Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater: The catharsis hypothesis revisited1


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    . The authors wish to thank Jacqueline Goodchilds, Ph.D., James Murray, and Gary Wolfe, Ph.D., for their careful readings of this paper; and Anna Kun, Ph.D., and Ted Nickel, Ph.D., for their assistance in various phases of the study. The authors also wish to express sincere thanks to Paul R. Abramson, Ph.D., for his assistance with the revised version of this paper.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Seymour Feshbach, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90024.


Boys between the ages of 9 and 10 participated in one of three experimental activities. One involved movement and aggression, the second movement devoid of aggression, and the third minimal movement of a nonaggressive nature. Aggressive fantasy decreased in the aggressive movement and minimal movement groups but increased in the nonaggressive movement group. The results are consistent with a cathartic view of the functional relationship between aggressive behavior and aggressive fantasy when the effects of movement and completion of an aggressive response are considered. This study supports the notion that the enactment of an aggressive goal response is essential to the occurrence of a cathartic effect and points up the importance of controlling for movement in investigations of the relationship between aggressive fantasy and aggressive behavior. An additional, exploratory investigation of daydreaming suggests that children who are high in aggressive fantasy are likely to daydream more frequently than children low in aggressive fantasy.