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Aggression has been consistently divided up into two types: reactive aggression (RA) and proactive aggression (PA). While reactive aggressors are impulsive and retaliate violently when provoked, proactive aggressors are goal-oriented and have psychopathic tendencies. Although biological markers like a low resting heart rate (HR) reliably characterize aggressive populations, there is a significant gap in the psychology literature examining the physiological effects of RA and PA to anger inducing stimuli. The current study investigated the effects of RA and PA on heart rate reactivity (HRR) in response to an anger induction paradigm. Male participants (N = 21) completed an anger induction while their HR was continuously recorded using electrocardiogram (ECG). Participants also completed a portion of the Profile of Mood States (POMS) before and after the induction. To control for potential confounds, participants also completed the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), demographic and lifestyle questionnaires after the anger induction. I hypothesized that males prone to higher levels of RA would have higher resting HR’s, more HRR to the anger induction, as well as a higher change in self-reported anger compared to males prone to higher levels of PA. Contrary to hypotheses, neither RA nor PA predicted baseline HR or HRR to the anger induction. However, both HR and negative affect increased after the anger induction, supporting the method as a way to induce both psychological and physiological aspects of emotion.
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Bertoldi, Bridget M., "The Effects of Reactive Aggression and Proactive Aggression on Heart Rate Reactivity to an Anger Induction" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 344.