance of looking at different kinds of aggression, e g, physical as well as verbal, (4) the importance of systematically assessing the subject's perceptions of the attacker and the subject's own emotions–arousal, anxiety, guilt, etc at the time of the attack, and (5) the potential for studying variables that determine aggressive and altruistic behavior within the same experimental context.