Magazine article Psychology Today

Why Do We Lash Out?

Magazine article Psychology Today

Why Do We Lash Out?

Article excerpt

AFTER BANGING our heads against the figurative wall to try to solve a problem, we may feel tempted to take out frustration on an unlucky bystander. A report in the Journal ofExperimental Social Psychology proposes one reason for this behavior: It could be a way to renew our sense of competence.

"We know from other studies that people want agency," says psychologist Pontus Leander of the University of Groningen. "So when a goal is thwarted, we're highly motivated to get affirmation that we can still produce effects."

To explore whether such a desire drives unfriendly acts, Leander and Tanya Chartrand, of Duke University, first sought to instill a goal-oriented mindset in certain study participants, priming them with words related to achievement. Participants then took on an anagram task that was either easy or frustratingly difficult. …

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