Does Anonymity Online Increase the Likelihood of Aggression?

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Online-Anonymity-at-Helmword-LtdIn today’s age of advancing technology and countless social media sites, it’s easier than ever to anonymously comment on posts, pictures and videos.  If you’re like me, you’ve seen some very heated conversations in the comments section of Facebook posts. So, what’s the deal here, are people more aggressive when they know they’re virtually anonymous?  This is the question Adam Zimmerman and Gabriel Ybarra (2016) researched in their Journal Article, “Online Aggression: The Influences of Anonymity and Social Modeling.”

Using 124 undergraduate students from the University of North Florida, the researchers had each of the participants do a word-unscrambling task with 2 other people. If they collectively unscrambled half of the words correctly, they each received a prize; at least this is what they were told.  However, unbeknown to the participants, the game was rigged and they were not actually playing along with others, ensuring that the participants always lost.  This was done in order to simulate an online frustrating social situation in which they felt let down by their “partners.” Participants were then able to write on a blog about their experience.  Half of the participants wrote their blogs anonymously and the other half did not. For both these groups, participants were also exposed to either a neutral blog post, or an aggressive blog post.

As you may have guessed, participants who remained anonymous indicated a higher temptation to purposefully aggress toward their alleged partners and they also used more aggressive words in their blog posts about their experience.  Participants, who were exposed to an aggressive blog post prior to writing their own, were also more aggressive, but only in the anonymous condition.

What these results tell us is that people are more likely to be aggressive online if their identity is anonymous.  Not only that, but if they’re exposed to aggressive posts and their identity is anonymous, they’re even more likely to be aggressive online. We can take these results and use them to influence our own online behavior.  Since we’ve seen that people are more likely to be aggressive online if they know their identity remains anonymous, we can analyze our own behavior as to what’s appropriate to say online. We should make it a point not to use anonymity as an excuse to act more aggressively than we normally would.  Not to mention, if anonymous online users are more likely to act aggressively if they see others doing so, our online aggression could also effect how aggressive others are online as well.  To keep online aggression in check, we can consider whether we would act differently if our identity were known, and adjust our comments and behavior accordingly.

By Nermana Turajlic
Nermana is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. She plans on graduating in December 2016 and attending graduate school the following year.


Zimmerman, A. G., & Ybarra, G. J. (2016). Online aggression: The influences of             anonymity and social modeling. Psychology Of Popular Media Culture, 5(2),             181-193. doi:10.1037/ppm0000038

Does Early Alcohol Use Lead to Higher Levels of Anger Later in Adolescence?

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8552231637_824c2c5821_bIn today’s world, underage drinking and violence are significant topics of interest, and there have been multiple studies that have found a link between heavy drinking, anger, and immediate violent behavior following the consumption of alcohol.  In order to evaluate just how much of an impact consuming alcohol during early adolescence has on later adolescence anger, Dr. Michelle Weiner and her colleagues conducted a study to investigate this relationship (Weiner, Pentz, Turner, & Dwyer, 2001).

The data for this study was collected longitudinally from Indianapolis, Indiana for a total of six years as part of a large drug abuse prevention trial (Weiner et. al, 2001). With 1201 participants in all, each participant was asked a series of four anger-related questions, including: “When I have a problem, I get mad at people”, “When I have a problem, I do bad things or cause trouble”, “When I have a problem, I say or do nasty things”, and “I am a hotheaded person”. Additionally, two items within the study asked each participant to report how many alcoholic drinks they had consumed, and how many times they had been drunk in the last 30 days (Weiner et. al, 2001).

Results of this study indicate overall that early adolescence alcohol consumption ultimately increases anger in later adolescence, controlling for gender, age, and socioeconomic status (Weiner et. al, 2001). Alcohol use in the past 30 days among 6th and 7th graders increased the odds of them saying or doing nasty things, being a self-reported hothead, and having a high anger score on the anger scale in grades 10 and 11. As the students grew older, their reports of anger and aggressive behavior only increased. For example, the students that had reported either consumption of alcohol or drunkenness in the past 30 days in grades 6 and 7, were associated with higher anger scores on the anger scale, as well as doing bad things to cause trouble in grades 9 through 12.

By Gracie Kellow
Gracie is a senior at UWGB who plans on graduating in December 2016 as a Psychology major with a mental health emphasis and a minor in Human Development. After graduation, she plans on attending law school.

Music Matters

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listening-headphonesEveryone knows that music is relevant to mood.  In fact, a previous All the Rage post explored the role of music in inducing anger, with unexpected results. Recent research by Hakvoort, Bogaerts, Thaut, and Spreen (2015) showed that music therapy can actually accelerate the process of behavioral and emotional change.  More specifically, their findings suggested that music therapy, define as “the use of musical intervention grounded in cognitive-behavioral therapy,” had more positive coping skills, were more likely to ask for help, and more likely to accept situations as they are.

These participants also better demonstrated the emotional management skills necessary to be successful in real life angering situations, even preventing violent outbreaks as compared to a control group.  Not only was music therapy shown to improve anger coping strategies, it also increased the patients ability to cope with other areas of their lives.  Finally, the authors argue that one way in which music is valuable is that there is evidence that it stimulates the release of endorphins, which are key chemicals to improving mood.

The authors identify four stages to the music therapy method.  In the first stage, patients make and listen to different types of music.  Next, patients are taught different techniques to reduce tension and are educated regarding the phases of anger.  Third, patients are made aware of the specific situations that illicit anger or aggression.  Finally, patients are coached to apply their personalized coping skills to manage their anger without the assistance of the therapist.

By Chelsea Giles
Chelsea is a senior planning to graduate in May of 2016 with a major in Psychology and minors in Human Development and Spanish. She plans to attend graduate school to earn her Ph.D in Counseling Psychology.

Is Fighting Among Siblings Harmful?

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1For many families, siblings fighting can be a common occurrence. The phrase “kids will be kids” is often spoken by parents who just believe their kids are just acting the way most kids do. However, could this behavior between siblings be harmful? Neil Tippett and Dieter Wolke set out to investigate this idea in their research study on aggression between siblings and its associations with the home environment and peer bullying.

To conduct this experiment, published in Aggressive Behavior, they used the longitudinal panel survey conducted annually in the United Kingdom. This survey is conducted over a few years and asks one member of the household to complete an interview. Along with this, children between 10 and 15 years-old in these households are asked to complete a questionnaire. The sample included more than 4,000 participants between the ages of 10-15 years-old. They asked questions about siblings fighting with a scale of never too few times every week to rate four different types of fighting which included: physical aggression, stealing, verbal abuse, and teasing. For school bullying they asked six different questions; two questions about if the youth were bullied by their peers, two were modified from the Peer and Friendship Interview and measured physical bullying, and lastly relational bulling. The most prevalent types of fighting where physical, verbal, and teasing.

One of the main findings from this study was that siblings fighting is very common. They found that one third of the children were regularly involved in fighting with one’s sibling. Another finding shows a moderate to strong association between sibling’s fighting and peer bullying. Given some evidence that victimization by siblings was linked to being bullied and for child who did the aggression were more often to bully others at school.

Parenting characteristics were found to have a strong link with siblings fighting. In households with poor relationships and harsh parenting predicted more fighting between siblings. However, the results of the study showed that in houses with positive parenting and good relationships with their children can reduce levels of fighting. These children are also found to be better adjusted at school.

By Annie Jones
Annie is a junior, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development, Human Biology, and German. After graduating from UWGB, she plans on attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison for their Genetic Counseling Master’s program.

Tippett, N., & Wolke, D. (2015). Aggression between siblings: Associations with the home environment and peer bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 41, 14-24. doi:10.1002/ab.21557

 

 

Fact Check: Does Alcohol Cause Violence

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I’m sure many of us have been exposed to media’s portrayal of the drunk guy who is all 8552231637_824c2c5821_bmuscle and suddenly becomes overly aggressive after having a few beers.  But how much truth is there to the stereotype of drunk, angry men, or women for that matter?

The truth is, alcohol does not cause aggression.

It is relevant, though, just not necessarily the way you would think.  Back in 1990, Bushman and Cooper researched this and concluded that alcohol does indeed facilitate aggression in individuals who already tend to be aggressive.

This is how it works, according to a 2012 study by Newberry and colleagues.  For people who normally feel aggressive urges when sober, there is a part of the brain that keeps those urges in check.   When in a potentially violent situation, there is an increase in adrenaline throughout the body, which help the individual decide whether to fight or flee.  Anxiety and fear aid in this decision by determining whether or not the individual has a chance to survive the situation, and usually will decide that fleeing is the safer route.  However, alcohol reduces these inhibitions and the anxiety and fear that would normally take part in preventing the fight response, or aggression.

In contrast, for those who are not typically aggressive, being intoxicated does not increase aggression; aggression simply remains stable.  Ultimately, it is attitudes toward drinking and aggression that are important influencers on an individual’s actions when intoxicated.  Subra and colleagues in 2010 explains that societies often justify aggression when intoxicated and say the individual is not responsible for their actions because “everyone knows” that alcohol increases aggression.

These beliefs have become so engrained into the minds of today’s society that even exposure to alcohol-related cues tends to increase both aggressive thoughts and behaviors without any consumption of alcohol.  This finding from Subra and colleagues suggests that it’s not necessarily the alcohol that causes aggression, but the attitudes toward drinking that can facilitate aggression.

It is not only our attitudes toward drinking and violence that facilitates of violence, but the environment in which we choose to drink can also have a significant impact on our actions while intoxicated.  According to the 2012 Newberry and colleagues study mentioned earlier, temperature, noise, and population density may be contributing factors to aggression.

In summary, there are many different factors that are likely to contribute to aggression when one is under the influence of alcohol.  To say that alcohol causes aggression is not the complete story.  The environment and the people present can contribute to aggression just as genetic factors might.  Furthermore, society’s perception of alcohol-induced aggression plays a large role in actions of an individual while intoxicated or even in the presence of alcohol.

By Chelsea Giles
Chelsea is a senior planning to graduate in May of 2016 with a major in Psychology and minors in Human Development and Spanish. She plans to attend graduate school to earn her Ph.D in Counseling Psychology.

References

Bushman, B. J., & Cooper, H. M. (1990). Effects of alcohol on human aggression: An integrative research review. Psychological Bulletin, 107(3), 341-354.

Newberry, M., Williams, N., & Caulfield, L. (2012). Female alcohol consumption, motivations for aggression and aggressive incidents in licensed premises. Addictive Behaviors, 1884-1851. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2012.08.009

Subra, B., Muller, D., Bègue, L., Bushman, B. J., & Delmas, F. (2010). Automatic effects of alcohol and aggressive cues on aggressive thoughts and behaviors. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(8), 1052-1057. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167210374725

 

Metal Music Makes You Angrier, Right?

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shinyhappymainhjaker.jpgMost of us are familiar with the claim that listening to extreme metal music makes listeners angrier and potentially more aggressive, but how much credibility does this claim actually have?  This idea is exactly what Leah Sharman and Dr. Genevieve Dingle aimed to investigate in their recent study on extreme metal music and anger processing.  Surprisingly, their research found evidence suggesting that extreme metal music may in fact have the exact opposite effect on listeners.

Their study, published in the Journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, defined extreme metal music as “characterized by chaotic, loud, heavy, and powerful sounds, with emotional vocals, often containing lyrical themes of anxiety, depression, social isolation and loneliness.”  Sharman and Dingle used 39 participants who reported listening to extreme metal music at least 50% of the time. They placed the participants in either the extreme metal music group or the control.  Both groups were given an interview to elicit anger and were then asked to either listen to extreme metal music of their choosing for 10 minutes, or to sit in silence for 10 minutes. During the experiment, participants were asked questions about how they felt at that exact moment and were also asked to rate 10 emotional words. Participants were asked to answer these questions before the anger induction interview, after the anger induction interview, and lastly after they were either promoted to listen to their own music for 10 minutes or to sit in silence for 10 minutes.  Simultaneously, participants were also hooked up to a monitor that tracked their heart rate during the study.

The results showed that contrary to the belief that extreme metal music elicits anger, those who listened to extreme metal music showed decreases in hostility and irritability that were equivalent to the decreases seen in control group. The results also showed that listening to this type of music increased relaxation (which initially decreased during the anger induction). This study provides evidence that listening to extreme metal music is as effective at relaxing participants as sitting in silence, refuting the notion that extreme metal music causes anger.

By Nermana Turajlic
Nermana is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. She plans on graduating in December 2016 and attending graduate school the following year.

Juvenile Offenders and Mental Health

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Previous research has demonstrated a clear link between mental illness and juvenile delinquency.  A recent study, however, looked more specifically at the role of trauma.  The 2015 study, conducted by Caldwell-Gunes and colleagues, focused on relationships between trauma and mental health issues such as anger/irritability, somatization, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. The participants included 381 juvenile offenders who completed a series of group-administered psychological tests.

Results from the study showed a significant positive relationship between trauma and mental health issues among the juvenile offenders. Those who had witnessed high levels of violence also had more aggressive coping styles and were more likely to engage in violent behavior. There was a significant relationship between trauma and feelings of anger, irritability, and frustration. However, the strongest relationship in the study was with trauma and depression. This study emphasizes the importance of considering the role of trauma and mental illness in the prevention and treatment of anger and violence in juvenile offenders.

By Taylor Stelter
Taylor is a senior Psychology major at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

One More Reason Why Suppressing Anger is Bad For You

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Anger suppression, when we feel angry but don’t express it, has long been associated anger_mainwith a variety of psychological and physical health problems.  Recent research, though, shows that it also might be associated with aggression and violence. A 2015 study in Psychology of Violence looked at 64 criminal offenders who were asked to complete measures related to anger, other emotions, verbal attention, and past aggression.  The findings showed “that participants reporting difficulty attending to their emotions had more extensive histories of aggression than those who did not report such difficulties” (Robertson, Daffern, & Bucks, 2015, p 74).  In other words, those participants who suppressed their anger rather than finding some healthy outlet were more likely to be aggressive or violent.

According to the authors, a failure to attend to emotions (what they call “overregulation”) leads to violence in several ways including an increase in general negative affect, encouraging a more superficial thought process, decreasing the quality of interpersonal relationships, preventing resolution of any problems, and leading to an increase in physiological arousal.

What then is the solution?  The authors suggest that an important way to control aggressive behavior while angry is to attend to the anger rather than attempting to avoid it.

Hunger, Anger, and Intimate Relationships

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voodoo-dolls-largeCan being “hangry” (hungry and angry) have an effect on intimate relationships? In a recent study done by Bushman and colleagues (2014), researchers looked at glucose levels and aggression levels. Their research suggests that glucose levels affect aggressive impulses and behaviors. Over the course of 21 days, 107 couples took part in a four part experiment. Initially participants took a 10 item questionnaire. Then for 21 consecutive days, the couples measured the glucose levels before breakfast and before bed. The participants were also given a voodoo doll that represented their spouse along with 51 pins. After the 21 days the couples returned to the lab to compete against their spouse, actually a computer; in this competition the winner got to blast their spouse with loud uncomfortable noises, in which they controlled the intensity and duration.

Their findings: lower levels of glucose predicted and increase in aggressive impulses (i.e., more voodoo doll pins and louder and longer uncomfortable noise). Ultimately, this has to do with self-control, the ability to resist an urge or desire.  Self-control is a limited resource that depletes over time when you have to resist or override aggressive impulses.  One way to prevent depletion of this self-control tank is to keep your glucose levels up.

By Katie Bright
Katie is majoring in Psychology and Human Development. A senior, she plans on graduating in Spring of 2015 and taking some time off school before returning to earn a Masters degree.

Midwestern Psychological Association: Honor Student Research

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My three honors students, Kayla Hucke, Olyvia Kuchta, and Sarah Londo, presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago last week (April 30th and May 1).  They did brilliantly.

Here’s a sample of their work:

HuckeKayla Hucke: Emotions in Sports Performance

KuchtaOlyvia Kuchta: The Influence of Free Will, Politics, and Religion on Attitudes about Mental Illness

LondoSarah Londo: Locus of Control and the Stress Response