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Aggress Behav. 2008 Mar-Apr;34(2):133-5; discussion 136-8. doi: 10.1002/ab.20242.

On the meaning of meaning when being mean: commentary on Berkowitz's "on the consideration of automatic as well as controlled psychological processes in aggression".

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Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.


Berkowitz (this issue) makes a cogent case for his cognitive neo-associationist (CNA) model that some aggressive behaviors occur automatically, emotionally, and through conditioned association with other stimuli. He also proposes that they can occur without "processing," that is, without meaning. He contrasts his position with that of social information processing (SIP) models, which he casts as positing only controlled processing mechanisms for aggressive behavior. However, both CNA and SIP models posit automatic as well as controlled processes in aggressive behavior. Most aggressive behaviors occur through automatic processes, which are nonetheless rule governed. SIP models differ from the CNA model in asserting the essential role of meaning (often through nonconscious, automatic, and emotional processes) in mediating the link between a stimulus and an angry aggressive behavioral response.

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