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Press CRTT to Measure Aggressive Behavior: The Unstandardized Use of the Competitive Reaction Time Task in Aggression Research

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The Competitive Reaction Time Task (CRTT) is the measure of aggressive behavior most commonly used in laboratory research. However, the test has been criticized for issues in standardization because there are many different test procedures and at least 13 variants to calculate a score for aggressive behavior. We compared the different published analyses of the CRTT using data from 3 different studies to scrutinize whether it would yield the same results. The comparisons revealed large differences in significance levels and effect sizes between analysis procedures, suggesting that the unstandardized use and analysis of the CRTT have substantial impacts on the results obtained, as well as their interpretations. Based on the outcome of our comparisons, we provide suggestions on how to address some of the issues associated with the CRTT, as well as a guideline for researchers studying aggressive behavior in the laboratory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
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... Specifically, there are concerns that existing measures of aggression exclusively assess the least severe forms of behaviors on the aggression spectrum, thereby reducing (a) the generalizability of findings to real-world aggression and violence and (b) an understanding of the multidimensional aspect of aggression. Methodologically, the lack of nonaggressive options in tasks, failure to assess choice intention/motivation, cover stories introducing competitive or prosocial motives, demand characteristics and social desirability concerns, distance between aggressor and victim, and variations in the administration of the procedures have been questioned (Elson et al., 2014;Ritter & Eslea, 2005;Tedeschi & Quigley, 1996). Analytically, variations in the use and calculation of responses derived from these measures can yield inconsistent findings including the size and direction of effects (Elson et al., 2014;c.f., Hyatt et al., 2019). ...
... Methodologically, the lack of nonaggressive options in tasks, failure to assess choice intention/motivation, cover stories introducing competitive or prosocial motives, demand characteristics and social desirability concerns, distance between aggressor and victim, and variations in the administration of the procedures have been questioned (Elson et al., 2014;Ritter & Eslea, 2005;Tedeschi & Quigley, 1996). Analytically, variations in the use and calculation of responses derived from these measures can yield inconsistent findings including the size and direction of effects (Elson et al., 2014;c.f., Hyatt et al., 2019). Accordingly, recommendations have been made to standardize both the procedure and the analysis of responses from these tasks (Elson et al., 2014). ...
... Analytically, variations in the use and calculation of responses derived from these measures can yield inconsistent findings including the size and direction of effects (Elson et al., 2014;c.f., Hyatt et al., 2019). Accordingly, recommendations have been made to standardize both the procedure and the analysis of responses from these tasks (Elson et al., 2014). ...
Article
The Tangram Help/Hurt Task (THHT) allows participants to help another participant win a prize (by assigning them easy tangrams), to hurt another participant by preventing them from winning the prize (by assigning them difficult tangrams), or to do neither (by assigning them medium tangrams) in offline or online studies. Consistent with calls for continued evidence supporting psychological measurement, we conducted a meta-analytic review of the THHT that included 52 independent studies involving 11,060 participants. THHT scores were associated with helping and hurting outcomes in theoretically predicted ways. Results showed that THHT scores were not only associated with short-term (experimental manipulations, state measures) and long-term (trait measures) helping and hurting outcomes, but also with helping and harming intentions. We discuss the strengths and limitations of the THHT relative to other laboratory measures of prosocial behavior and aggression, discuss unanswered questions about the task, and offer suggestions for the best use of the task.
... Toutefois, la validité de ce paradigme est parfois questionnée du fait d'un manque de standardisation de la procédure, d'un manque d'alternatives de réponse et de l'ambiguïté des motivations. L'absence de standardisation dans l'analyse de cette tâche (e.g., Elson et al., 2014) peut être résolue via la pré-registration. En ce qui concerne le manque d'option non agressive (Ritter & Eslea, 2005 ;Tedeschi & Quigley, 1996), des niveaux 0 étaient proposés permettant le refus d'une réponse agressive. ...
... Toutefois, sélectionner ce niveau correspond au fait de ne pas émettre le comportement (i.e., ne pas envoyer de chocs sonores), donc de ne pas répondre à la consigne de la tâche, ce qui est différent d'émettre un comportement alternatif (e.g., essayer de discuter). Ainsi, afin de mieux recréer le contexte d'une interaction sociale dans lequel plusieurs options sont disponibles en cas de conflit, certains auteurs préconisent donc de proposer des solutions alternatives à l'agression (Elson et al., 2014 ;Ritter & Eslea, 2005). ...
... Or, le TAP étant présenté comme une tâche de compétition, le choix des paramètres sonores pourrait être dû à la compétition et non à une volonté réelle d'agresser. Bien que certaines données invalident cette explication (Bernstein, Richardson, & Hammock, 1987), il est préconisé de mesurer les motivations des participants (e.g., Elson et al., 2014), ce que nous avons fait. Malgré cette précaution, plusieurs limites se posent. ...
Thesis
Tous les groupes sociaux font face à des stéréotypes négatifs à leur encontre. Ces stéréotypes peuvent parfois représenter un poids pour les individus qui en sont la cible tel que proposé par la théorie de la menace du stéréotype. La menace du stéréotype correspond à la crainte d’être jugé en accord avec un stéréotype négatif associé à son groupe ou encore de le confirmer par son comportement. De nombreuses recherches se sont portées sur les conséquences de la menace du stéréotype. Toutefois, ces dernières portent majoritairement sur les conséquences en termes de performances cognitives. Dans cette thèse, nous faisons l’hypothèse selon laquelle l’agression constitue également une conséquence de la menace du stéréotype. À travers une série d’études, nous avons étudié l’agression comme conséquence de la menace du stéréotype. Ces études ont été menées sur différentes populations afin de déterminer si l’agression était observable chez l’ensemble des individus ou chez les individus appartenant à des groupes stéréotypés comme agressifs. Au cours de ce travail, nous avons aussi exploré le rôle potentiel de mécanismes cognitifs (i.e., accessibilité des pensées hostiles, contrôle de soi) et émotionnels (i.e., colère) dans le lien entre menace du stéréotype et agression. Dans leur ensemble, les résultats ne nous permettent pas de valider de manière consistante notre hypothèse de départ. Toutefois, la prise en compte de la multiplicité des menaces du stéréotype (i.e., la menace est-elle dirigée vers soi ou vers le groupe ?) semble être une piste prometteuse à explorer. Plus largement, nous discutons la nécessité de prendre en compte non seulement la multiplicité des menaces du stéréotype mais également celle des groupes stigmatisés et le contexte sociétal dans lequel ils s’inscrivent.
... Thereby, the selected intensities served as indicator for reactive aggression as provoked by respective punishment selections of the mock opponent in previous lose trials. Over the last decades, this paradigm was modified quantitatively (e.g., in terms of provocation, duration, number of trials) and qualitatively (e.g., kind of stimuli; Elson, Mohseni, Breuer, Scharkow, & Quandt, 2014). Meanwhile, a modified Taylor Aggression Paradigm (mTAP) was established using monetary stimuli (subtraction of money from a fictitious account) instead of electric shocks, noise or heat stimuli (Kogan-Goloborodko, Brügmann, Repple, Habel, & Clemens, 2016;Konzok et al., 2020;Wagels et al., 2018;Weidler et al., 2019). ...
... The setting start point cannot be chosen as final stake. Following the recommendations by Tedeschi and Felson (1994), the amount of 0 cents is included as nonaggressive option (see also Elson et al., 2014). For the reaction time task, participants are instructed to press a button as quickly as possible as soon as a green circle appears on the computer screen. ...
Article
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The externalizing spectrum describes a range of heterogeneous personality traits and behavioral patterns, primarily characterized by antisocial behavior, disinhibition, and substance (mis)use. In psychopathology, abnormalities in neural threat, reward responses and the impulse-control system may be responsible for these externalizing symptoms. Within the non-clinical range, mechanisms remain still unclear. In this fMRI-study, 61 healthy participants (31 men) from the higher versus lower range of the non-clinical variation in externalization (31 participants with high externalization) as assessed by the subscales disinhibition and meanness of the Triarchic-Psychopathy-Measure (TriPM) performed a monetary modified Taylor-Aggression-Paradigm (mTAP). This paradigm consisted of a mock competitive-reaction-time-task played against a fictional opponent with preprogrammed win- and lose-trials. In lose-trials, participants were provoked by subtraction of an amount of money between 0 and 90 cents. As a manipulation check, provocation induced a significant rise in behavioral aggression levels linked with an increased activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). High externalization predicted reduced ACC responses to provocation. However, high externalizing participants did not behave more aggressively than the low externalization group. Additionally, the high externalizing group showed a significantly lower positive affect while no group differences emerged for negative affect. In conclusion, high externalization in the non-clinical range was related to neural alterations in regions involved in affective decision-making as well as to changes in affect but did not lead to higher behavioral aggression levels in response to the mTAP. This is in line with previous findings suggesting that aberrations at multiple levels are essential for developing externalizing disorders.
... First, there is the absence of a disengagement or no punishment option, limiting the options of action choices and potential opponent state indicators. Many scholars have criticized the use of the CRTT due to its flexible scoring options and lack of non-aggressive response options (Elson et al., 2014;Ferguson et al., 2008;Ferguson & Rueda, 2009). All studies presented followed a new scoring approach (mean change between trials), as introduced by Eder and colleagues (2020), as well as a preregistered analysis plan, which does not allow for scoring flexibility, eliminating one major point of criticism concerning the CRTT paradigm. ...
Thesis
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Research on revenge often treats vengeful acts as singular one-way experiences, an approach which fails to account for the social nature and functions of revenge. This dissertation aims to integrate emotional punishment reactions into dynamic revenge sequences to investigate the affective and cognitive consequences of revenge within a social interaction. Exacting revenge can evoke intense affective consequences, from feelings of guilt to the genuine enjoyment of the suffering of others. In Chapter 2, affective responses towards suffering opponents and the regulation of aggression based on the appraisal of distinct suffering indicators were investigated. Results indicate that the observation of opponent pain evokes positive affect (measured via facial muscle contractions during the observation), which is followed by a downregulation of subsequent punishment. Both, positive affective reactions and the downregulation of punishment, were only observed following pain and not sadness expressions. Empathic distress, indexed by negative affective reactions, was only present following the observation of pain in non-provoking opponents. Showcasing the modulation of empathy related processes due to provocation and competition. In Chapter 3, a significant escalation of punishment, when being confronted with Schadenfreude, was observed. Results are interpreted as supporting the assumption that opponent monitoring processes inform subsequent action selection. The observation of opponent smiles led to imitation behavior (facial mimicry), which was partially attenuated due to previous provocation. The different functions of smile mimicry in the context of the aggressive competitive setting are discussed as containing simulation aspects (to aid in opponent understanding) and as a potential mirroring of dominance gestures, to avoid submission. In an additional series of studies, which are presented in Chapter 4, changes in memory of opponent faces following vengeful encounters were measured. Based on provocation, and punishment outcomes (pain & anger), face memory was distorted, resulting in more positive representations of opponents that expressed pain. These results are discussed as evidence of the impact of outcome appraisals in the formation of opponent representations and are theorized to aid empathy avoidance in future interactions. The comparison of desired and observed opponent states, is theorized to result in appraisals of the punishment outcomes, which evoke affective states, inform the action selection of subsequent punishments, and are integrated into the representation of the opponent in memory. Overall, the results indicate that suffering cues that are congruent with the chosen punishment action are appraised as positive, evoking an increase in positive affect. The emergence of positive affect during the observation of successful aggressive actions supports recent theories about the chronification of aggressive behavior based on reinforcement learning. To allow positive affect to emerge, affective empathic responses, such as distress, are theorized to be suppressed to facilitate the goal attainment process. The suffering of the opponent constitutes the proximate goal during revenge taking, which highlights the importance of a theoretical differentiation of proximate and ultimate goals in revenge to allow for a deeper understanding of the underlying motives of complex revenge behavior.
... Negative correlations between total reaction time and the aggression, not the impulsivity, scores of the BD-I group can also be accepted in line with this. One of the most frequently used and well-validated paradigms for examining aggressive behaviour is "The Competitive Reaction Time Task (known as also the Taylor Aggression Paradigm (TAP))" (Elson et al., 2014;Ferguson & Rueda, 2009;Giancola & Chermack, 1998;Weidler et al., 2019). In this task, the shorter reaction time to press a button (similar to negative correlations between total reaction time and physical aggression in m-BART results) can give the participants more chance to punish a potential opponent (similar to the positive correlation of the max number of pumps). ...
Article
This study aimed to investigate the associations of risk-taking, aggression, and impulsivity as well as risk adjustment in bipolar I patients (BD-I). 50 BD-I patients and age- and education-matched healthy controls (HC) were compared by using a modified Balloon Analogue Risk Task (m-BART) , Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11(BIS-11), and Buss Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ). BD-I performed worse than HC in terms of risk-taking measures. However, the risk adjustment pattern in the BD-I group was similar to HC. BIS-11 scores were positively correlated with risk-taking after unsuccessful trials. The BPAQ scores were positively correlated with the number of exploded balloons and the maximum number of pumps while negatively correlated with reaction time. This study supported risk-taking as a robust feature of BD-I. These results may reflect that higher risk-taking may be due to impulsivity and also aggression may be associated with undesired outcomes of risk-taking. However, decision-making/adjustment abilities seem to be preserved.
... The effect of anonymity was calculated in the context of competitive social interaction using the TAP task. Although this task is widely used in psychophysiological studies of aggression, it is discussed controversially, how aggression should be defined using the TAP (Elson et al., 2014;McCarthy and Elson, 2018). Namely, participants' motives for subtracting money from the opponent cannot be unambiguously measured and linked to prior provocations from the opponent. ...
Article
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An anonymous interaction might facilitate provoking behavior and modify the engagement of theory of mind (TOM) brain mechanisms. However, the effect of anonymity when processing unfair behavior of an opponent remains largely unknown. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study applied the Taylor aggression paradigm, introducing an anonymous opponent to this task. Thirty-nine healthy right-handed subjects were included in the statistical analysis (13 males/26 females, mean age 24.5 ± 3.6 years). A player winning the reaction-time game could subtract money from the opponent during the task. Participants behaved similarly to both introduced and anonymous opponents. However, when an anonymous opponent (when compared to the introduced opponent) subtracted money, the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) demonstrated an increased BOLD signal and increased functional connectivity with the left IFG. Further, increased functional connectivity between the right IFG, the right temporal parietal junction and precuneus was observed during the perception of high provocation (subtracting a large amount of money) from the anonymous compared to the introduced opponent. We speculate that the neural changes may underlie different inferences about the opponents’ mental states. The idea that this reorganization of the TOM network reflects the attempt to understand the opponent by “completing” socially relevant details requires further investigation.
... Psychologists often take considerable freedoms in how they measure something (Elson, 2016(Elson, , 2017(Elson, , 2019Elson et al., 2014;Flake & Fried, 2020): Sometimes, they use variants of an existing measurement procedure (e.g., only a subset of stimuli, or different presen tation times or presentation orders). Sometimes, they use completely different procedures for measuring (allegedly) the same thing (e.g., dozens or even hundreds of different ways of measuring depression or emotions; Flake & Fried, 2020;Santor et al., 2006). ...
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This target article is part of a theme bundle including open peer commentaries (https://doi.org/10.5964/ps.9227) and a rejoinder by the authors (https://doi.org/10.5964/ps.7961). We point out ten steps that we think will go a long way in improving personality science. The first five steps focus on fostering consensus regarding (1) research goals, (2) terminology, (3) measurement practices, (4) data handling, and (5) the current state of theory and evidence. The other five steps focus on improving the credibility of empirical research, through (6) formal modelling, (7) mandatory pre-registration for confirmatory claims, (8) replication as a routine practice, (9) planning for informative studies (e.g., in terms of statistical power), and (10) making data, analysis scripts, and materials openly available. The current, quantity-based incentive structure in academia clearly stands in the way of implementing many of these practices, resulting in a research literature with sometimes questionable utility and/or integrity. As a solution, we propose a more quality-based reward scheme that explicitly weights published research by its Good Science merits. Scientists need to be increasingly rewarded for doing good work, not just lots of work.
... The past decade has seen increased interest in the construct of lexical expertise as a moderating variable in many reading, eye movement, and visual word form processing effects. Given the current replicability crisis in psychology, precision in measurement is paramount to ensure that observed effects are real and replicable (Elson et al., 2014). The current study directly illustrates the impact of word choice on the error variance in test scores and provides a precise subset of 20 words with optimized precision. ...
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Skilled adult readers vary in many skills related to visual word form processing such as phonological processing, vocabulary size, comprehension skill, and spelling skill (Kuperman & Van Dyke, 2011). Spelling skill in particular has received much attention because low and high-skill spellers show different patterns of lexical processing as measured through eye movement behavior, reaction times, and word learning (Eskenazi et al., 2018; Veldre & Andrews, 2014). Researchers commonly use a spelling dictation task to measure lexical expertise; however, there is limited evidence for its psychometric properties and room for improvement in item selection (Andrews et al., 2020). The purpose of this study was to assess the precision of 110 words as measures of lexical expertise, to compare various subsets of words in a spelling dictation task, and to provide a set of words that more precisely measure lexical expertise. In Study 1, a spelling dictation task with 110 words was administered to 682 participants. In Study 2, that same task and measures of vocabulary and comprehension were administered to 786 participants. Results indicated that the set of 110 words contains many words that are imprecise measures of spelling skill. Through an iterative process of removing words with high error variance, a set of 20 words was selected that minimizes measurement error and demonstrates discriminant validity from vocabulary and comprehension ability. We recommend this set of words as a more precise measure of spelling skill, which will provide more power to detect moderating effects of lexical expertise on reading processes.
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