Presentation on theme: "Professor of Psychology Professor of Communication Studies"— Presentation transcript:
1 Professor of Psychology Professor of Communication Studies Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? (or “Spock Had it Right!”)Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D.Professor of PsychologyProfessor of Communication StudiesResearch Professor, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USAProfessor of Communication Science, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2 Outline Catharsis theory Why does catharsis theory survive? Do media messages work?Does venting work if people believe in it?Does rumination help or hurt?Meta-analysis
3 Catharsis Theory Dates back to Aristotle. Term comes from the Greek katharsis, which means to cleanse or purge.Posits that acting aggressively or even viewing aggression purges angry feelings.
4 Hydraulic ModelFrustrations lead to anger, and anger builds up inside a person, like steam inside a pressure cooker, until it is vented. If anger isn’t vented, the person will eventually “explode” in an aggressive rage.
5 Moratorium on Catharsis Theory In 1973, Albert Bandura issued a statement calling for a moratorium on catharsis theory and the use of venting in therapy because they “may inadvertently reinforce aggressive tendencies.”
6 Venting Anger is Like Using Gasoline to Put Out a Fire — It Feeds the Flame! Venting keeps arousal levels high.Venting keeps aggressive thoughts active in memory.Venting keeps angry feelings alive.
7 Why Does Catharsis Theory Survive? Professional psychologistsPop psychologistsMass media
8 Do Media Messages Work? Subjects: 180 men, 180 women Pro-catharsis: Research Shows that Hitting Inanimate Objects is an Effective Way to Vent Anger.Anti-catharsis: Research Shows that Hitting Inanimate Objects is an Ineffective Way to Vent Anger.Control: Marijuana Smoking Linked to Bleeding Gums.
9 One of the worst essays I’ve read! ItemNot angeredAngeredOrganization+10-10Originality+9-9Writing styleClarity of expression+8-8Persuasive argumentsOverall ratingComment:Great essay!One of the worst essays I’ve read!
10 Subjects Rated a List of Activities Playing solitaireReading a short storyWatching a comedyPlaying a computer gameHitting a punching bag
11 Punching bag preference 0.6Angered0.4Not angered0.2Punching bag preference-0.2-0.4-0.6Pro-CatharsisControlAnti-catharsisBushman, Baumeister, & Stack (1999) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Study 1
12 Placebo EffectIf venting works under any conditions, it should work when people believe that it works.
13 Does Venting Work if People Believe That it Works? Subjects: 350 men, 350 womenVenting: Hit or did not hit punching bagMessage: Pro-catharsis, anti-catharsis, or controlAggression target: Provocateur or innocent third party
14 Bushman, Baumeister, & Stack (1999) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Study 2
15 Predictions based on catharsis theory 0.60.40.2Aggression-0.2-0.4Pro-catharsisPro-catharsisControlAnti-catharsisDidn't Hit BagHit Bag
16 Actual results Anti-placebo effect Bushman, Baumeister, & Stack (1999) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Study 2
17 Aggression TargetDisplaced aggression: Target was an innocent bystander.Direct aggression: Target was the same person who criticized the essay.Subjects who vented were just as aggressive against an innocent bystander as against the person who criticized them.
18 Most People Love to Vent Anger! It Feels Good! Bushman, Baumeister, & Stack (1999) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Study 2
19 Correlations between measures ____________________________________ 1. Desire to hit bag — * *2. Enjoyed hitting bag — *3. Aggression —Catharsis theory would predict negative correlations, but all are positive!Bushman, Baumeister, & Stack (1999) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Study 2
20 Does Rumination Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Subjects: 300 men, 300 womenRuminationDistractionControl
21 Bushman (2002) Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
22 Bushman (2002) Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
28 Pressure Cooker Analogy Wait until the pressure cooker explodes.Periodically reduce the pressure by venting steam.Lower the flame and reduce the heat!
29 Effective Ways to Reduce Anger Distraction: Think about something else.Relaxation: Try to reduce arousal.Incompatible response: Do something incompatible with anger and aggression.Delay: Let the anger dissipate.
30 Conclusions Catharsis media messages work. Venting anger doesn’t work (even if people believe that it does).People feel good after venting, but the good feeling increases aggression.Venting anger causes people to aggress against innocent bystanders.
31 Conclusions Rumination makes people more angry and aggressive. Exercise can distract people (and is good for the heart), but it is not an effective way to reduce anger and aggression.Four strategies do reduce anger and aggression: delay, distraction, relaxation, and incompatible responses.
32 How Do I Get This Research? All articles are on my web page:Questions?