Provoked Aggression, Psychopathy and Narcissism: Comparing the Impact of Social Exclusion and Insult

Martijn W. van Teffelen*, Linda M. G. Vancleef, Jill Lobbestael

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Numerous provocations cause aggressive behavior. However, different provocation procedures are rarely directly compared. This study examined whether two different provocations (i.e., social exclusion and insult) were equally effective in terms of producing aggressive behavior, negative affective change and threat perception. As psychopathic and narcissistic personality traits may moderate provoked aggression, the current study also explored the differential impact of psychopathic and narcissistic traits on these variables. Method: A male (N = 94) community sample was randomly allocated to receive negative social belonging feedback (i.e., social exclusion) or negative intelligence feedback (i.e., insult) by a confederate. Aggressive behavior was measured using a competitive reaction time task after provocation. Here, aggressive behavior before first provocation (i.e., noise blast) by the opponent reflected unprovoked aggression, whereas aggressive behavior after first provocation reflected provoked aggression. Negative affect was measured pre- and postprovocation, and threat perception was measured postprovocation. Results: Results showed that both provocations were equally effective in producing aggressive behavior, negative affective change, and threat perception. Explorative analysis revealed that increased threat perception suppresses initial aggressive responding under the condition of agentic threat in narcissistic people. Also, decreased negative affective change during provocation suppressed aggressive responding in people with psychopathic traits. Conclusions: The findings suggest that both provocations can interchangeably be implemented to study provoked aggression. Emotional blunting may protect against detrimental provocation effects in people with psychopathic traits. Under conditions of agentic threat narcissistic traits related to withholding aggressive responding after first provocation, lashing out when a new threat emerges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-91
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Violence
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • aggression
  • provocation
  • psychopathy
  • narcissism
  • AFFECT SCHEDULE PANAS
  • PERSONALITY-INVENTORY
  • NEGATIVE AFFECT
  • THREATENED EGOTISM
  • SELF-ESTEEM
  • LABORATORY AGGRESSION
  • DISPLACED AGGRESSION
  • REACTIVE AGGRESSION
  • CONSTRUCT-VALIDITY
  • REJECTION

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