Nav: Home

Aggressive behavior brings emotional pain to the sadist

December 19, 2018

Washington, DC - People with sadistic personality traits tend to be aggressive, but only enjoy their aggressive acts if it harms their victims. According to a series of studies of over 2000 people, these actions ultimately leave sadists feeling worse than they felt before their aggressive act.

The research appears in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

"Sadistic tendencies don't just exist in serial killers, but in everyday people and are strongly-linked to greater aggressive behavior," says David Chester (Virginia Commonwealth University), lead author of the study.

In the real world, sadists might be someone bullying others to feel better, or a group of sports fans looking for rival fans to fight for the "excitement" of it.

In a lab setting, the scientists gauged people's aggressive and sadistic tendencies by measuring participant's likelihood to seek vengeance or to harm an innocent person.

For some cases, the virtual event may have been having someone eat hot sauce as punishment or blasting an opponent with loud noises and reading about their suffering.

With each scenario, the researchers found those with a history of aggression and sadistic behaviors, as measured by personality tests and questionnaires, showed more pleasure in causing harm to others, as expected, but they also saw that their overall mood went down following the event.

The authors were surprised to see the negative impact on mood.

It may be due to how aggression affects the brain, making people perceive something as pleasurable, when it actually creates the opposite effect, suggests Chester.

Better understanding the dynamic emotions that drive sadistic aggression may help people create interventions as well.

How aggression and sadistic behaviors tie into the cycle of violence

If they break the link between pleasure and inflicting pain, by changing how the sadist perceives the harm they inflict, or by helping the sadist understand how it will harm them, Chester suspects we may be able to "short-circuit" the aggression cycle.

The complex relations between the positive feelings before or during aggression in sadists, coupled with the negative mood following a sadistic behavior, suggests there are several ways to understand, and hopefully address, violence.

"Aggression is often thought of as a product of negative feelings such as anger, frustration, and pain --- yet this is not the whole story," says Chester. Their research on the link between aggression and sadism suggest that positive feelings are also an important cause of human violence.

"Going forward, psychologists should not neglect this side of the aggressive coin," says Chester.
-end-
Colleagues C. Nathan DeWall and Brian Enjaian (both University of Kentucky) contributed to the research.

Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Related Aggression Articles:

Two hormones drive anemonefish fathering, aggression
Two brain-signaling molecules control how anemonefish dads care for their young and respond to nest intruders, researchers report in a new study.
Solitude breeds aggression in spiders (rather than vice versa)
Spiders start out social but later turn aggressive after dispersing and becoming solitary, according to a study publishing July 2 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Raphael Jeanson of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, and colleagues.
Interparental aggression often co-occurs with aggression toward kids
Parents in the midst of a psychologically or physically aggressive argument tend to also be aggressive with their children, according to researchers at Penn State.
Familiarity breeds aggression
Aggressiveness among animals may increase the longer individuals live together in stable groups.
Study examines development of physical aggression in children as they age
Children can exhibit physical aggression when they are very young but that behavior typically declines before and during elementary school.
Heat, weekends, aggression and Chicago summer shootings
It happens all too often each summer: yet another litany of weekend shootings in Chicago appears in the news.
The neurobiology of social aggression
Bullying and aggression carry heavy societal costs. For the first time, Duke-NUS researchers have found a signalling mechanism in the brain that shapes social behaviour -- specifically a growth factor protein, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and its receptor, tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB), which affects social dominance.
Researchers identify marker in brain associated with aggression in children
A University of Iowa-led research team has identified a brain-wave marker associated with aggression in young children.
Targeting a brain mechanism could treat aggression
EPFL neuroscientists have identified a brain mechanism that is linked to aggression and violent behavior, potentially forming the basis for treating aggression in several psychiatric disorders.
Study examines alcohol's effects on sexual aggression
A new Aggressive Behavior study has examined alcohol's 'in the moment' effects on sexual aggression, or the acute effects of alcohol on men's decisions about how to respond to sexual refusals in a dating simulation.
More Aggression News and Aggression Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.