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Verbal Aggression: Understanding the Psychological Antecedents and Social Consequences


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The articles contained in this special issue focus on verbal aggression. The studies delve into the trait and state antecedents to aggressive language use as well as its interpersonal consequences. This prologue tracks trends in research on verbal aggression and related concepts over the past 60 years. The trend curves indicate a recent surge in studies on verbal aggressing. To explain the results across the five empirical studies that follow, two parallel and sometimes opposing processes are considered. The selfish emotions of the individualistic affect system drive verbal aggression and assault. In contrast, the prosocial emotions of the cooperative affect system drive verbal collaboration and comforting. Avoidance is characterized as a half-step between aggression and collaboration. The processes combine to predict attitudes and behaviors across the range of conflict situations examined in this special issue: individual, relational, communal, and societal.
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DOI: 10.1177/0261927X11425032
November 2011
2012 31: 5 originally published online 7Journal of Language and Social Psychology
Mark A. Hamilton
Social Consequences
Verbal Aggression: Understanding the Psychological Antecedents and
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Journal of Language and Social Psychology
31(1) 5 –12
© 2012 SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0261927X11425032
onJournal of Language and Social Psychology
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
Corresponding Author:
Mark A. Hamilton, Department of Communication Sciences, University of Connecticut,
850 Bolton Road, Storrs, CT 06269-1085, USA
Verbal Aggression:
Understanding the
Psychological Antecedents
and Social Consequences
Mark A. Hamilton
The articles contained in this special issue focus on verbal aggression. The studies
delve into the trait and state antecedents to aggressive language use as well as its
interpersonal consequences. This prologue tracks trends in research on verbal
aggression and related concepts over the past 60 years. The trend curves indicate
a recent surge in studies on verbal aggressing. To explain the results across the
five empirical studies that follow, two parallel and sometimes opposing processes
are considered. The selfish emotions of the individualistic affect system drive verbal
aggression and assault. In contrast, the prosocial emotions of the cooperative affect
system drive verbal collaboration and comforting. Avoidance is characterized as a
half-step between aggression and collaboration. The processes combine to predict
attitudes and behaviors across the range of conflict situations examined in this special
issue: individual, relational, communal, and societal.
verbal aggression, verbal collaboration, conflict, facework, politeness, personality,
attitudes, behaviors
Worldwide, 1.6 million people die from violence each year, with many more victim-
ized by nonfatal aggression that includes maiming, sexual assault, property damage,
and psychological trauma (Dahlberg & Krug, 2006). This epidemic of violence has
6 Journal of Language and Social Psychology 31(1)
long been recognized as a global public health problem (Rutherford, Zwi, Grove, &
Butchart, 2007). Although the ultimate causes of physical aggression may be eco-
nomic, cultural, and demographic, one of the most proximate and powerful causes is
verbal aggression (Hamilton, Buck, Chory, Beatty, & Patrylak, 2008). Indirectly, then,
verbal aggression imperils public health. Verbal aggression and physical aggression
harm society individually and collectively. Aggressive language, with its penchant to
reverberate over social media, can damage the self-concept of its victims. Verbal
aggression threatens to destroy civil discourse in groups and large organizations. It
polarizes factions toward extremism, bringing strife and ultimately paralysis to institu-
tions. Between cultures, verbal aggression can spiral out of control, leading to bloodshed
or even full-scale war. In short, the incendiary effects of excessive verbal aggression
represent an imminent danger to civilized society.
Aggressive language is typically placed at the far end of a continuum that ranges
from polite to rude. This politeness dimension cuts across the realm of etiquette and
manners, anchored on one end by elegant messages and on the other by those that are
the savage stuff of this special issue. Politeness, as a frame for verbal aggression, is a
common theme among the articles (Bull & Wells, this issue; Donohue, this issue;
Ickes et al., this issue). This issue on verbal aggression covers a diversity of immediate
and mediated contexts across the relationship gamut, from intimates to acquaintances
to strangers. The topics addressed by the articles are poignant across their substantive
range—from deadly ethnic strife to sharp exchanges among powerful politicians to
malicious incidental conversation. The articles are ordered by extensity of impact,
from widespread to particular (societal, communal, relational, and then individual).
Research Trends in Verbal Aggressing
Verbal aggression, the act of using aggressive language on a target, can be distin-
guished from verbal aggressiveness, a person’s attitude toward using aggressive
language (Levine, Beatty, & Limon, 2004). With adequate measurement, it should
be possible to accurately predict verbal aggression from scores on a verbal aggres-
siveness scale (Infante, Rancer, & Wigley, 2011; Levine et al., this issue). If an atti-
tude is relevant to behavior, meta-analysis (Kim & Hunter, 1993) predicts that the
attitude–behavior correlation should be quite massive (r ≈ .80). Consider the literature
related to this particular attitude–behavior process over the past 60 years, as repre-
sented in PsychINFO. Across time, research on verbal aggression is highly correlated
with research on verbal aggressiveness (r = .78, p < .001). The verbal aggression and
verbal aggressiveness counts can be summed to create an overall indicator of research
on verbal aggressing. Regressing the number of studies of verbal aggressing on date
(see Figure 1) indicates an enormous increase (β = .89, p < .001) over the 60-year
period. Analysis of residuals from the regression indicated that the positive accelera-
tion to the curve was considerable (r = .47, p < .001).
Rudeness and incivility are terms that cover both verbal and nonverbal expressions
of hostility. Over the 60-year span, research on rudeness is highly correlated with
Hamilton 7
research on incivility (r = .83, p < .001). As an overall indicator of research on impolite
behavior, the rudeness count and incivility count can be summed. Figure 1 shows a
massive increase for studies on impolite behavior (β = .67, p < .001). The frequency of
research on impolite behavior remains substantially lower over the period of 60 years
than that for verbal aggressing: t(59) = 7.05, p < .001. Yet analysis of residuals shows
a sharper positive acceleration (r = .74, p < .001).
As a baseline reference, aggressive language can also be characterized as offensive,
vulgar, opinionated, and rude. These modifiers are roughly interchangeable, so
instances of each were summed per year across the span of 60 years. Figure 1 shows a
large increase (β = .51, p < .001) for studies on aggressive language. The frequency of
research on language is much less than that for impolite behavior, t(59) = 3.71, p < .001,
and dramatically less than that for verbal aggressing, t(59) = 6.68, p < .001. Analysis
of residuals does indicate a severe positive acceleration (r = .86, p < .001).
The trends in Figure 1 reveal how vigorously researchers have been concentrating
their research efforts on the process of verbal aggressing, although the trends do not
differentiate studies on the causes from those on the effects of verbal aggression.
The research paradigm for studies of verbal aggression as an antecedent to others’
behavior differs markedly from that for studies of verbal aggression as a conse-
quence of personality and situational variables. When verbal aggression is the antecedent,
the consequences include relational satisfaction and subsequent verbal aggression
(see Donohue, this issue; Levine et al., this issue; Tafoya & Hamilton, this
issue), among other variables. Hostility (or trait anger) is a key antecedent to verbal
Figure 1. Trends in number of studies on verbally aggressive and rude behavior
8 Journal of Language and Social Psychology 31(1)
aggression (Anisfeld, Munoz, & Lambert, 1963; Gentry, 1972), with verbal aggres-
siveness supposedly mediating that effect.
Verbal Aggression as an Antecedent
Verbal aggression usually elicits hostility from its target, but in most experimental
settings there are constraints against indirect or passive aggression and violence.
People may respond to verbal aggression with verbal aggression (Ickes et al., this
issue; Mosher, Mortimer, & Grebel, 1968; Mosher & Proenza, 1968; Wheeler &
Smith, 1967), but strong frustration from insult is necessary to evoke verbal aggres-
sion as a response (Epstein & Krakower, 1974; Fischer, 1975). Consequently, retalia-
tory verbal aggression or other forms of escalation are not the only choice available
to the angry target. Choosing not to escalate, withdrawing from the situation (if
possible), rationalizing silence, or even deescalating the conflict with a message
intended to disarm the antagonist are all options. This array of alternatives partly
explains the apparent discrepancies between the findings of experimental studies and
survey studies of verbal aggression.
In an experimental setting, a verbally aggressive confederate typically insults,
teases, or otherwise provokes a target; then the target’s verbal response is recorded and
coded for aggression (see Levine et al., this issue). But fear of escalating the conflict
may discourage the target from verbally aggressing against the confederate. Survey
researchers ask participants to make general statements about their behaviors in order
to estimate their predisposition to respond (attitude) with verbal aggression. Whether
verbal aggressiveness is attitude-relevant and predictive of verbal aggression is a point
of contention (Infante et al., 2011; Levine et al., 2004) and the object of current
research (Kotowski, Levine, Baker, & Bolt, 2009; Levine et al., this issue).
Verbal Aggression as a Consequence
Generally, verbal aggression is augmented by negative life events and inhibited by
positive life events. Research on the augmentation of verbal aggression has sought
to discover which stressors increase verbal aggression. Stressors that induce verbal
aggression include disturbing life events (Charles & Mech, 1955; Day & Hamblin,
1964), viewing violent films (Sebastian, Parke, Berkowitz, & West, 1978), drugs
(Haward, 1958), and brain damage (Vondráček, Horvai, & Študent, 1964).
Research on the inhibition of verbal aggression has primarily examined learning
interventions (Goodwin & Mahoney, 1975; Infante, Chandler, & Rudd, 1989; Kendall,
Nay, & Jeffers, 1975; Prestwich, 1969). Argumentation training is perhaps the most
prominently researched of these interventions (Infante & Rancer, 1996).
Opposing Relational Forces
The articles in this special issue imply two opposing social psychological processes
that generate verbal aggression and verbal collaboration. As Figure 2 depicts, the
“dark side” forces associated with selfish emotions emanate from the individualistic
Hamilton 9
affect system; operating in parallel, the “light side” forces associated with prosocial
emotions emanate from the cooperative affect system. Egocentrism and hostility
within the individualistic affect system produce verbal aggressiveness and aggressive
behavior whereas empathy and attachment within the cooperative affect system pro-
duce verbal collaborativeness and comforting behavior (Hamilton, Buck, & Chory-
Assad, 2004). The model in Figure 2 predicts a curious inversion of influence between
affective systems governing the personality antecedents to language attitudes. Within
the self-concept, empathy decreases egocentrism; within temperament, hostility
decreases attachment (Hamilton et al., 2008).
Among the social consequences described in Figure 2, attitudes and behavior
within the individualistic affect system have antagonistic effects on attitudes and
behavior within the cooperative affect system. Hamilton et al. (2008) observed that
verbal aggressiveness has two opposing effects on collaborative (or comforting)
behavior—one positive and the other negative. The negative effect is mediated by
aggressive behavior such that verbal aggressiveness increases aggressive behavior
with aggressive behavior producing an antipathy that decreases collaborative behav-
ior. They hypothesized that the positive effect involves a move away from aggression,
a withdrawal from conflict that may have its roots in hostility guilt. Their model pro-
poses that verbal aggressiveness increases social distancing, with social distancing
increasing collaboration. Social distancing, such as avoidance, would be functioning
Figure 2. Opposing forces driving verbal aggressing and verbal comforting
10 Journal of Language and Social Psychology 31(1)
as a relational waypoint if people try to navigate a path from a “place” from which they
want to escape (an aggressive setting) to a “locale” that is more comfortable (a col-
laborative setting).
Convergence and Divergence
The identity trap framework (Donohue, this issue) describes a power theme con-
tained in discourse (representing the individualistic affect system) that operates in
parallel to an affiliation theme (representing the cooperative affect system). The
framework proposes that categorizing others (egocentric labeling) and representing
them with negative symbols (reflecting hostility) drives verbal positioning that dehu-
manizes (verbal aggression) and expresses the power theme that gives rise to the
targeting of victims (assault). Conversely, emphasizing commonality (empathy)
and stressing equality (contentment) is supposed to lead to verbal positioning that
values diversity (verbal collaboration) within the affiliation theme and this gives rise
to the protection of victims (collaboration).
The Goffman (1955/1967) facework framework covering politeness (Bull & Wells,
this issue) distinguishes making points at another’s expense (aggressive acts) from
correction with redress (collaborative acts), where these two ends are further differen-
tiated from avoidance. The model in Figure 2 suggests that avoidance may allow those
engaged in intense face-threatening acts an opportunity to “cool off” as they seek to
maneuver their way back from aggression to collaboration. As Bull and Wells suggest,
Members of Parliament can use mitigating techniques such as euphemisms, quota-
tions, or humor in the midst of Prime Minister’s Questions to provide distance and
avoid perceptions that their language is “unparliamentary.”
The relational dynamics model (Tafoya & Hamilton, this issue) proposes that
within the individualistic affect system egocentric assertion of power (egocentrism)
should augment verbal aggression, in part by increasing hostility; conversely, within
the cooperative affect system empathy should augment verbal comforting and acts of
affection (collaboration), in part by increasing strength of sibling bond (attachment).
The Ickes et al. (this issue) data show a similar pattern. Conventional morality (pro-
grammed concern that might pass for empathy) decreases the use of rude language.
On the other hand, ego-defensiveness (a manifestation of egocentrism) and intense
negative affect (hostility) increase rude language use.
Finally, the critiques of past interpretations of argumentativeness theory (Hamilton
& Tafoya, this issue; Levine et al., this issue) might discourage readers from undertak-
ing further studies of verbal aggression. Both these critiques emphasize the need to
distinguish items measuring verbal aggressiveness from those measuring verbal col-
laborativeness. The Levine et al. meta-analysis indicates that very little is known about
mapping verbally aggressive behavior onto attitudes toward verbal aggression. This
finding provides researchers with an opportunity to answer pressing questions regard-
ing the predictive validity of the Verbal Aggressiveness Scale. In their Epilogue to this
special issue, Hamilton and Tafoya return to the issue of two opposing processes
Hamilton 11
combining to influence verbal behavior. They make the case that relationships, like
personalities, are organized hierarchically, with general traits exerting considerable
influence on the specific states that should predict behavior. The objective of this spe-
cial issue on verbal aggression is to further understanding of both the psychological
antecedents and social consequences of this pernicious phenomenon.
The author would like to thank Alice Veksler and Lynn Mardon for their suggestions.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
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Mark A. Hamilton (PhD, Michigan State University) is Associate Professor of Communication
and Psychology at the University of Connecticut. He has over 50 academic publications and
over 100 conference presentations. His research on conflict and aggression, language, persua-
sion, and health can be found in leading journals of communication and psychology. His work
on methodology includes co-programming statistical packages on confirmatory factor analysis
(CFA) and path analysis (PATH).
... Intergroup aggression is very likely to have posed qualitatively different adaptive problems to ancestral men and women, as both the dangers of violence and the potential rewards of success were likely asymmetric between the sexes. There certainly is no scarcity of studies on sex differences in aggression in general, and the use of direct verbal aggression including the use of offensive, vulgar, and rude language has been extensively studied over the past decades (Hamilton, 2012). Yet, because on our theory microaggressions function as a form of cost-minimizing intergroup bargaining, sex differences may be smaller than is the case with physical aggression. ...
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... Previous studies have discussed that high fanaticism can encourage individuals to carry out verbal aggression on social media (Eliani et al., 2018). Verbal aggression refers to the use of aggressive language, whether polite or rude to others (Hamilton, 2012). This behavior expresses a form of communication that tends to be destructive both in social media and face-to-face situations (Rösner et al., 2016). ...
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... Young adulthood is a vital era when people begin to explore meaningful relationships, hence IPV is frequent in young adult societies. Young people have a good awareness of issues related to IPV; nonetheless, understanding of such matters is often low and has been influenced by their personal experiences and observations, as well as by values and norms that have been taught to them; this makes these issues appear complex [9]. The health belief model (HBM) is a well-utilized theory that examines perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and intentions related to health behavior. ...
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... Quelques définitions de la violence verbale En psychologie de la communication, la violence verbale ou agressivité verbale renvoie à un acte de communication dont l'intention est de blesser ou de mettre en colère une autre personne (Huesmann et Taylor, 2006). Il implique l'usage d'un langage agressif (insultes, moqueries ou autres provocations) et a des conséquences négatives pour la victime en termes de représentation de soi (Hamilton 2012). ...
The article focuses on aggression caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war as a vivid phenomenon in media discourse. The paper reveals the psychological aspects of this phenomenon, the reasons for the use of verbal aggression, its forms, and its impact on recipients. The research also explores lexical and stylistic means of representing aggression in the Ukrainian media discourse: online publications in periodicals and posts on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It has been identified that the frequently used invective vocabulary and creolized memes in the media are specific verbal and nonverbal means of psychological liberation from aggression and destructive influence on the target audience. Based on the results of a survey involving 100 respondents from different regions of Ukraine, 50 of whom were male and 50 female, it was found that aggression serves to expose such dominant negative emotions evoked by the Russian-Ukrainian war as anger and hatred. However, the object of aggression of the people surveyed is strikingly different: for 58 % of men it’s the Russian president, while for 52 % of women – the Russian troops. When asked about the most common forms of aggression, the majority of the respondents claimed that it is expressed by mockery, curses and obscenity. The survey documented the use of the corresponding war-related emotionally charged vocabulary, including neologisms with various word-building patterns and newly formed set phrases, by both females and males to express their aggression verbally. Additionally, the participants of the survey confirmed that creolized memes are effective functional tools with nearly equally distributed percentage of protesting against the war, ridiculing invaders and resisting the Russian propaganda.
Hate speech continues to be an issue of key social significance, yet while its lexical and discursive aspects have been widely studied, its grammatical traits have been hitherto overlooked. This book seeks to address this gap by bringing together a global team of scholars to explore the morphosyntactic features of hateful and aggressive discourse. Drawing on thirteen diverse cross-linguistic case studies, it reveals how hate is expressed in political discourse, slang, and social media, and towards a range of target groups relating to gender, sexual orientation, and ethnic identity. Based on ideas from functional and cognitive linguistics, each thematic part demonstrates how features such as morphology, word formation, pronoun use, and syntactic structures are manipulated for the purpose of expressing hostility and hate. An innovative approach to an age-old problem, this book is essential reading for researchers and students of hate speech and verbal aggression.
The purpose of the current study was to examine the perception of verbal violence by youths in online exchanges. Undergraduate students gave their opinions on a number of violent and nonviolent messages in a forum. It was observed that verbal violence arouses an ambivalent attitude, i.e., it is considered both unacceptable and humorous. The results showed that the acceptability of verbal violence is related to the topic of discussion and to youths' Internet practices. Verbal violence is more often rejected when the topic of discussion is less serious. A high acceptability of verbal violence is associated with a high level of time spent on the Internet and a high use of humor in a youth's own messages. The results contribute to identifying the communication norms for youth in online environments.
The question of the existence of specific language features for the manifestation of communicative aggression in online distance learning is considered. The relevance of the research is due to the fact that in addition to its significance for pragmalinguistics and communication theory, the research can contribute to understanding the problems of modern digital education in the context of increasing its competitiveness in the general education system. A review of a wide range of empirical studies on communicative conflicts and the manifestation of speech aggression in the online environment is carried out. Special attention is paid to the specifics of building the educational process online and communication between the teacher and the student within the distance format. The results of the analysis of examples from the recording of various online lessons are presented, on the basis of which the authors determine the existence of syntactic, lexical, morphological, stylistic, and non-verbal tools for the manifestation of communicative aggression in the online educational process. It is proved that there is a specific set of verbal and nonverbal means of manifestation of online communicative aggression, used by both teachers and students for the purpose of emotionally negative impact and destabilization of the communication process during online lessons. The scientific novelty of this kind of research is determined by the focus on identifying communicative and pragmatic tools for the manifestation of communicative aggression, taking into account linguistic and pragmalinguistic factors. The application of the communicative-pragmatic approach provides an opportunity to take a fresh look at the specifics of building the educational process in a distance format.
With the growing importance of the digital world, it becomes more and more important to ensure people’s, especially young people’s, security in the digital world as a whole and in the social networks, particularly. In this paper the authors introduce for the first time the developed full-cycle methodology for detection and monitoring of the presence of destructive impacts via their manifestation in young people profiles in the social network. The research uses information technology methods together with psychological methods. The paper describes the proposed methodology and the techniques included in it as well as the results of the experiments. The methodology should help to determine the features of destructive impacts for further development of recommendations for young people on how to identify and resist them.
While lexical and discourse strategies of hate speech have widely been studied hitherto, there is limited research devoted to the contribution of grammatical and morphological aspects to verbal aggression. This paper provides a corpus-assisted analysis of slang morphological means used in verbal aggression. The focus is on four compound families ( X-ass , X-brain , X-face , X-head ), which are often used in slang to form compound words referring to specific groups, such as homosexuals, fools, or ineffectual people. The paper adopts a morphopragmatic approach to investigate three pragmatic meanings/functions – namely, derisive, critical, and offensive – of slang words in situations of conflict. The combination of quantitative and qualitative analyses of data drawn from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) shows the frequency of the morphological processes, their privileged genres and contexts, as well as their negative potential and face-threatening power.
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Infante and Wigley's (1986) Verbal Aggressiveness Scale (VAS) is a widely accepted and frequently used measure of trait verbal aggression. Although the scale is almost always scored as if it were unidimensional, previous factor analytic studies provide evidence that it is multidimensional with two distinct factors. The present studies (N = 194 and 177) used confirmatory factor analysis to replicate the two-factor solution. The two-factor model was consistent with the data, and provides a better fit to the data than the unidimensional solution. The first factor, comprised of all aggressively worded, nonreflected items, appears to measure verbal aggressiveness as intended whereas the second factor, comprised of all reverse-scored items (benevolently worded), appears to measure a communication style related to other-esteem confirmation and supportiveness. Given this interpretation, it is recommended that only the 10 aggressively worded items be scored. Hamilton, Buck, and Chory-Assad, in an adversarial collaborative discussion, agree that the VAS is bidimensional, but offer an alternative conceptual model. They hold that the two factors reflect selfish individualism and prosocial cooperation.
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This article is a version of the Introduction to the World Report on Violence and Health, published by the World Health Organization (WHO). It presents a general description about this phenomenon and points some basic questions: concepts and definitions about the theme; the state of knowledge about it; nature and typology on violence; proposal of a quantitative and qualitative approach of an ecological model; responsibilities and functions of the public health sector and its potentiality to prevent and reduce violence in the world; the responsibilities of the nations and the policy makers in a intersetorial point of view; difficulties and obstacles for actuation and challenges for the health sector.
A good deal of research on argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness has been conducted in the communication discipline in this and the previous decade. The research has been based on a personality trait model that was used to conceptualize a very basic idea—that some aggressive behaviors are constructive and others are destructive. The present chapter reviews this research. The conceptualization and measurement of argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness are reviewed first. Then, conclusions from the research are stated and the research relevant to the conclusions is cited. Major results are presented, along with implications. The chapter emphasizes the importance of argumentative communication. A central contention is that argumentativeness has been an approach to conceptualizing concerns of the communication discipline since antiquity, and study should continue along these lines because results suggest the impact of the communication curriculum.
One hundred-fifty male college students participated in a laboratory study of verbal aggression in which they competed against confederates (Cs) while assembling a formboard. The Ss or Cs verbally attacked one another while their opponent was assembling the formboard. Intense verbal attack by a C led to a higher outburst of aggression than did mild verbal attack or no prior attack by a C. Retaliatory verbal attack against a C who had previously attacked the S led to higher peak aggression than conditions in which the S was attacked by one C but displaced his attack to a second C.
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A model of interpersonal physical violence is derived from the aggression literature and then is utilized to investigate interspousal violence. The model posits that verbal aggression is a catalyst to violence when societal, personal, and situational factors are strong enough to produce a hostile predisposition. Unless aroused by verbal aggression, a hostile disposition remains latent in the form of unexpressed anger. The framework suggests that persons in violent, marriages are more verbally aggressive than other people, and also produces the counterintuitive prediction that violent spouses are less argumentative than people in nonviolent marriages. A study is reported which compared clinical cases of abused wives and abusive husbands to a nonclinical population of husbands and wives. Strong support for the hypothesis was observed. Implications of the results are discussed in terms of understanding communication in violent marriages.
The present study investigated the effect of insult and dislike on evaluations given to neutral strangers by prejudiced and nonprejudiced persons. Ss were 96 male undergraduates scoring in the upper, middle, and lower fifth of the distribution of scores on the Anti-Semitism Scale, and the upper, middle, and lower thirds of the distribution of the California F Scale.Results indicated (a) no differences among prejudiced groups in the low insult, like condition, or the low insult, dislike condition; but (b) significant differences between moderately prejudiced persons and highly prejudiced persons in the high insult, like condition, and between low prejudiced persons and high prejudiced persons in the high insult, dislike condition, with highs being more hostile in each case; (c) significant increases in negativity for moderately prejudiced persons in the low insult, dislike condition compared to the low insult, like condition; (d) significant increases for all prejudiced groups in the high insult, dislike condition compared to the high insult, like condition.Comparison of these results with others suggests that a strong frustration manipulation (insult plus dislike) is necessary to elicit differences among persons of differing degrees of prejudice where there is opportunity to express verbal aggression directly toward the frustrating agent.
The construct validity of Infante and Wigley's verbal aggressiveness scale and Infante and Rancer's argumentativeness scale are assessed with confirmatory factor analysis and multitrait–multimethod analysis. The factor analytic data replicate previous findings that the verbal aggressiveness scale measures two constructs, verbal aggressiveness and verbal benevolence communication style, and that the argumentativeness scale is unidimensional with some poor items. The multimethod data, however, show near zero correlations between self-reports and observed behavior and evidence of method variance. These data indicate a discrepancy between conceptual definitions and behaviors. Rather than measuring behavioral dispositions to communicate argumentatively or aggressively, the scales may function as attitude or self-concept scales.