Gender differences in social representations of aggression: The phenomenological experience of differences in inhibitory control?

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Women are more likely than men to experience acts of aggression as expressive (a loss of self-control) than as instrumental (control over others). We propose that this might arise from differences in behavioural restraint. If women have better inhibitory control, aggressive behaviour should occur less frequently yet should be experienced as more emotionally ‘out of control’ because women can tolerate higher levels of anger before inhibitory control is breached. Participants (N =606) aged 13–24 completed the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ), the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory-2 (STAXI-2) and Expagg. A more expressive view of aggression was associated with higher levels of STAXI anger control and higher levels of MPQ constraint. However, it was the harm avoidance component of constraint, rather than control versus impulsivity, that was the stronger predictor. While behavioural inhibition is built on an infrastructure of fear, the latter may be more important in explaining gender differences in social representations of aggression.

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