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.

Fact check: Does anger always lead to aggression?

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1When we’re in situations that make us angry, we often want to respond by doing things like yelling, throwing something, or hurting someone. It’s not unusual for those things happen, but does anger always lead to aggression?

Although anger and aggression are terms that are often used interchangeably, they’re not actually the same thing. In fact, the two can operate independently; people can be aggressive without being angry, and angry without being aggressive. Reidy and colleagues (2010) provide evidence this when they investigated the relationship between narcissism and aggression. They found that the higher people scored in narcissism, the more likely they were to aggress toward people without provocation. In other words, when narcissistic people sense an ego threat, they may respond with aggression as a way to protect themselves from being seen in an unfavorable manner, rather than aggressing as an expression of anger.

Perhaps more common than unprovoked aggression, though, is anger not accompanied by aggression. Research indicates that a major predictor of whether anger will lead to aggression is the individual’s ability to control his or her emotional expression. A study by Roberton and colleagues (2015) found that people who have more control over their behaviors are less likely to respond with aggression. Such people don’t necessarily feel less angry, but have better control over how that anger is expressed. One way to help control aggressive behavior is to practice controlling the anger itself, which allows the situation to be dealt with in a less reactive manner. As is explained by Lohr et al. (2007), anger can be reduced in a number of ways, such as relaxation, reappraisal, and distraction.

Considering these studies together, what we find is that while anger and aggression often go hand-in-hand, anger does not always lead to aggression.

By Allie Nelson
Allie is a senior with majors in Psychology and Human Development. She graduates in May of 2015.
References:

Lohr, J. M., Olatunji, B. O., Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2007). The psychology of anger venting and empirically supported alternatives that do no harm. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 5(1), 53-64.

Reidy, D. E., Foster, J. D., & Zeichner, A. (2010). Narcissism and unprovoked aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 36, 414-422. doi: 10.1002/ab.20356

Roberton, T., Daffern, M., & Bucks, R. S. (2015). Beyond anger control:  Difficulty attending to emotions also predicts aggression in offenders. Psychology of Violence, 5(1), 74-83. doi: 10.1037/a00037214

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

Fact-Check: Do Video Games Lead to Violence?

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We’ve likely all heard the arguments about video games and their role in violence. The grand_theft_auto__vice_city_by_homel001-d4al0zlquestion of whether or not video games have a part in aggression is an ongoing and complicated debate.

It’s not a new question either.  It’s been studied by psychologists, not to mention scholars from other disciplines, for decades.  Dr. Albert Bandura, along with countless other researchers, showed us that being exposed to aggressive behavior, even at a young age, results in imitation (Bandura, Ross and Ross, 1961).

A more recent study by Hollingdale and Greitemeyer (2014), compared aggression levels in response to a violent video game (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare) and in response to a neutral video game (LittleBigPlanet 2), both played online and offline. Participants in the online group played against human components, whereas the offline group played against computers, each for 30 minutes. They predicted that playing a more violent video game would increase aggression, and (surprise!) they were right. Not only do violent video games increase aggression, according to Hollingdale and Greitemeyer, but there is also no difference based on whether the game is played online or offline Call of Duty increased levels of aggression regardless of where it was played (online or offline). The authors also noted that there may have been other factors, such as the competitiveness of each game, which may have attributed to the increased aggression levels.

In addition to violence and competitiveness, there are other factors.  For example, games can be frustrating, which may increase aggression.  Plus, from a research perspective, how we define violence is also a complicating factor.  Do we only consider games like first person shooters or Grand Theft Auto to be violent, or are games like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros included?

To make matters even more complicated, if video games lead to increase violence, then why do violent crimes decrease when new game comes out as noted by Ward (2011)? Ward argues that people playing violent video games are inside playing the game, not out and about causing trouble.  Ward calls this  “voluntary incapacitation” and noted that in areas where gaming is more popular, the violent crime rate goes down, which is the opposite of what people might expect (Ward, 2011). In fact, Ward’s (2011) results showed that there were reductions in arson, car theft, and robbery at the time of a new release for a game. This voluntary incapacitation most affects youth (ages 15-25) and draws them away from criminal or violent activity.

Taking all this into consideration, it would appear that playing violent video games does increase aggression. But, the relationship is much more complicated when you take into account are the other factors that attribute to the aggression. In saying so, I would have loved to write a piece that included definite answers, but the truth is, I don’t know and I’m not sure that we’ll ever know.

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.

 

A Look Inside: Anger From an Athlete’s Viewpoint

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People think of anger as an emotion athletes often feel and even “use” during competition as a way to get pumped up, increase aggressive play, and even outperform others with the “angry edge”. Well, why not ask athletes themselves how they view anger the day of, immediately before, and during competition? Is experiencing anger seen as beneficial? Are sports an “outlet” for releasing anger in an acceptable way? Desired AngerStudents who competed in a varsity level sport in high school and some current college athletes participating in an online survey say that YES anger may be beneficial. Athletes actually desire to experience increased levels of anger as competition nears and hope to feel at their angriest during competition. On the other hand, athletes view anxiety as harmful to performance and strive to experience less of it as competition nears. Could it be that athletes actually strive to enter into a competitive scenario feeling angry?

AngerInterfered

Part of a bigger study looking at emotional intelligence in sports, the findings regarding anger were striking. As mentioned above, athletes want to feel angry, but the opposite seems to be true of anxiety. Athletes were asked to share personal examples in which anger helped and interfered with performance.  Athletes reported anger as a distraction as the biggest reason for it interfering with one’s performance. For example, say an athlete was angered by foul play from the opposing team, a poor call made by the ref, or a careless mistake he/she made a few moments earlier…this was oftentimes seen as interfering with performance. On the other hand, athletes associated increase in adrenaline as a positive component of anger. Athletes Anger Helpedthat felt angry indicated that their adrenaline was pumping, they felt more motivated and excited leading to increased levels of performance. Interestingly, athletes were also asked to participate in a questionnaire looking specifically at emotional intelligence.  Participants who scored higher on emotional intelligence considered themselves to be more successful in their sport when comparing their abilities to others they compete against. This suggests that athletes view emotions, or more importantly their understanding and ability to manage such emotions, as playing a role in sports performance.

What does this research suggest for athletes and their emotional experiences during sports competition? Athletes view anger as a beneficial emotion surrounding sports. This may suggest that athletes should incorporate feelings of anger into their sport routine and competition prep. Findings also suggest that athletes need to learn how to recognize, manage, and understand their emotions in order to reap the benefits of experiencing them surrounding a competition. Future research could look at sport type and see whether athletes involved in sports that are considered more aggressive in nature (e.g., football) view emotions such as anger as more beneficial to performance outcomes. Being able to recognize such emotions could lead athletes to better be able to use such emotional experiences, in turn, leading to increases in ability and performance in a sports context.

HuckeBy Kayla Hucke
Kayla is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She will graduate with honors in May 2015 and plans to take some time off of school to gain experience before attending graduate school. She will present her honors project, Emotions in Sports Performance, at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago in April 2015.

Anger Experienced by Returning Veterans

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Due to the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are many veterans returning homeCapture and experiencing anger problems during reintegration into civilian life.  A recent study done by Miranda Worthen and Jennifer Ahern, published in the Journal of Loss and Trauma in 2014, investigated how veterans understood the causes, process, and social impact of their anger issues during reintegration.  In this study, the researchers had an open interview with each veteran in order to further understand the individual and the reasons causing the anger problems.

The researchers found three distinct patterns of anger problems: (1) loss of structure during reintegration (i.e., living in a less predictable and organized environment), (2) moral injury from being exposed to acts that disagree with one’s moral beliefs, and (3) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is triggered by a traumatic experience (National Center for PTSD, 2012).  While veterans reintegrate into civilian life, PTSD and moral injury caused persistent anger problems.  These anger problems can lead to marital issues, social isolation, and issues holding a job.

There is specialized help available for veterans who suffer from moral injury and PTSD.  These feelings are common and seeking help is highly encouraged.  It is important for each veteran to find what process or method works best for them to reintegrate into civilian life.

For those veterans who are looking for help, here are two useful resources:

By Gretchen Klefstad
Gretchen is a a sophomore majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Administration. She plans on graduating in May 2017 and continuing on to graduate school.