Effect on aggression of anger and anxiety: Mutually inhibitory or facilitative?
Prior studies investigating the influence of anxiety upon angry aggression have grouped subjects on the basis of self-reported levels of anxiety and looked at group differences when angered (Dengerink, 1971; Dorsky & Taylor, 1972). In the present study, however, both anxiety and anger were experimentally manipulated in subjects whose self-reported anxiety scores were known before giving them an opportunity to aggress Subjects were 80 male college students enrolled in an introductory psychology class who had previously completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, (STAI) and the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory. The men were randomly assigned to one of eight treatment conditions in which all combinations of anxiety (induced vs. control), anger (induced vs. control), and other (anxiety induction first vs. anger induction first) were included. Anxiety was created by leading the subjects to believe that the experiment involved their receiving electric shock. Anger was induced by the experimenter's very rude treatment of the subject. The aggression measure involved the subject's rating the experimenter's qualification for continued employment by this department, providing an opportunity to retaliate (Zillmann & Cantor, 1976). Throughout the experimental procedure blood pressure and heart rate were periodically monitored It was found that (1) both anger and anxiety manipulations elevated physiological arousal; (2) self-report personality scores of hostility and anxiety, as measured by the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory respectively, were not related to the magnitude of interpersonal aggression; and, (3) subjects who were exposed to the anxiety induction coupled with anger arousal exhibited less aggression than subjects who received solely the anger arousal. Therefore, the presence of anxiety mitigated a tendency toward aggression when angered Results suggest that anxiety has a mitigating effect on aggression and that anxious arousal does not combine additively with angry arousal to increase aggression as would be expected from an excitation transfer model. In prior studies investigating the relationship between anxiety and anger, anxiety has been generally operationalized solely on the basis of self-reported measures of social anxiety. In the present study, anxiety was experimentally created and monitored through physiological measures, thus providing much stronger support to the hypothesis that the presence of anxiety in an individual acts as a mitigator of angry aggression