Academic journal article The Psychological Record

A Study of Male and Female Aggressive Responding under Conditions Providing an Escape Response

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

A Study of Male and Female Aggressive Responding under Conditions Providing an Escape Response

Article excerpt

Research on gender differences in aggressive behavior has been pursued with the assumption that males are more aggressive than females. Consequently, there is little research on female aggression. For behavioral experimentation aggression has been operationally defined as the delivery of an aversive stimulus to another individual, but psychometric and field studies have been conducted according to varying definitions of aggression. Some researchers have suggested that aggression research has been so dominated by males that the definition may have been developed to fit male styles of aggression (Bjorkvist, Osterman, & Kaukiainen, 1992). Even so, meta-analyses show that gender differences in aggression may not be very large (Eagley & Steffen, 1986; Frodi, Macaulay, & Thorne, 1977; Hyde, 1984), and observations indicate smaller gender differences in aggression may be found in more recent studies (Hyde, 1984).

Relative to the understanding of gender differences in aggression is the question of what effect providing an opportunity to escape provocation might have on the relative frequency of aggression in men and women. Escape from provocation is an area that has not been sufficiently studied in the laboratory because laboratory studies typically require subjects to respond aggressively. There is some indirect evidence that women may choose to escape more often than men, however. In two studies by Gladue (1991a, 1991b), more women than men reported a preference to "get out of the way," and to be "quiet rather than make a fuss," when being hassled. In another study, posed with a hypothetical situation more women, than men, chose to leave a provoking situation rather than to respond aggressively (Reinisch & Sanders, 1986). Together, these studies suggest that under conditions where it is possible, women may prefer to escape provocation and as a result, emit fewer aggressive responses than men.

To measure differences in aggression, the [C] Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm (PSAP, Cherek, 1981) was used because it provides a response for escaping provocation. It is a relatively new laboratory paradigm of aggression that has recently been externally validated in violent versus nonviolent parolee populations (Cherek, Moeller, Schnapp, & Dougherty, in press; Cherek, Schnapp, Moeller, & Dougherty, 1995). The paradigm also incorporates parameters likely to reduce gender differences in aggressive responding. Some of the gender equalizing qualities of the PSAP were as follows: First, subjects are provoked in the PSAP, and evidence suggests that provocation may increase female retaliatory aggression, thus reducing apparent gender differences in aggression. For example, Taylor and Epstein (1967) demonstrated that female aggression increases as a function of provocation, and that males and females did not differ in shock settings for their opponents across provocation levels in the competitive reaction-time task. Other studies have shown that males were more aggressive than females on the initial, provocation-free, trial of the competitive reaction-time task, but females were equally aggressive on subsequent trials involving provocation (Hammock & Richardson, 1992; Richardson, Vandenberg, & Humphries, 1986). Second, the PSAP creates an environment in which aggression is anonymous, and women might be likely to show increased aggressive responding under this condition. For example, females reported using more aggression through social manipulation than males in the workplace, such as making insulting comments about one's private life, or making insinuations without direct accusation (Bjorkvist, Osterman, & Lagerspetz, 1994). In a meta-analysis of gender differences in aggression, slightly greater gender differences in aggression (statistically insignificant) were found for experiments with semiprivate conditions (i.e., the experimenter or target was present) than with private conditions (Eagley & Steffen, 1986). …

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