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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relationship between aggressive and non-aggressive personality characteristics and word associations Simpson, Herbert Marshall


It was hypothesized that differences would exist in the aggressive content of the word association responses of aggre-sive (A) and non-aggressive (KA) subjects (Ss) to a word association test (WAT) containing homonymic words having alternate meanings, aggressive and non-aggressive (A:NA). In Study I the WAT was constructed as the research instrument and administered to A and NA groups of Ss previously assessed as to aggressive personality characteristics by the total inventory score of the Buss-Durkee Hostility-Guilt Inventory. The Ss' responses to the A:NA stimulus words were rated for aggressive content and a comparison between A and NA groups performed. The results indicated that two of the twelve A:NA words yielded significant differences between groups. Suggestions for improvement of the methodology and extension of the theoretical framework and analyses were proposed and subsequently incorporated into Study II. The ideas for improvement outlined in Study I were introduced in Study II. These modifications included determining the reliability of ratings of the A:NA words which was assessed and found to be adequate. Next, a larger group of experimental Ss was sampled. The Buss-Durkee Hostility-Guilt Inventory was rescored to obtain a measure of aggression more indicative of verbal hostility. Finally, the reliability of ratings of the aggressive content of responses to the A:NA words was assessed and found to be adequate. The data in Study II were analyzed to test the hypothesis that the A group would respond with significantly more aggressive word associations to the A/NA words than would the WA group, and the results were in the direction predicted. The second part of the study involved an attempt to determine which of the A:NA words contributed significantly to differentiating A and NA groups. A comparison across groups of the mean response values (average aggressive content) of the associations to the A:NA words indicated that five of the twelve terms subscribed significantly to the discrimination. The third segment of the research involved an attempt to test the hypothesis (Berkowitz, 1962, p. 257) that the A individual reacts in a hostile manner to suitable stimuli, but does not behave aggressively in the absence of such cues. In accordance with this suggestion, it was hypothesized that A Ss would respond with hostile associations to the A:NA words more frequently than to any neutral (Nu) word on the WAT. Therefore, the Ss' word association responses to twelve randomly selected Nu words were rated for aggressive content. The results indicated that A Ss responded with more hostile word associations to the A:NA terms than to the Nu words. The fourth part of the study attempted to determine if an examination of relatively unique word association responses to the A:NA words would result in a greater disparity between the aggressive content of the free associations of the A Ss and those of the NA Ss. The results did not support the hypothesis.

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