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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1975 Mar;31(3):567-73.

Witnessed aggression: influence of an observer's sex and values on aggressive responding.


Two experiments investigated the effects of the presence of an observer on aggressive responding. In one experiment, male subjects observed by a male aggressed more than those observed by a female. When the male observer was removed from the situation, subjects' level of aggressiveness more closely matched the level manifested by the opponent. The removal of the female observer had little effect on the subjects' behavior. In the second experiment, the male or female observer of the subject's behavior was disguised as a member of an organization with explicit values (aggressive or pacifistic) regarding the use of aggression. In this case, significant differences in aggression were associated with the observer's values but not the observer's sex. Following the departure of the observer, the shock settings of subjects in the two aggressive-value observer groups showed a signifcant decrease. The average shock setting of subjects in the two pacifistic-value observer groups remained at about the same level. In sum, the results indicated that the subjects' aggressive behavior was apparently a function of their expectations of approval for such behavior, based on the inferred or explicit values of the observer. The results were further discussed in terms of social learning theory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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