Judgements of aggression serving personal versus prosocial purposes

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Brendan G. Rule
Ronald Dyck
Marilynn McAra
Andrew Nesdale
Cite this article:  Rule, B., Dyck, R., McAra, M., & Nesdale, A. (1975). Judgements of aggression serving personal versus prosocial purposes. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 3(1), 55-64.


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Two studies of a university and a high school population were conducted in which participants read a transcript of an interview including a description of an aggressive incident. The aggressor was attractive or unattractive, and his intentions in aggressing were either to hurt the victim (hostile aggression), to
return a wallet to its rightful owner (social-instrumental) or to keep the wallet for himself (personal-instrumental). Participants evaluated the aggressor on several dimensions. The results of both studies indicated that the manipulations were successful. Moreover, in both studies participants evaluated the attractive aggressor as more right and less deserving of punishment than the unattractive aggressor. Both university and high school students judged an aggressor who hit for prosocial instrumental reasons as more right and less deserving of punishment than an aggressor who hit for personal reasons. For university students both hostile and personal-instrumental aggression were evaluated similarly. However, high school participants evaluated an aggressor who hit for personal-instrumental reasons as more wrong and deserving of more punishment than an aggressor who hit for hostile reasons.

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