Aggressive Behaviour in a Public Setting: The Influences of Provocation and Personality on the Decision-Making Process

Jon Olafsson, University of Cambridge

In most integrative criminological research the actual empirical link between the community level and the individual level is not addressed directly. It has been suggested by some that the link between levels of analysis is the difference between individuals in their perception of behavioural alternatives, when faced with temptations and provocations. This hypothetical "perception of alternatives" link has never been addressed in an empirical way due to considerable methodological problems. In this paper I present findings from a study on 200 males (18 to 22 years of age) that was designed to explore differences (between people) in perception of alternatives when faced with the same provocation in a public setting. This is a three level study (community, situational and individual characteristics) but I will focus here on the situational level and the individual. Aggressive behaviour in a public setting is, therefore, explained in terms of the level of provocation and in terms of some key individual variables like self-control, personality, guilt etc. The results suggest that there are three different types of people. Inactive group, they seem to be more or less immune to the provocation level and remain passive throughout. Reactive group, they will react violently when faced with overt aggression. Proactive group, they seem to respond in a linear relationship to the level of provocation (they start to increase their violent responses as soon as the provocation level increases). I will present findings regarding these three groups and will explain them with references to some key individualistic variables.

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Updated 05/20/2006