In February, I have visited Portland (Oregon) to attend 20th annual convention of Society for Personality and Social Psychology. I presented there results of two studies examining the role of beliefs about mood improvement after intergroup aggression in eliciting intergroup aggression. Specifically, I investigated whether collective narcissism in linked to intergroup aggression via beliefs intergroup aggression is pleasant. In this vein, previous research showed that people tended to believe punishing their offenders helped them to reduce the pain of the offence (Gollwitzer & Bushman, 2012). Retaliatory aggression is believed to improve mood (Bushman, Baumeister, & Phillips, 2001), is rated as a pleasant experience (Ramírez et al., 2005) and brings momentary positive reinforcement (Chester & DeWall, 2017). Collective narcissists whose mood tend to be decidedly negative (Golec de Zavala, 2019) may engage in retaliatory intergroup aggression to improve mood. Negative affect may motivate them to seek out aggression’s mood improving qualities (Chester & De Wall, 2017).
Results of two studies converge to indicate that the relationship between collective narcissism and intergroup aggression is driven by belief in mood improvement after retaliation. In Study 1 participants (N=533) were ostracized (vs. included) by playing a virtual ball-tossing game Cyberball (Williams, 2009), while their national group membership was highlighted. They then were given an opportunity to stab a virtual doll representing a member of the outgroup with virtual pins (DeWall et al., 2013). Before they indicated how many pins they would use to stab the doll, they were asked “Do you think stabbing pins into the doll will improve your mood?”. Results indicated that the link between collective narcissism and outgroup hostility was partly mediated by the belief this act improves mood.
Study 2 were consistent with the results of Study 1. We used a novel Hedonistic Beliefs About Revenge Scale (Dyduch-Hazar, Mrozinski, Cypryanska, & Golec de Zavala, 2019) which measures expectations of emotional gratification from harming others in response to feeling oneself harm by them (e.g. “Revenge improves my mood”). The scale was adjusted to the intergroup context (e.g. “Revenge in the name of my group would improve my mood”). The relationship between collective narcissism and aggression against Syrian refugees was mediated by beliefs about hedonistic function of revenge. In addition, the higher the perceived intergroup threat, the higher indirect effect of collective narcissism on intergroup aggression via hedonistic beliefs about intergroup revenge. These results were replicated in a longitudinal study which additionally clarified that collective narcissism and in-group satisfaction had opposite unique relationships with the hedonistic belief about intergroup revenge.
Overall, those results suggest that collective narcissists may engage in hostile actions against outgroups they found threatening to their in-group to improve oneself mood. Intergroup aggression seems to be a specifically pleasant experience to them, what may possibly explain the durability of aggressive behaviors among collective narcissists.
Download my poster here:
- 1. Bushman, B.J., Baumeister, R.F., & Phillips, C.M. (2001). Do people aggress to improve their mood? Catharsis beliefs, affect regulation opportunity, and aggressive responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 17-32.
- 2. Chester, D.S., & DeWall, C.N. (2017). Combating the sting of rejection with the pleasure of revenge: A new look how emotions shape aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112, 413-430.
- 3. DeWall, N., Finkel, E.J., Lambert, N.M., Slotter, E.B., Bodenhausen, G.V., Pond Jr., R.S., Renzetti, C.M., & Fincham, F.D. (2013). The Voodoo doll task: Introducing and validating a novel method for studying aggressive inclinations. Aggressive Behavior, 39, 419-439.
- 4. Dyduch-Hazar, K., Mrozinski, B., Cypryanska, M., & Golec de Zavala, A. (2019). Opposite unique associations of collective narcissism and in-group satisfaction with intergroup hostility via beliefs about hedonistic function o revenge. Manuscript in preparation.
- 5. Gollwitzer, M., & Bushman, B. (2012). Do victims of injustice punish to improve their mood? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 572-580.
- 6. Ramirez, J.M., Bonniot-Cabanac, M.C., & Cabanac, M. (2005). Can impulsive aggression provide pleasure? European Psychologist, 10(2), 136-145.
- 7. Williams, K.D. (2009). Ostracism: A temporal need‐threat model. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 275-314.
Besides, I had a wonderful time strolling around Portland. Three things this city should be proud of are: remarkably hospitable inhabitants, amazingly tasty food and truly eco-friendly spirit. Definitely keep Portland weird!
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