Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

McCanne, Thomas R.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Aggressiveness; Hostility (Psychology); Mood (Psychology)


The effects of elated, neutral, and depressed mood states on aggressive behavior were examined in the present study. A number of experimental hypotheses were put forth, which were based on various theories of aggression, emotion, and interpersonal attraction. Each subject was paired with a confederate, who was ostensibly a co-subject. Subjects were informed that the experiment concerned the effects of mood on problem solving. One of three sets of structured mood-statements (elated, neutral, or depressed) was first administered to each subject. Immediately afterwards, a measure of mood was taken. Then subjects were either provoked or treated neutrally by the confederate during an ostensible problem-solving task. Subjects were later given an opportunity to administer electric shocks to the confederate. Shock duration, intensity, and intensity times duration were used as dependent measures of aggression. Measures of subjects' anger and dislike toward the confederate were also taken. Following the experiment, subjects were briefly interviewed to assess possible awareness of the true nature of the study, and were then thoroughly debriefed. Statistical analyses indicated that the mood manipulation seemed to be effective. On the shock duration measure, depressed subjects were significantly more aggressive than others regardless of whether they had been provoked. The provocation manipulation was only marginally significant on the duration measure. There were no significant main effects or interactions on shock intensity and intensity times duration. Provoked subjects reported significantly greater dislike toward the confederate than the non-provoked group, but this comparison was only marginally significant on the anger measure. Comparisons of group variances revealed that the depressed group had a significantly larger variance than the other two mood groups. When the depressed group was excluded from the analyses of variance, the provocation variable was significant on duration and intensity times duration. This finding suggests that the provocation was effective for all but the depressed group. Most experimental predictions were not supported. The hypothesis based on excitation transfer theory (Tannenbaum & Zillman, 1975) that elated-provoked subjects should act out aggressively was not supported. Predictions based on various theories of emotion (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978; Beck, 1971; Lazarus, 1966) that depression should reduce aggression were not supported. Nor did the findings support the hypotheses derived from the "cognitive loop" hypothesis (Isen, Shalker, Clark, & Karp, 1978) or the "gain-loss" model of interpersonal attraction (Aronson & Linder, 1 965 ). The present findings did seem to be consistent with the argument of Baron and Bell (1976) that aggression may at times be a curvilinear function of negative affect. The psychoanalytic notion that depression and aggression are often associated (Mendelson, 1960) also seemed to be supported. The results were consistent with Izard's (1972, 1974) contention that depression includes a component of outer-directed hostility. Although it is possible that demand characteristics may have affected responses on the mood manipulation check, it is unlikely that they influenced aggressive responses. Methodological refinements of the current study are likely needed to establish the validity of the results.


Includes bibliographical references.||Pagination skips number 111.


vi, 145 pages




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