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The Anatomy of Anger: An Integrative Cognitive Model of Trait Anger and Reactive Aggression


  • The authors acknowledge support from the NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF/EPSCoR).

concerning this article should be addressed to Ben Wilkowski, University of Wyoming, Department of Psychology, Department 3415, 1000 East University Avenue, Laramie, WY 82071. E-mail:


ABSTRACT This paper presents an integrative cognitive model, according to which individual differences in 3 cognitive processes jointly contribute to a person's level of trait anger and reactive aggression. An automatic tendency to attribute hostile traits to others is the first of these cognitive processes, and this process is proposed to be responsible for the more frequent elicitation of anger, particularly when hostile intent is ambiguous. Rumination on hostile thoughts is the second cognitive process proposed, which is likely to be responsible for prolonging and intensifying angry emotional states. The authors finally propose that low trait anger individuals use effortful control resources to self-regulate the influence of their hostile thoughts, whereas those high in trait anger do not. A particular emphasis of this review is implicit cognitive sources of evidence for the proposed mechanisms. The authors conclude with a discussion of important future directions, including how the proposed model can be further verified, broadened to take into account motivational factors, and applied to help understand anger-related social problems.

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