Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

James Epps.

Keywords

Automaticity, Trait anger, Angry temperament, Expectancies, Alcohol myopia

Abstract

Ongoing investigations of drunken aggression tend to focus on 1) situational cues, and 2) individual variables such as personality traits. This study investigated the hypothesis that an undergraduates attention would be pulled toward a nonconscious presentation of aggression stimuli, especially in the presence of alcohol cues, and especially if he or she was high on trait anger [as measured using the State Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI); Spielberger, 1988] and had high expectancies for behaving aggressively while drinking alcohol [as measured using the Expectancy Questionnaire for Alcohol and Aggression Lo Dose (EQAAL); Epps, Hunter, LeVasseur, Steinberg, and Hancock, unpublished manuscript]. Seventy-nine of the participants who completed questionnaires also completed one of the two computer tasks (adapted from John Bargh and associates) weeks later in either the Barroom or the Cleanroom.

Attention to HiAggression words (as measured by reaction time or error rate difference scores) was significantly higher than attention to NonAggression words using the parafoveal visual task, with observed power at 1. No significant differences were found using the dichotic listening task. Additionally, there was a significant three-way interaction (Word Type X Setting X Angry Temperament) when participants where blocked according to high vs. low angry temperament scores. Follow-up analyses as well as regression analyses for the specific hypothesis provided mixed results. Individuals lower on angry temperament tended to demonstrate higher levels of attentional interference for aggression words, but only in the presence of alcohol cues. Conversely, individuals higher on angry temperament evidenced higher levels of attentional interference, but only in the absence of alcohol cues. It appears that the relationships among these variables are by no means straightforward.

Studies that include an opportunity to aggress behaviorally may shed more light on whether ones level of attentional interference and self-reported personality traits can be combined to predict aggression in the presence of alcohol cues. The parafoveal visual task is recommended as the methodology of choice for these future studies.

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