Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of Alcohol Intake and Induced Frustration upon Art Vandalism

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of Alcohol Intake and Induced Frustration upon Art Vandalism

Article excerpt

This study was designed to examine the interactive effects between alcohol-intake and frustration effects upon art vandalism. 100 subjects, 50 men and 50 women, were randomly assigned to five experimental conditions (Control, Alcohol, Alcohol+Frustration, Frustration and Placebo) with 10 men and 10 women in each group. Subjects were provided with the opportunity to scrawl on a picture of Adam and Eve (the AET test). AET was evaluated also on levels of "destruction", "aggression" and "sexuality". The results indicated that alcohol alone did not increase the degree of vandalism, but that there was a significant increase in scores of scrawling-graffiti under the influence of alcohol+frustration. Female subjects performed graffiti-scrawling to a significantly greater extent than did male subjects in all five groups.

The concept "vandalism" has been defined as a conscious act directed towards the destruction or damage of an object(s) belonging to another person or institution (Moser, 1992), a conscious act intended to inflict physical damage which results in the loss of aesthetic or financial value of an object or property (Harrison, 1976), all forms of destruction of property, whether on purpose or not (Baughman, 1971), all destructive behavior from littering to arson-manslaughter (Ducey, 1978). Common to all these definitions is the requirement of some type of damage infliction in vandalism.

Different studies on vandalism have postulated that the behavior may constitute creative action (Alien, 1984), that it possesses a communicative aspect (Daun, 1982; Cordess & Turcan, 1993), that it is born out of the neutralization of social norms (Matza & Sykes, 1961, Matza 1972) or that it is, in the main, situationdependent (Weinmayr, 1969; Roos, 1986). Several studies indicate (Goldstein, 1996; West, Drummond & Eames, 1990) that alcohol consumption is a frequent component of vandalizing behavior. Concurrently, several experimental reports (reviewed in Gustafson, 1991) demonstrate that the aggressive behavior evidenced during alcohol intoxication increases only under conditions wherein individuals are concurrently exposed to frustration. Further, much literature (cf. Goldstein, 1996) supports a significant gender effect in connection with vandalism independent of causation, environment, situation or age whereby the offender is almost exclusively male. At the same time, as Gustafson (1991) indicates, most experimental investigations concerning alcohol and aggression are performed on male subjects.

In a study of art vandalism at galleries in England, Scotland and Wales (Cordess & Turcan, 1993) it was found that minor damage, such as scratches, scraping, scrawling-grafFiti, often carried out surreptitiously by anonymous offenders, was likely to be caused by primary or younger secondary school children trying to impress their peers. Major damage, such as slashing, stabbing, tearing, cutting, arson or destruction of statues and vases, was inflicted by more hardened offenders who did not show particular care to avoid attention. Interestingly, the authors interpreted damage upon artworks depicting humans, e.g. Madonna and child, to represent attacks upon both objects and persons, as a substitute for assaulting a real person.

Although a vast number of studies have been directed at alcohol and aggression (Gustafson, 1991), only two have been related specifically to alcohol and graffiti (Korytnyk & Perkins, 1983; Norlander, Nordmarker & Archer, 1998). The first study indicated that young men who had consumed alcohol wrote and sketched more graffiti compared with men who had not drunk alcohol, which was interpreted as the tendency for alcohol to increase vandalism-related behavior. There are drawbacks with this explanation: the study did not control for a frustration factor, it was gender-limited, i.e. only men were included, and finally there was no distinction amongst graffiti containing destructive, aggressive, or sexually-charged components. …

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