Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

The Relationship of Cognitions, Assertion, and Anger Arousal

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

The Relationship of Cognitions, Assertion, and Anger Arousal

Article excerpt

Several recent conceptualizations of anger have emphasized the importance of cognitive mediating processes. While there have been a few investigations showing correlations between cognitive distortion and anger, they have suffered methodological shortcomings. Anger difficulties have also been related to social skills deficits. The association has been inferred mainly through assertion treatment studies which usually show improvement in anger difficulties. There have been few studies examining an apriori relationship between assertion deficits and anger. The current correlational study of college students examined the relationship between self-report measures of general cognitive distortion, assertion-specific cognitive distortion, assertion, and anger difficulties. General cognitive distortion, though not assertion or assertion-related cognitions, was found to be related to anger. Moreover, hypotheses regarding which general cognitive distortions would be related to anger were largely supported. Implications of these findings are discussed.

While anger has only recently received research attention, it is a significant clinical concern. Anger contributes to social problems, including physical and verbal aggression, child abuse, physical and property damage, and health problems, such as coronary heart disease and hypertension (Deffenbacher, Demm, & Brandon, 1986). Despite the significance of anger, little is known about its psychological origins.

Cognitive appraisal has occupied a central role in recent theorizing about anger. Fesbach (1986) refers to the "stimulus-linked" model which posits that anger results from frustration produced by mediating cognitive processes. Following exposure to a noxious event, this model suggests that anger is more likely, given cognitive perspectives such as: (1) failing to accept unfulfilled expectations (i.e., being angry about rejection from graduate school), (2) perceived intention of a provoker to purposely do harm (i.e., "he meant to trip me!"), (3) viewing a provocation as unjustified (i.e., viewing job rejection as due to not having "connections"), and (4) perceiving a provocation as a direct attack on self-esteem such as an insult or as evidence of one's shortcomings.

The premise that cognitive appraisal is significant in anger argues for the utility of cognitive interventions. Novaco's Stress Inoculation Training (1975, 1977) which teaches cognitive reappraisal skills, illustrates such an approach. Though several studies utilize cognitive interventions for anger problems (Bistline & Frieden, 1984; Hamberger & Lohr, 1980; Moon & Eisler, 1983), few have empirically examined the a priori relationship between cognitions and anger. Though Lopez and Thurman (1986) found a significant relationship between anger and cognitions, they used a poor measure of cognitions. Their scale consisted of 11 items in toto and only one item per content area, which precluded meaningful examination of specific cognitive content areas. In methodologically better studies, Hazaleus and Deffenbacher (1985), Hogg and Deffenbacher (1986), and Zwemer and Deffenbacher (1984) found a significant relationship between cognitions and anger. These studies, however, may be limited by their use of the original scoring system of the Irrational Beliefs Test (Jones, 1968). This scoring system has been questioned with regard to factor stability, the non-empirical assignment of items to scale factors, and the number of subjects in the study (Lohr & Bonge, 1982). Notably, Jones' frustration factor was not replicated in Lohr and Bonge's factor analysis and was consequently deleted from their revised IBT scoring system. Thus, the psychometric adequacy of the frustration factor is in question.

Assertion also has been theoretically linked to anger, but there has been little empirical investigation of this relationship. The presumed importance of assertion to anger problems is reflected by the plethora of studies that have utilized assertion training for anger reduction (Deffenbacher, Story, Stark, Hogg, & Brandon, 1987; Deffenbacher, 1988; Duffy & Dowd, 1987; Moon & Eisler, 1983 Rahaim, Lefebvre, & Jenkins, 1980). …

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