Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Stephen Benning

Second Committee Member

Kimberly Barchard

Third Committee Member

Shane Kraus

Fourth Committee Member

Tamara Herold


Aggression is often subtyped into reactive and instrumental aggression. Reactive aggression occurs in response to some form of provocation and is often accompanied by anger. Instrumental aggression is not provoked and is relatively unemotional. Existing aggression paradigms primarily measure reactive aggression, and the laboratory measurement of instrumental aggression has proved challenging. This study modified the competitive reaction time task to include an entire block of instrumental aggression trials, in addition to the standard block of reactive trials, in effort to create a single paradigm within which both reactive and instrumental aggression can be measured in the laboratory. Psychopathy is a form of disordered personality which comprises a unique constellation of traits encompassing affective, interpersonal, and behavioral domains. Psychopathy is uniquely related to increases in instrumental aggression. One factor of psychopathy, Meanness, would theoretically be related to instrumental and reactive aggression. Ninety-nine undergraduate participants were recruited for this study. Participant scores on the Meanness in Psychopathy – Self Report and emotion ratings following each block were examined, along with the frequency and severity with which participants shocked an ostensible opponent. Participant anger ratings increased following the reactive block, consistent with reactive aggression being related to anger. Consistent with expectations, participants shocked their opponent more severely during the reactive block than during the instrumental block. Malice (a factor of Meanness) was most strongly related to shock severity in the reactive condition, and Malice generally predicted shock severity in the reactive condition, except when participants were also high in Coldness. This effect for Malice appeared to be driven by the Vengefulness trait within Malice. Contrary to expectations, Malice did not predict shock frequency or severity within the instrumental block.


Aggression; Competitive Reaction Time; Instrumental Aggression; Meanness; Psychopathy; Reactive Aggression


Clinical Psychology

File Format


File Size

1090 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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