Aggression in the Sports World

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Aggression in the
Sports World
A Social Psychological Perspective

GORDON W. RUSSELL
Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

1
2008

3
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Russell, Gordon W., 1931Aggression in the sports world: a social psychological perspective / Gordon W. Russell.
p. cm.
ISBN: 978-0-19-518959-9
1. Sports—Psychological aspects. 2. Aggressiveness. I. Title.
GV706.4.R867 2008
796.01—dc22
2007028594

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper

Dedicated to my granddaughters
Serena and Sierra, my two budding scholars

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Preface

Three decades ago I produced a bibliography of books on human aggression. At
that time the total number was conservatively estimated to be well in excess of
350 volumes (Baron, 1977, p. vi). That number has likely tripled. Why would
I think yet another book on human aggression is called for, especially a book
focused on sports? There are several reasons for this.
With the exception of Michael Smith’s (1983) book Violence and Sport, and
John Kerr’s (2005) theoretical treatment of the topic in Rethinking Aggression
and Violence in Sport, sports aggression has not received comprehensive coverage by an academic writer. Of course, aspects of sports aggression have received
coverage as chapters in edited works or multitopic, sport psychology textbooks.
Among edited books, Goldstein’s (1983) Sports Violence stands alone in being
totally dedicated to the topic. Considering the rapidly expanding literature on
aggression in sports since the early eighties, I am hopeful that its incorporation
in the present volume will largely fill that void.
Our behavior in other applied settings, that is, the classroom or the workplace, has been intensively investigated, the results of which produced a rich
tradition of research and theory extending back well over 100 years. Educational
psychology and industrial/organizational psychology represent major areas of
academic inquiry. Seemingly, investigators gave priority to the “serious” topics
of our performance in the classroom and on the assembly line long before interest was shown in the more “frivolous” questions associated with our leisure-time
pursuits. However, how people choose to spend their time when they are not in
the classroom or at work is equally important in shaping the overall development and mental/physical well-being of the individual and, ultimately, society.
The options open to us are endless. One of our after-work choices is sports
broadly defined. My second reason then for writing this book is to further the
topic of aggression as a major investigative area of inquiry within sports.
vii

viii

Preface

The body of scientific writings on human aggression is vast with contributions
from academics representing nearly every department listed in a typical university calendar. My aim was to develop a strong interdisciplinary theme centered
on social psychology and to blend in the best in scholarly research from a variety
of disciplines. To adequately address the wide-ranging questions that arise in
sports aggression requires crossing the boundaries of numerous disciplines, that
is, pharmacology, economics, physical education, and animal studies, among others. I trust I have incorporated sufficient studies from other academic areas to
provide a fair and balanced picture of their contributions to our understanding of
the processes underlying sports aggression.
A significant portion of the book has relevance for questions related to aggression on the field of play, among those watching from the stands and in the media.
To date these areas appear to have attracted the lion’s share of interest from sport
researchers, while other aggression topics have received only spotty coverage.
For example, relatively fewer studies in the areas of cognition, environmental
factors, or social influence have tested hypotheses specifically in sports settings.
Consequently, at times I was required to generalize from nonsport studies in
making a point or in explaining a particular relationship. However, my goal
throughout was to provide my colleagues and their students with a current and
informative description of the dynamics underlying aggressive behaviors occurring in the sports world.
Given my commitment to promoting an international perspective on sport
research, I recognize that a number of terms used in different sports may baffle
some of my readers. In addition, the language of fans in various cultures may be
obscure to many. I will endeavor to slip in an explanation where these occur. For
starters, when my discussion moves beyond the borders of the United States and
involves people kicking a round ball up and down a field, I will generally refer
to the sport as football. Within the United States, it is soccer. However, if the
ball is pointy at both ends, the game will be called American football.
Finally, a word about the various terms used to describe those observing
sports from the stands or in the media. Sport fans are those with an ongoing
interest in following an athlete, team, or sport and those who derive pleasure
from watching the contest. Sports spectators can also be called sports consumers witnessing events actively from the bleachers or indirectly through media
channels (Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001). They do not necessarily follow a particular team nor have an abiding interest in the sport. For example, a
couple and their children may be in attendance because they been given tickets
by their boss. Others watching a game may be called supporters. Supporters are
roughly equivalent to fans, although in the context of European football they
may additionally hold formal membership in a team’s supporters club. Hooligans
represent a further element often found in attendance at football matches. Their
role is generally one of fomenting disturbances before, during, or after a match.
While they may align themselves with a particular team, it is merely a “flag of
convenience” under which they can do battle with the police or supporters of
rival teams (Kerr & de Kock, 2002). Their activities frequently have little to do
with events on the pitch.

Preface

ix

I should acknowledge at the outset that I have made no formal attempt
to define “sports.” Extant definitions (e.g., Loy, McPherson, & Kenyon, 1978)
are being stretched to the breaking point by various organizations, and their
following, eager to gain formal recognition as a sport. As examples, cheerleading
and ballroom dancing, the latter recently being marketed as sport dancing,
appear to be looking for a place on the Olympic calendar. My choice in the
midst of this confusion was to cast a wider-than-usual net in gathering studies
to be featured on the pages ahead. Admittedly, I have strayed beyond the bounds
of most definitions by including such dubious sports as professional wrestling,
paintball, cheerleading, and video games. Obviously, a number of sports would
be better called “activities,” “entertainment,” or “pastimes.”
I wish to thank those who have given me continuing encouragement throughout the writing of this book. I am grateful to Dr. Lori Handelman, senior editor
at Oxford University Press, for her steadfast support and encouragement. I am
also indebted to my friend and colleague, Dr. Hal Weaver, for his technical
assistance, wise counsel, and ready wit. My special thanks to my wife Audrey
and our children, Cameron and Shelley, for their unflagging support and understanding over the course of the past several years.
Prof. Gordon W. Russell

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Contents

Chapter 1. Social Influences 3
Definitions 3
Hostile Versus Instrumental Aggression
Introduction 5
The Cultural Factor 5
Influence of Exemplars 8
Rogues, Scoundrels, and Villains 12
Obedience 15
Third Party Influence 18
Escalation Effects 19
Targets of Aggression 20
Racism 26
Provocations 30
Summary 34
Suggested Reading 34

4

Chapter 2. Personality 36
Introduction 36
Traits 36
Measurement of Personality
Personality Theories 42
Biological Influences 60
Summary 71
Suggested Readings 71

38

Chapter 3. Environmental and Situational Influences 73
Environmental Determinants 73
Drugs: Legal and Otherwise 86
Situational Influences 93

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xii

Contents
Summary 101
Suggested Reading

102

Chapter 4. Witnessing Aggression: Media and Firsthand 103
Introduction 103
Media 104
Does Violence Sell? 107
Does Television Violence Increase Viewer Aggression? 108
A Matter of Influence 114
A Methodological Excursion 115
The Baddest of the Bad? 116
Priming 120
The Language of Sports 122
Personal Observation 123
Spinoffs: Extreme Violence 126
Summary 130
Addendum 131
Suggested Readings 131

Chapter 5. Violent Sports Crowds

133

Introduction 133
The Problem of Sport Riots: Severity of the Problem
Definitions 134
Incidence of Riots 135
Theory 139
The Rioters 147
The Peacemakers 155
Riots: Preventive and Mitigating Measures 159
Summary 170
Suggested Readings 170

Chapter 6. Panics

134

171

Introduction 171
Panics: Proactive and Mitigating Measures
Summary 199
Suggested Readings 199

195

Chapter 7. Methods, Measures, and Views of Sports Aggression 201
Introduction 201
The Experimental Option 202
Experimenter and Participant Bias
Measurement Options 207
Theories of Aggression 218
Summary 229
Suggested Readings 229
Supplemental Reading 230

References 233
Author Index 261
Subject Index 271

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Aggression in the Sports World

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1
Social Influences

DEFINITIONS
Before anything else, I want to establish a common starting point regarding
a definition of aggression. Full agreement among investigators has historically
proven elusive. Nevertheless, it is important to have a shared reference point in
our coverage of a wide variety of measures on the pages to follow, all of which
purport to represent aggressive behaviors.
When I played pro football, I never set out to hurt
anybody deliberately . . . unless it was, you know,
important, like a league game or something.
Dick Butkus, NFL

Human aggression means different things to different people. In the sports
world, the political arena, or the business community, assertive behavior is often
taken to be synonymous with aggression. From the pushy salesman to the CEO
attempting the takeover of a rival firm to the squeegee kid at the intersection, all
are described as aggressive. Similarly, the basketball player driving hard down
the court and through the guards for a lay-up is credited with aggressive play.
While a definitive definition of aggression may be close at hand, theorists in
the meantime are pretty much in agreement on its basic makeup (Anderson &
Bushman, 2002). Two examples follow:
Aggression is the delivery of an aversive stimulus from one person to another,
with intent to harm and with an expectation of causing such harm, when the other
person is motivated to escape or avoid the stimulus.
Geen, 2001

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Aggression in the Sports World
Behavior directed toward an other individual that is carried out with the proximate
(immediate) intent to cause harm. In addition, the perpetrator must believe that the
behavior will harm the target and that the target is motivated to avoid the behavior.
Bushman and Anderson, 2001a

Central to these definitions is the concept of intent. Was the bone-crushing tackle
and resulting fracture inflicted with a view to injuring the opposition or simply an
unfortunate by-product of overly enthusiastic play? For the most part, questions of
intent are left to game officials in deciding whether or not to award a penalty.
A second element in most definitions of aggression stipulates that an individual
not place himself in harm’s way. Stepping through the ropes into the boxing ring
or joining your teammates in the backfield at a football game may result in considerable pain, even injury. However, by recent definitions you are not a victim of
aggression. You freely chose to step into the ring or join your teammates in the
football game. Athletes are governed in their conduct by the official “Rules of
Play.” Aggression is deemed to have occurred when certain rules are broken, for
example, a late hit in football, a rabbit punch in boxing. These acts of “illegal”
or “unsanctioned” aggression are assessed and penalized by contest officials, for
example, referees. The penalties awarded to athletes may involve a loss of points, a
loss of yards or in the case of football (soccer), being shown a yellow card or even
the dreaded red card. Otherwise, the mayhem of the ring and gridiron falls short
of meeting conventional definitions of aggression (see Zillmann, 1979, p. 35).
HOSTILE VERSUS INSTRUMENTAL AGGRESSION
A further distinction between hostile and instrumental aggression has historically been made by most researchers (e.g., Buss, 1961). Hostile aggression refers
to impulsive, angry aggression intended to hurt someone who has in some way
provoked an individual. It is seen in the actions of a batter charging the mound to
do battle with the pitcher who has thrown well inside the plate for the third time.
In contrast, instrumental aggression is planned aggression that is motivated by
a desire to achieve some other goal, for example, achieve a competitive advantage or revenge. The unwritten job description of some hockey players includes
providing protection for weaker teammates and attacking opposing players. An
attack on one of their players seen as unjustified calls for retaliation either later
in the game or at their next meeting. The attack by the enforcer is premeditated
and impersonal, the goal being to square accounts.
While the hostile–instrumental distinction has served researchers well, it
may be time to ease it into retirement. In an article entitled “Is it Time to Pull
the Plug on the Hostile Versus Instrumental aggression Dichotomy?” Bushman
and Anderson (2001a) make the case for its dignified departure. The dichotomy
is plagued with two major problems, the first of which is the requirement that
hostile aggression be automatic while instrumental aggression is controlled.
Instances of hostile aggression can be cited that have elements of control just
as some instrumentally aggressive behaviors have automatic features. A second
difficulty lies with the motives for aggression. The same motive can underlie

Social Influences

5

both hostile and instrumental aggression just as different motives can underlie
the same aggressive behavior. To compound matters further, “Many aggressive
behaviors are mixtures of hostile and instrumental aggression.” Put succinctly,
“Many individual acts of aggression usually serve more than one motive and
have both an anger and a planning component” (Anderson & Bushman, 2002;
Bushman & Anderson, 2001a, p. 276).
INTRODUCTION
Throughout history, sports have developed within the context of nation states. The
geography, wealth, and the political ambitions of governments have seen particular
sports flourish while others struggle for recognition. In a sense, sports may come to
represent something of a people’s national character. In the opening section of the
chapter, we see that a nation’s choice of sports for Olympic participation reflects
its history of military engagements. Indeed, a nation’s success or failure in wars is
shown to be related to intranation violence (e.g., homicides). In addition, looking
at regional cultural differences in the short term we see major North–South differences in the United States. These differences in aggressive behavior are identified
and traced over time by means of major league baseball records.
A second section examines the important topic of sport heroes. The trends
of exemplar choices are tracked from the late 19th century to the present along
with evidence of the most popular categories. Villains and others unworthy of
sport hero status are identified along with commentary on the disservice they
provide to youngsters who strive to emulate their behaviors and values.
Next, obedience and the effects of third party influence on aggression are
examined. This is followed by the topic of escalation effects in which trivial
exchanges between people can occasionally lead to full-blown violence. Further
discussion considers the stress experienced by game officials in addition to the
nature and sources of abuse they face while officiating. A following section
provides coverage of studies that address the issue of whether male athletes are
over represented in sexual assault cases. Next, the topic of racism was examined
mainly in the context of European football. The concluding section highlights
the role of provocation in instigating aggression by means of verbal exchanges,
chants, and nonverbal communication.
THE CULTURAL FACTOR
International Influence
Sports have played a prominent role in the history of nations. From earliest
times, individual nations have shown a preference for some sports/games over
others. For some, combatant sports have taken precedence; for other nations,
nonviolent competition seems more attuned to their national character. Just as
nations differ in their preference for combatant sports so too do they differ historically in the amount of inter- and intranation conflict experienced. A question

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Aggression in the Sports World

to be asked is whether a nation’s sport preferences and history of conflict are to
some degree related. Does a high level of involvement in combatant sports go
hand in hand with higher levels of conflict? Alternatively, perhaps a population
is somehow drained of its aggressive urges by way of a cathartic venting through
participation in aggressive sports? This important question was investigated by
anthropologist Richard Sipes and reported in 1973 in a widely cited article.
A thorough search of archival sources yielded a list of 20 societies, half of which
had been involved in conflicts (e.g., war, revolution). The other half were relatively
peaceable internally and vis-à-vis other societies. Sports designated as combatant
were those “which reasonably could be expected to serve as an alternative to war”
(Sipes, 1973, p. 68). The results of this cross-cultural study are striking. In Sipes’
words, “where we find warlike behavior we typically find combative sports and
where war is relatively rare combative sports tend to be absent” (p. 71).
Sipes’ investigation was followed by a systematic replication by Keefer,
Goldstein, and Kasiarz (1983). These researchers distinguished between contact and noncontact sports on the Olympic program. Thus, a nation’s interest in
contact sports was assumed to be reflected in the choice of events in which they
elected to compete. Archival sources provided data on each nation’s involvement
in the Olympics in addition to their record of military engagements. Their analysis yielded results complementary to those of Sipes (1973). That is, nations with
a greater involvement in wars showed a strong preference for combative sports.
Furthermore, warlike nations also sent larger teams to the Olympic Games.
Keefer, Goldstein, and Kasiarz (1983) caution against assuming a causal relationship. The relationship between the time a nation spends at war and its preference for contact sports may have arisen from the climate in which the Games
have been staged, that is, amidst rivalry, hostility, nationalism, and militarism.
Sipes (1989) addressed a related question, that is, does the popularity of
combative sports in the United States rise or fall during wartime? Using the
records of sports such as boxing, football, and ice hockey, the popularity of
combative sports was found to have increased when the United States was at
war. At the same time, noncombative sports were found to decline in popularity
during wartime.
In the opening paragraph of this section, the possibility of warlike behavior possibly bringing about a lessened interest in combative sports was alluded
to. Clearly, notions of a cathartic experience for a population at war failed for
lack of empirical support. However, what about the citizenry of nations at war?
Notwithstanding any change in their sport preferences, do wartime experiences
thereafter lead to a less aggressive nation? Does it matter whether the nation
wins or is defeated? I stray slightly from the topic at hand, that is, international
conflict and the appeal of violent sports, to include coverage of more general
effects on the citizenry of a country, notably homicides (this, in the interest of
providing closure for readers).
Archer and Gartner (1984) undertook the development of a Comparative Crime
Data File (CCDF), an archive that includes records of crime and violence for 110
nations covering the period 1900 to 1970. The measure of a nation’s wartime
experience was represented as combat deaths per million population. Countries

Social Influences

7

involved in wartime violence experienced increases in postwar homicides.
Moreover, both defeated and victorious nations saw their national homicide
levels rise, a steeper rise in the case of winning sides. In sum, conflict within
and between nation states is historically associated with a greater attraction to
combative sports, choosing them as Olympic events, and experiencing an upturn
in homicide rates when hostilities end. Even on a global scale evidence of populations experiencing a cathartic venting through their wartime violence did not
materialize.
Regional Influences
Regional cultural influences can foster values, attitudes, and behaviors that
differ from the dominant culture or other regions within a nation. The origins
of these subcultures often lie well back in the past, frequently being introduced to the region by immigrant populations. Such would appear to be the
case with a persistent culture of honor that has historically flourished in the
southern states of the United States. A cluster of behavioral norms characteristic of a culture of honor dictate the response appropriate to even trivial
provocations. A man must establish and maintain a reputation for toughness.
Aptly described by Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle, and Schwarz (1996), “If one had
been crossed, trifled with, or affronted, retribution had to follow as a warning
to the community” (p. 946). To do otherwise is tantamount to admitting one
is unmanly and vulnerable.
A series of experiments demonstrate some of the effects on southerners of an
insult (Cohen et al., 1996; see also, Nisbett & Cohen, 1996). Each participant
(a.k.a. “subject”) in these experiments was bumped by a confederate who then
called him an “asshole” as he walked along a hallway. Northerners were largely
able to brush off the treatment. By contrast, southerners (1) saw their masculine
reputation being threatened, (2) were more upset, (3) experienced an increase in
testosterone, (4) were primed for aggression, and (5) were more likely to engage
in aggression. Seemingly, the affront was seen by southerners as damaging to
their reputation of toughness. From a southerner’s perspective, the insult calls
for retaliation to restore the harm done to his reputation.
While the culture of honor is clearly seen to be operative in a social science
laboratory, does its influence extend beyond the campus? Timmerman (2007)
finds evidence of interpersonal aggression in major league baseball that squares
nicely with a culture of honor interpretation. Throughout the 20th century official game records have used a batter hit by pitch (BHP) designation to indicate
when an errant pitch, be it accidental or intentional, strikes the man in the batters box. An indeterminate but large percentage of such throws are undoubtedly
made with the intent to hurt or intimidate the batter and thus meet the definition
of aggression (see discussions on this matter, Reifman, Larrick, & Fein, 1991;
Timmerman, 2002).
The time span for the study was 1963 to 1992 and involved 17,070 BHP
events. The major variables of interest to Timmerman were the background of
the pitcher, that is, a southerner or a northerner, and the race of the batter, that

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Aggression in the Sports World

is, White, Black, or Latino. The probability of the batter being hit was examined
in three high-risk situations:
1. The previous batter just hit a home run.
2. The batter himself hit a home run in his previous turn at bat.
3. The pitcher’s teammate was hit in previous half-inning.
Each of these situations then reflects badly on the pitcher and/or can be seen
as a provocation.
The results showed the importance of all three variables in predicting the
likelihood of his being hit, that is, origin of the pitcher, race of batter and the
“situation” as the batter steps up to the plate. A fairly consistent pattern was
found across the three situations. White pitchers born in the South strongly targeted White batters. Pitchers who were northerners instead showed a tendency
to target Blacks. The reasons for this pattern remained somewhat speculative
at this point. Among several plausible explanations, Timmerman (2007) suggests that White southern pitchers make an extra effort to suppress behaviors
that might appear racist. In addition, southern pitchers may fear retaliation,
particularly by Black batters. Retaliation typically involves a batter charging
the mound to attack the pitcher physically. Regarding northern pitchers, Whites
have been shown to aggress strongly against Blacks following an insult (Rogers
& Prentice-Dunn, 1981).

INFLUENCE OF EXEMPLARS
Virtually every major field of human endeavor has produced individuals who
are widely admired because of their outstanding achievement(s). Their admirers may wish only to bask in the glory of their exploits or others, to find inspiration as they aspire to similar success in their own lives. The sports world in
particular has shown itself able to create instant heroes and/or keep alive the
exploits of athletes from bygone days. A peculiarly American phenomenon,
Halls of Fame have grown at an astonishing rate since World War II in serving
as quasi-religious shrines to honor past achievements (Lewis & Redmond,
1974).
To be sure, there is a wealth of testimonial evidence and anecdotal accounts
of deceased and living heroes having inspired individuals to strive for success
in their sport. The capacity of exemplars in all categories to exert influence has
empirical support insofar as substantial numbers of their admirers appear to
make efforts to be the kind of person he/she represents (Russell, 1993, p. 145).
What is the process by which a sport hero influences others? Clearly, heroes
generally are far removed from their admirers and make little or no effort to teach
anything about their skills, values, or lifestyle. Whatever is being learned results
from observing the behavior of the exemplar. The observer additionally takes note
of the consequences for the exemplar of his or her behavior, that is, whether the

Social Influences

9

behavior is rewarded or punished. The underlying process involves observational
learning by which learning takes place vicariously (Bandura, 1986).
Observational learning is governed by four interdependent processes. The
would-be learner must first carefully attend to the model’s behavior. Second, the
particular behavior must be symbolically represented in words and/or images.
The memory representations provide an ongoing guide to behavior, allowing a
later transformation of symbolic representations into actions, that is, when motor
production processes are engaged. Lastly, behavioral responses are regulated by
incentive and motivational processes when the observer is prompted to put into
practice what they have learned.
The results of a Canadian hockey study provide a glimpse of observational
learning at work (Ennis & Zanna, 1990). The actions of fathers who specifically
applaud physically aggressive play at the rink are not lost on their teenage sons.
The attitudes of boys (aged 13–14) toward aggression in hockey are strongly
related to those of their fathers (r = .73) and mothers (r = .65). Indeed, their
parents share highly similar attitudes in this regard (r = .70). Somewhat surprisingly, coaches do not share the youngsters’ attitudes toward hockey aggression
(r = –.05). An analysis showed the single best predictor of illegal on-ice aggression to be the youngsters’ attitudes toward aggression, presumably nurtured by
their parents. Not a surprising result in the light of Bandura’s (1973) observation
“the combination of prestigious aggressive modeling with positive reinforcement of fighting and other manifestations of toughness creates the most effective
condition for cultivating aggressiveness” (p. 98).
Attempts to Inspire
With some regularity, athletes who attain star status make concerted efforts to
inspire others to strive for similar success in their own lives. Lockwood, Jordan,
and Kunda (2002) describe these gifted individuals as positive role models.
Is there reason to suggest that their inspirational messages are equally well
received by all members of their following? In addition to projecting their own
accomplishments and highlighting achievements to which others can strive, the
(positive) role model points the way to success.
Lockwood et al. identify an equally inspirational individual as a negative role
model, that is, one who has experienced a calamity. For example, the star athlete
now confined to a wheelchair after crashing while driving intoxicated appears
in a series of public service announcements. His purpose is to illustrate negative outcomes and to highlight prevention strategies. Accordingly, the positive role
model emphasizes promotion as their dominant regulatory focus. The negative role
model emphasizes strategies employed by individuals pursuing prevention goals.
The relative effectiveness in motivating a following lies with there being a
match between the type of role model (positive/negative) and the strategies highlighted in the message (promotion/prevention). Thus, those followers with promotion goals are most likely to be motivated by positive role models emphasizing
promotion strategies. In contrast, those followers with prevention goals are most

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Aggression in the Sports World

likely to be motivated by negative role models emphasizing prevention strategies
(Higgins, 2000).
Trends
It would be instructive before proceeding to consider the approximate size of a
sports hero’s category and how it came into being. Research on exemplars has
a long history dating back to the latter half of the 19th century (e.g., Darrah,
1898). Those early studies typically involved a single, poll-type question asked
of large samples of schoolchildren. The question was worded differently from
study to study and often restricted the children’s choice of favorite or most
admired to well-known public figures who were in some sense famous. More
recently, we know that the not so famous, for example, friends, relatives, also
serve as personal heroes in large numbers (Russell, 1993, pp. 131–133).
However, trends in fashion and heroes change. Before the 1930s, the categories of U.S. national historical characters, religious figures, and representatives
of the “serious arts” were prominent categories. However, they were gradually
supplanted by sports stars, and personalities from radio, the silver screen, and
more recently, television. The traditional categories essentially fell victim to the
emergence of a powerful and pervasive communications technology.
Averill (1950) replicated the 1898 study of Darrah a half century later. Virtually
nonexistent at the turn of the century, a sports category emerged gaining 23% of
the nominations by mid-century. Despite restrictive wording of the central question, that is, “Can you tell me the name of a famous person you want to be like?”
13% of a U.S. national sample of 2,258, 7–11-year-old children nominated an
athlete (Foundation for Child Development, 1977).
A more recent estimate of sport category usage is provided by Vescio,
Crosswhite, and Wilde (2004). Australian schoolgirls (N = 357) were asked
to identify “a famous person you admire or think of as your hero/role model.”
Their choices showed an overwhelming preference for female role models
(86.6%). Choices from a sports category showed only a slightly lower (73.3%)
preference for female athletes. Even more telling is the size of the sports
domain. Only 8.4% of the girls chose their exemplar from sports, a figure only
slightly above (5.7%) that of Canadian high schoolgirls (Russell & McClusky,
1985). In comparison, easily the largest source of role models was a combined
friends and relations category (62.1%), virtually identical to that reported in the
Canadian study.
A study conducted in Medicine Hat, Alberta, involving virtually all grade
10 students (N = 280) in the public school system provides a further estimate
(Russell, 1993; Russell & McClusky, 1985). The key question asked of the
students was “to indicate the person, past or present, from any walk of life,
whom you admire the most.” This open-ended, nondirective wording produced
four identifiable exemplar categories. As shown in Table 1.1, sports represent
the smallest overall category. Moreover, it is a category from which girls draw
their exemplars in very small numbers. Rather, they overwhelmingly chose their
most admired individual from the more socially oriented, friends and relations

Social Influences

11

Table 1.1 Relative Size of Youngsters’ Exemplar Categories

Boys
Girls

Sports (%)

Entertainment (%)

Friends (%)

16.1
5.7

23.8
20.7

21.0
36.4

Relations (%)

Miscellaneous (%)

19.6
26.4

19.5
10.8

Note. From The social psychology of sport by G. Russell, 1993, New York: Springer-Verlag. By permission of
Springer-Verlag.

categories. However, athletes represent a significant category from which boys
draw their most admired individual.
The question remaining to be answered is whether people are in fact influenced in some fashion by these individuals. Do the exploits of sports figures
provide anything more than common ground for water cooler or playground
talk? The Medicine Hat study approached the question from a motivational perspective. The youngsters were asked to rate the strength of their efforts to be the
kind of person their choice represented (Russell & McClusky, 1985).
The analysis shown in Figure 1.1 yielded a significant interaction. Allow me
to clarify the nature of this interaction. Equally strong efforts were made by
the boys and girls to emulate their choices. However, boys made greater efforts

6

Males
Females

Strength of efforts to emulate

5

4

3

2

1

Sports

Relatives

Entertainment

Friends

Figure 1.1 Strength of Efforts Made to Emulate Exemplars. (From The social psychology
of sport by G. Russell, 1993, New York: Springer-Verlag. By permission of Springer-Verlag.)

12

Aggression in the Sports World

to emulate their choices in the sports and relatives categories. In contrast, girls
made greater efforts to emulate their nominations from a friends’ category.
While the figure suggests that boys make considerable efforts to be like their
sports exemplars, we know little of the success of those efforts. Moreover, it
remains to be determined which specific attribute(s) of the exemplar they were
striving to emulate.

ROGUES, SCOUNDRELS, AND VILLAINS
It is a naive view that assumes people use the same basis or criteria in selecting
their most admired person. Equally unwarranted is an assumption that the attributes underlying their choices are generally worthy and serve the best interests
of society. From the foregoing section, it appears that youngsters make considerable efforts to emulate their choices and likely have some success in this regard.
However, for some, their “success” may be that of learning attitudes, behavior,
and values detrimental to their own social and moral development and that may
possibly prove harmful to others in society at a later date.
Smith (1983) interviewed young hockey players asking them to name their
favorite National Hockey League (NHL) player and to estimate how aggressive
he was in league play. The result was a positive relationship, that is, young skaters whose NHL hero was aggressive were also aggressive in their own junior
level play. Confirming evidence is provided by Bredemeier, Weiss, Shields, and
Cooper (1986) inasmuch as boys selecting heroes from high-contact sports were
also more aggressive in their own sports play. The findings also allude to a very
important point, that is, the boys were also more aggressive in other nonsports
settings.
Smith (1978) also reported that youngsters admitted learning dirty tactics
from their NHL heroes through media sources, primarily newspapers and television. Among players who learned illegal tactics, 60% had incorporated them
into their own play during the season. Other investigators generally confirm
these results. Mungo and Feltz (1985) asked teenage football players to identify
any illegal tactics they could have learned from college football players and
those in the professional ranks. In addition, they were asked if they used those
tactics in their own games. The youngsters had detailed knowledge of spearing, face masking, late hits, and stomping on a downed player as he is getting
back on his feet. Their analyses yielded a strong relationship between learning
aggressive tactics and the teenager’s use of those tactics in his own league play.
Similar findings were reported in a study of Pee Wee hockey players (11–13
years) using the method of participant observation (Nash & Learner, 1981). The
youngsters learned details of four basic aggressive roles they might assume as
they advance through the ranks, that is, “enforcers,” “stickers,” “temperamentals,” and “passives.” In addition, they learned, “the time, place, and the form
for aggression” (p. 242).
Finally, aggression learned from the sports hero may in the course of events
influence the admirer’s standards of morality. Bredemeier et al. (1986) report

Social Influences

13

that the greater the involvement of boys’ favorite athletes in contact sports, the
less mature is their development of moral reasoning. Indeed, youngsters who
actively participate in high-contact sports similarly attain lower levels of moral
maturity.
Villains or negative reference models may unknowingly have a positive influence on some members of the public. While the focus of research on exemplars
has thus far been on heroes and role models, Melnick and Jackson (1998) argue
for the inclusion of villains and their influence in future investigations.
New Zealand students (N = 510) with a mean age of 14.1 served as participants in an exploratory study. Students were asked to identify the one person
whom they most disliked from among “public figures, real or fictional, living or
deceased . . . from all walks of life” (p. 543). Athletes were third (11.4%) among
10 occupational categories of “most disliked villains” (p. 548), placing well back
of politicians (42.1%) and criminals (18.6%).
The nature of negative influence arising from students’ relationships with
their selected villain is seen in their responses to two critical questions. First,
50.9% saw their villain as a negative role model and in regard to their villain’s
ideas, beliefs, and values, rejected them outright. Fully 19.5% related to their
villain in other ways while a further 29.6% did not express an opinion.
A complementary question sought to assess the extent to which villains
directly influence the behaviors of those who have chosen them as a personal
villain. As regards their behavior vis-á-vis that of their villain, 47% make an
effort to behave opposite to that exhibited by their villain. While 18.2% of
students denied that their villain affected their behavior, the remaining 34.8%
declined to answer.
What we see in these results is that substantial numbers of youngsters can
readily identify someone who represents a personal villain from whom they derive
influence. For some, their influence may lead to a positive outcome when the villain
is used as an “avoidance” role model. The end result may be an outright rejection
of what the villain stands for or, individuals resolve to tailor their behavior along
lines quite the opposite to those of the villain. As Melnick and Jackson note, the
apparent success and extent of villains’ influence is somewhat surprising given
that they are far removed, public personages without the power to sanction.
When Enforcers Become Heroes
Almost an entire page of a major Vancouver, British Columbia, newspaper
recently featured an advertisement proclaiming the heroic virtues of several
ex-NHL enforcers. The advertisement was placed by a Western Hockey League
(WHL) club seemingly to boost ticket sales. A headline in bold red caps read
“Heavyweight Heroes of Hastings.” Why were enforcers being honored as local
heroes? The answer is provided in the advertisement. “They fought hard to be
here. They were enforcers. They laid down the law. The Vancouver Giants pay
tribute to some of the toughest players ever to skate on Vancouver ice.” Pictures
of the four enforcers are the centerpiece of the advertisement. The promotional aspect of the advertisement becomes evident in a concluding section that

14

Aggression in the Sports World

precedes an announcement of the time and place of the next game. “The first
5000 fans into the Coliseum get a free Heavyweight Heroes of Hastings poster.
You get a chance to meet these tough-as-nails legends for autographs, plus some
more great surprises!” (“Heavyweight Heroes,” 2005).
The WHL has over the years produced numerous skilled players of the highest caliber who have additionally served their communities with distinction.
Why then are “tough-as-nails” players often with mediocre skating skills placed
on a pedestal to be hailed as heroes before a hockey public? I think I know the
answer. Is it because interpersonal violence on the ice has become entrenched as
a core value in the sport, a value at least equal in importance to playing skills?
The Prevalence of Villains
How plentiful are rogues in the sports world? Almost daily, the media provides
accounts of athletes who have discredited themselves. Less “newsworthy” and
hence underrepresented in the headlines, are the actions of athletes that bring
credit to themselves and their sport. In recent years, the public has witnessed
illegal drug use, tax fraud, barbaric actions in the ring, savage on-ice assaults,
rapes, family violence, and homicide by elite and journeymen athletes alike. An
archival investigation by Benedict and Yeager (1998) provides a glimpse of the
numbers of athletes involved in criminal activities many of whom undoubtedly
serve as role models. Their analysis revealed that 21% of players on National
Football League (NFL) teams had been charged with serious criminal offenses
(some had multiple charges). The offenses ranged from resisting arrest and
armed robbery to kidnapping and homicide. Many enjoyed celebrity status and
were admired by legions of followers. Those warming the bench were at the
very least admired by their hometown fans. A few of these unsavory individuals
have found their way into the NFL Hall of Fame.
The famous and the infamous share a lofty perch; both have a mandate for
widespread influence. In a real sense, it is a position of trust. Most honor that
trust, a few betray it.
Even Villains Have Heroes
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Gordon “Duke” Keats played for the
Chicago Blackhawks during the early days of the franchise (1928–1929). The
burly Chicago center was known for his rough style of play. On one occasion, a
fan threw a drink on him from the seats. Duke leapt over the boards and chased
the fan up the stairs in his skates. He caught him at the top and proceeded to
thrash him soundly. Duke spent two nights in jail for the assault.
On another occasion, Duke left the arena late one night with a teammate. As
they were walking along the street, they noticed that they were being followed
by two ominous looking men. Duke stopped, turned, and walked back to confront the strangers. Duke asked why they were being followed. The men replied,
“Mr. Capone just wants to make sure you get home safely Duke” (Gordon Keats,
son, Gordon Keats, grandson, personal communications, April 19, 2006).

Social Influences

15

The True Hero
Having dealt at length with the unsavory elements, I sense an obligation on my
part to provide a definition of the qualities of a true hero. That daunting task
was undertaken by Robert Barney (1985), among others. The model proposed
by Barney to separate the great from the not-so-great sets out four ideal criteria
to be met by candidates aspiring to hero/heroine status. There is a recognition
that the model sets exceedingly high ideal standards that most candidates only
approach.
The first criterion to be met is physical excellence. Obviously slanted to favor
those with superior genes, the individual must exhibit exceptional athletic skill
along with health, vigor, and fitness. All too often contemporary sport heroes
have been elevated to their lofty status solely on the basis of this single criterion.
True hero status requires three additional criteria be met.
In all areas of his/her life, the hero must display moral excellence. The moral
values are those that have stood the test of time, for example, honesty, humility,
sportsmanship, generosity, self-control, and courage.
The third criterion encompasses social values. Here the candidates are
required to give unselfishly of themselves in improving the plight of others.
Their efforts may be fairly specific, for example, working on behalf of an environmental cause, helping the poor and/or homeless, and fighting injustice. In
any case, they must use their influence and lofty position to improve the lives of
others less fortunate.
The fourth area in which the candidate must excel to be accorded the status
of a true hero is in the intellectual realm. There are two types of intellectual
development, what Barney calls theoretical wisdom and practical wisdom.
Theoretical wisdom is generally gained by formal means such as completing a
high school diploma or college program. Practical wisdom is seen to be acquired
as the individual deals with issues that confront most people at various times in
their lives. More specifically, how has the would-be hero dealt with his or her
finances and other decisions affecting gambling and use of drugs and alcohol?
Barney (1985) has added an overriding requirement to the four-ideal criteria.
Those seeking to elevate their candidate should allow for the sheer passage of
time and resist the rush to enshrine an individual in his or her lifetime. The
perspective of a future generation is a necessary addition if a balanced and
objective evaluation of a candidate’s worthiness is to be achieved. Admittedly,
Barney has set the bar higher than what all but a few contemporary “heroes” can
approximate. Nevertheless, the model provides a starting point.

OBEDIENCE
Coaches in some contact sports routinely assign one or more players to act as
protectors of physically weaker teammates and/or remain on standby to attack
an opposing player when called upon. The order to attack may be given openly
or may be mutually understood to be operative when certain situations arise

16

Aggression in the Sports World

in the course of a contest. For example, a common tactic has been to have the
hockey enforcer attack the opposition’s “star” player. The inevitable fight usually results in both players being sent to the penalty box. The enforcer’s team
gains a clear advantage in having their opponent’s star benched for a time. They
lose little with the loss of their less skillful enforcer. However, what if for some
reason the enforcer is reluctant to attack the star player. Could he refuse to obey
the coach’s order, explicit or otherwise? The pressures are such that it would be
an exceedingly rare event when an athlete disobeys such an order. Taking such
a step can and has ended careers.
Let me ask this question. If you were keeping the accounts for your boss
and he told you to record the cost of his weekend getaway to a nearby ski
resort as a business expense when it was nothing of the sort, would you? From
what we know of the obedience process, the likelihood is that most people
would fudge the books even though they recognize that it is dishonest, possibly
a criminal act.
A series of highly controversial lab investigations makes clear the fact that
people generally are far more obedient than most of us would suspect or care to
believe (Milgram, 1974). The basic design of these experiments involved participants who were assigned the role of “teacher” in what was described as a study
of the influence of punishment on learning. The participant’s task was to administer electric shock to another participant each time he made an error. The “other
participant” was a confederate of the experimenter, an actor who feigned his
responses to the shock. Obviously, shock was never delivered to the confederate
during the course of the experiment. Shock was ostensibly delivered by means
of 30 switches representing increasing levels of voltage ranging from “Slight
Shock” to “Danger: Severe Shock” to “XXX.” It was evident to the participant
that as the trials progressed and with enough errors a point would be reached
where he would be administering exceedingly painful and dangerous jolts.
Following his script, the confederate made a large number of mistakes and
with each error was given a slightly stronger shock. The participant faced an
agonizing predicament. Should he continue to punish the distressed learner with
stronger and stronger shocks or should he refuse to proceed and leave the experiment? At the same time, any hesitation on his part was met with the experimenter
insisting he continue. Hesitation on later trials was met with direct orders to
continue, delivered in an authoritative manner.
An astounding 65% of all participants continued to shock the learner at all
levels of intensity culminating in 450 V. This, despite having received assurances
they were free to leave the experiment at any time and would be paid for their
participation. The further point to note is that the experimenter had little of the
trappings of authority and lacked power to punish in anyway the participant for
breaking off the experiment. Even so, across a series of systematic replications,
the rates of obedience remained relatively constant across different populations
and in nonuniversity, nonscientific settings.
Any doubts regarding the external validity of Milgram’s research findings
were largely put to rest as the original experiments were subsequently conducted off the Yale campus and in different populations. The rates of obedience

Social Influences

17

remained relatively constant across other nations, for example, Australia and
West Germany, and different ages, for example, children and adults. Even relocating the lab in a dilapidated office building in a nearby community saw obedience rates remain virtually unchanged.
Many in the scientific community and beyond were surprised by the Milgram
findings. At the same time, the program drew its critics, some on the basis of
methodology and others on ethical grounds. The most incisive response of the
day to Milgram’s work was that of Diane Baumrind’s (1964) article appearing in
the American Psychologist. Well worth a reread from time to time.
The writer used to end his lectures on the Milgram investigations by asking
for a show of hands of how many could see themselves disobeying the experimenter. Virtually every hand shot up. Notwithstanding the possibility that my
social psychology course attracted only the virtuous, it seems a majority of us
are deceiving ourselves. Would you really refuse to doctor the accounts for your
ski-loving boss? Before you answer, let me remind you that your boss has considerably more authority than Milgram’s powerless experimenter. Your boss can
sack you!
The Milgram (1974) investigations may be enjoying a second life since being
shut down in the 1970s. Those researchers developing virtual reality systems have
chosen the Milgram paradigm in investigating “human responses to interaction
with a virtual character in the type of extreme social situation” originally created
for Milgram participants. The computer-generated system “delivers a life-sized
virtual reality within which a person can experience events and interact with
representations of objects and virtual humans” (Slater et al., 2006, p. 2).
The researchers were faithful in following the procedures of the original
experiments. In this instance, the participants were required to administer
a word association test to a female virtual human. When she responded with
an incorrect answer, the participant was instructed to deliver an electric shock
of increasing voltage with each error. Throughout, participants are described
as knowing with certainty that neither the virtual woman nor the shocks were
real. Yet, they responded to the situation as though it was real. Moreover, their
responses in interacting with a visible learner were clearly demonstrated at all
levels, that is, subjective, behaviorally and physiologically. Despite the knowledge that the virtual events and shock were unreal they behaved as though they
were real.
A comparison was made between two experimental conditions, that is, the
female learner was in full view of the participant or was hidden from view. In
the latter case, she was seen briefly at the outset but thereafter her responses
were communicated through text without mention of her distress and protests.
All participants in the “hidden” learner condition administered the maximum, 20
“XXX” shocks. With the female visible and protesting, 17 of the 23 participants
administered the maximum whereas 3 gave 19, with one person delivering 18, 16,
and 9 shocks each, before withdrawing from the experiment. The overall pattern
of participant responses to orders from an authority figure is described as “similar” to those exhibited in Milgram’s original studies. It would be a mistake to lose
sight of the extraordinary influence of obedience on interpersonal aggression.

18

Aggression in the Sports World

THIRD PARTY INFLUENCE
Direct Influence
We see in many situations that onlookers actively make an effort to encourage
more intense aggression on the part of those embroiled in a physical altercation. For example, when a fight breaks out in the stands at a combatant sport, a
small percentage of the males in attendance (agitators, 7%) indicate they would
applaud and otherwise encourage the fighters. In the same situation, a larger
number of sport fans (peacemakers, 20%) would be seen making efforts to
mediate or restore order (Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001, p. 145). The
question is whether the effects of active bystanders to promote or discourage
aggression generally meet with success.
First, consider a further experiment in Milgram’s (1964) program of obedience research. In this study, two additional (confederate) teachers assisted the
true participant in determining the shock level to be delivered to the learner for
incorrect answers. In addition, participants were not required to increase the
level of shock directed to the learner following errors. Instead, the shock value
set was the lowest recommended by the three teachers. However, throughout
the trials of the experiment, the two confederates consistently urged the participant to set higher levels of shock for incorrect responses. This constant urging
strongly influenced the participants. The levels of shock delivered to the learner
dramatically increased across trials. At the same time, participants assigned to
a control condition that lacked the presence of the two confederate teachers set
mild levels of shock that remained fairly constant across all trials.
The above results were replicated by Borden and Taylor (1973). Participants
competing in the Taylor reaction-time task (Taylor, 1967) sharply increased their
shock settings to their opponent in response to the urging of a small audience
(for more on this measure see Chapter 7, pp. 208–209). This was in contrast to
subjects in a control condition lacking an audience. To answer an earlier question, this and other research strongly suggests that the efforts of onlookers to
egg on or incite others to violence can be successful. It is interesting to note that
the increase in shock level continued well after the observers were withdrawn.
The audience was also successful in urging participants to reduce shock levels.
However, in a disappointing turn of events, shock settings immediately rose to
their former levels with the departure of the audience.
The question of whether spectators attending a combatant sport can be influenced by agitators to join in a fight can be answered in the affirmative. Some
in a crowd will in all likelihood join in the fray egged on by those wanting to
foment trouble. Others in the sports crowd actively urging restraint and a cessation of brawling in the stands will similarly enjoy a measure of success, at least
for as long as they remain on site.
Indirect Influence
The answers above lead us to a further question. While bystanders can verbally
discourage or incite individuals to aggress, can passive bystanders wearing their

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19

heart on their sleeves do likewise? Borden (1975) again sought answers to these
questions in the context of the competitive reaction-time task.
Participants in the first part of the experiment competed against a fictitious
opponent in the presence of a person with strong pacifist ideals, that is, the
observer wore a coat displaying a large peace symbol and was introduced as a
member of a peace group. For other participants, the silent observer wore a coat
displaying a karate club crest. This person was introduced as an instructor in
the martial arts. The different attire and instructions were intended to signal to
the subjects that their observer deplored aggression or approved of aggression.
The pacifist stayed to observe the participant for a number of trials as did the
karate instructor. They then left the participant alone in the lab as he continued
to compete in further trials.
Borden’s analysis yielded results in keeping with his predictions. Aggressors
will be influenced by passive observers in ways consistent with the values attributed to them, that is, pacifist observers will facilitate an inhibition of aggression
whereas onlookers seen to favor aggression will facilitate aggressive behavior.
This is essentially what occurred. Subjects were more aggressive in the presence
of the karate instructor than after his departure. A corresponding increase in
aggression followed the departure of the pacifist. Seemingly, the mere prospect
of approval or disapproval from passive spectators is sufficient to modify or
enhance our aggression.
We see in the above sections evidence that strangers in our immediate circumstances can overtly incite us to aggress or to reduce our aggression. Also
effective in this regard are passive, uninvolved bystanders who have only to
display, or otherwise make known, their approval or disapproval to elicit behavior from others that is consistent with their attitude. Whether by design or happenstance, organizers of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany staged the basic
elements of a passive, third party attempt to reduce aggression in the opening
ceremony at all matches. Against the background of extraordinary security
measures and heightened international tensions, spectators were treated to the
sight of little children accompanying the players onto the pitch hand in hand.
Wearing their football uniforms and dwarfed by their footballer partners, the
children presented an absolutely charming and delightful picture to the international audience. I would like to think that a number of disturbances did not
occur as a result.

ESCALATION EFFECTS
In the wake of a bench clearing brawl or a major disturbance among the spectators, one of the first questions asked by sport or police officials is “how did it get
started?” From film footage or testimony by bystanders and/or those involved, it
often becomes apparent that the brawl had exceedingly trivial beginnings. That
is, things just got out of hand. It started with an exchange of unpleasantries, a
stare, or perhaps a gesture. Next a shove. Then someone throws a punch and, as
they say, “all hell broke loose after that.”

20

Aggression in the Sports World

Many violent outbursts of this sort have their origins in exceedingly trivial
provocations, for example, a petty annoyance, a rude comment. The initial provocation draws a somewhat stronger response that in turn draws a further stronger
retaliation. The result is an upward spiral of increasingly aggressive exchanges,
a pattern described as escalation effects (Goldstein, Davis, & Herman, 1975).
Time and time again we see full-blown battles that in retrospect started from
just small, inconsequential beginnings. The level of eventual hostilities is out
of all proportion to the size of the original provocation. It is not to be expected
that the person who spoke rudely to us will “learn his lesson” and walk away
from the somewhat more insulting remark we made in response. More likely, he
will respond in kind probably with greater force, perhaps, even a shove. It is this
sequence of minor, provocative exchanges that frequently precedes a scuffle or
a full-scale brawl.
Once the series of increasingly aggressive exchanges are underway, the
process seems to take on a life of its own. The antagonists appear unable to
break away from the upward spiraling aggression. Various proposals to halt the
progression of exchanges have been tested with disappointing results (Goldstein,
Davis, Kernis, & Cohn, 1981). Interrupting those involved, videotaping the participants, even drawing their attention to their aggression—none was successful in stopping the hostilities. Providing the combatants with the expectation
of a later face-to-face meeting with the other party was equally unsuccessful.
However, the installation of a “hot line” with which participants can summon
the experimenter was successful in reducing the overall intensity of aggression.
However, escalation effects continued as before. In a curious twist, although the
hot line was available to the participants, none actually used it! The mere presence of the hot line was sufficient to reduce the levels of hostile exchanges.
TARGETS OF AGGRESSION
Game Officials
Sweden (November, 2001): A soccer goalie was sentenced to 2 years in prison
for attacking a referee during a September 22 game. Claudio Rubino Jerez was
also ordered to pay $8,000 in damages to Ariel Scaparro, a court official said.
Scaparro was hospitalized with a broken cheekbone and right foot. Scaparro
was attacked twice during a fifth-division game in a Stockholm suburb after he
had ejected Rubino Jerez because of a severe foul. All 12 fifth-division games
in Stockholm were canceled a week after the attack. Rubino Jerez’ team, Tensta
United, was expelled from the league.
Australia (June, 2001): A 19-year-old female rugby referee is chased into the
dressing room by angry parents following a junior (13 and under) rugby match
in Brisbane. Two police squad cars were called to break up the angry crowd.
From the writer’s perspective, one of the least attractive roles in sports is
that of a game official, for example, umpire and referee. Seldom thanked and
generally inadequately compensated, they are frequently targeted for abuse
from several quarters, that is, fans, players, coaching staffs, and media. Beyond

Social Influences

21

having to cope with disgruntled elements, other sources of stress can further add
to their burden.
The expectations that people hold for others are a pervasive influence in the
sports world. As regards aggression, it is apparent that sports officials, for example, referees, umpires, make highly subjective decisions regarding the actions of
competitors, specifically, whether aggression has actually occurred and if so, the
seriousness of the act. Expectancy effects can be seen to operate when football
(soccer) referees make judgments regarding the seriousness of aggressive play
during matches (Jones, Paull, & Erskine, 2002). Participants were 38 association football referees who were randomly assigned to either an experimental or
control group. Both groups reviewed the same 50 film clips of “incidents” from
matches that invariably involved a team wearing blue uniforms. In addition to
a common set of instructions, the experimental group was told that the blue
team had a reputation for foul and aggressive play. Having established expectations in the minds of referees in the experimental group, all referees were
then asked to indicate the action they would take if they were refereeing the
matches. Although the number of decisions taken was equal, the experimental
group of referees showed more yellow and red cards to players on the blue team.
Thus, even highly trained and experienced game officials demonstrate an expectancy bias in their judgments of aggression (for more on expectancy effects see
Chapter 7, pp. 204–205).
Job stress is a legitimate matter for concern in sports as in many other fields.
Excessive stress can have harmful effects on one’s mental well-being in addition
to job performance. Moreover, it is sometimes the reason why officials leave
a sport for pursuits that are more peaceful. Before focussing on the specific
sources of aggression and threat facing game officials, it is instructive to consider first the broader range of events that cause stress.
There are a number of dimensions or factors underlying the stress experienced by baseball umpires. Using an analytic technique called factor analysis,
Rainey (1995) identified four major sources of stress. In the order of importance,
the first dimension was labeled Fear of failure. This major factor reflects an
intense concern with the adequacy of their decision making at critical points in
a game or during a contest that is dominated by aggression. A second dimension
was identified as Fear of physical harm. Here umpires experience fears of being
assaulted or threatened by players, coaching staff, or spectators. Time pressures
represent yet another source of stress for umpires. Often their umpiring assignments conflict with their full time occupation, as do their familial responsibilities. The fourth major dimension has been identified as Interpersonal conflict.
In this instance, stress results from those occasions when they are required to
deal with volatile, hostile coaches and players who often are unfamiliar with the
rules. It should be noted that roughly the same dimensions underlie the sources
of stress experienced by referees in football, soccer, and volleyball.
The further question to be asked is how severe is the stress experienced
by onfield officials? Clearly, it does not begin to approach levels experienced
by test pilots, air traffic controllers, and brain surgeons. Rather it has been
described as “mild to moderate” (Rainey, 1994b, p. 257). Individuals officiating

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Aggression in the Sports World

at sports contests show remarkable restraint and control of their emotions.
Their task is not an easy one, that is, to remain outwardly calm while players,
coaches, or fans hurl personal insults and abuse at them for their decisions.
The fear of threats of harm and actual physical aggression toward football
officials represent a significant category of stress (e.g., Folkesson, Nyberg,
Archer, & Norlander, 2002). In this regard, it would be naive to assume North
American sports officials are in any less danger than their European counterparts. An astute observer of American football comments: “After a bad loss
suffered by the San Diego Chargers, for example, it was necessary for a squadron of police to protect the coach from a vicious, drunken mob of 300 fans.
Death threats to both players and officials have become almost commonplace”
(Beisser, 1979, p. 79).
Despite their extensive training and experience, exposure to the exceptionally
high levels of stress associated with a physical challenge to an official’s authority
and personal safety can occasionally produce a retaliatory response. Such was
the case for an Italian linesman. For many years, officials in Italian league play
have been subjected to vociferous complaints and even threats from footballers.
It was during a regional league match between Amerina and Cita di Casctello
that an Amerina player confronted linesman Paolo Buratti complaining about his
ruling. “Buratti head-butted the complaining player and put him in hospital.” The
Amerina club appealed to the league seeking a replay of the match. The appeal
was granted. They lost 3-0 (“Linesman head-butted,” 1993).
A Swedish study provides insights into the frequency and types of aggression
endured by soccer referees (Folkesson et al., 2002). A total of 107 questionnaires
(73% return rate) provided the data for analyses of the sources of aggression
directed at referees. The measures included verbal and physical aggression, and
in addition, threats. Threats were defined simply as “verbal threat of impending
physical aggression” (p. 319).
In the case of verbal aggression, referees report having been the target of
such abuse on at least one occasion, the abuse having come from soccer players
(63.6%), trainers/coaches (62.6%), and soccer fans (61.7%). Of the total sample,
68 referees (63.6%) had been subjected to verbal abuse. Regarding physical
aggression, referees report having been the target of physical attacks on at
least one occasion, the sources having been soccer players (12.1%), trainers/
coaches (2.8%), and fans (0.9%). Of the respondents, 15.0% had been the target
of physical aggression. Finally, threats of physical aggression feature prominently. Referees report being threatened by soccer players (24.3%), trainers/
coaches (18.7%), and fans (19.6%). Fully 35.1% of these officials report being
threatened. A further finding deserves particular note. The investigators report
that the majority of abuses, that is, verbal, physical, threats, was directed at the
younger referees.
Certified basketball referees responded to a statewide survey in Ohio to
assess levels of physically assaultive behaviors they had experienced during
their careers (Rainey & Duggan, 1998). Of the sample of 721 referees, 13.6%
reported having been assaulted on at least one occasion while officiating.
This figure appears comparable to the 15% for Swedish soccer referees (see

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Folkesson et al., 2002) and 11% for baseball and softball umpires (Rainey,
1994a); overall, a percentage figure in the low to mid-teens.
Slightly less than half of the assaults were described as minor, for example,
pushing and spitting. A slight majority was more serious, for example, pushing,
choking, and throwing missiles at the referee. Those responsible for the attacks
were most frequently players (41%). The researchers were also able to identify
parents, a category that represented 20% of the assaults followed by coaches
(19%) and fans (15%).
On occasion, a game official incurs the wrath of all three sources of abuse,
that is, players, coaches/trainers, sport fans. The Lethbridge Hurricanes of the
WHL had just been eliminated by the Regina Pats in a clean sweep of their
playoff series. With little more than a minute remaining, referee Brent Reiber
called an elbowing penalty on the Lethbridge center. At this point coach Bryan
Maxwell threw a water bottle hitting Reiber drawing a bench penalty. On the
next (power) play, Regina scored the winning goal. The hometown fans were
enraged, littering the ice and screaming at Reiber. A drink was thrown in his face
as he left the ice. Assistant coach Williams made verbal threats as did Hurricane
center Byron Ritchie who is quoted as saying, “I’m going to (bleeping) kill you,
Reiber!” The drama continued under the bleachers as game officials were surrounded by the Lethbridge coaching staff and players. The WHL vice-president
is quoted as saying that coach Maxwell made contact with the referee and one
of the linesmen. In denying the accusation, Maxwell countered, “I expressed a
couple of feelings. That was about it” (Vanstone, 1996). Suspensions and court
appearances followed (Yoos, 1996).
The governing bodies of virtually all sports organizations properly regard even
minor assaults on a game official as an extremely serious offense. Players laying
hands on umpires, referees, linesmen, and so forth, seemingly undermine the
authority and integrity of the sport itself. A push, or a punch, can end a career.
Punishment is typically swift and severe. Consider the long running, landmark case
of a Dutch footballer. Dutch authorities have at long last lifted a life ban on defender
Hendrik Wentink, who played so long ago that his club DWS Amsterdam is now
defunct. Wentink was barred from football for life for striking a referee. Now,
51 years later, he has been granted a pardon. Wentink is said to be overjoyed by his
reprieve. His only regret is that he cannot resume his playing career—he is 72.
“Old-timer Wins,” 1993

Women as Targets
There is a general belief that females are much less likely than males to be
singled out for physical aggression. Furthermore, when such attacks occur, they
will be less severe than those launched against men. Clear support for these
general beliefs was found in a study by Taylor and Epstein (1967) using the competitive reaction-time procedure. Both male and female participants competed
against either a male or female partner. Both sexes set higher levels of shock
for their male opponent than they did when their opponent was female. While
support was forthcoming for the beliefs that women are physically assaulted
less frequently and with less severity than men (Frodi, Macauley, & Thome,

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Aggression in the Sports World

1977), victim characteristics and situational factors can enter the picture to
qualify those beliefs.
Consider as an example, the physical attractiveness of the woman targeted
for male aggression. As a social cue, the role of attractiveness in influencing
men’s aggression toward females can be seen in a study by Ohbuchi and Izutsu
(1984). Men who were attacked by an unattractive woman retaliated with greater
intensity, that is, electric shock, than when the attack was by a physically attractive woman.
We also see that the reluctance of men to aggress against women diminishes
when the woman poses a threat (Richardson, Leonard, Taylor, & Hammock,
1985). Male participants were subjected to threats from a female confederate in
the competitive reaction-time paradigm. Prior to competing against the female
confederate, the handgrip strength of each man was measured and recorded by
the female. For half of the men, their grip strength was announced and reported
as “average” in comparison with the established norms. For the remaining half
she indicated a weak performance well below the norm. Within these two
conditions, the confederate either offered no comment or, belittled his effort
with the suggestion, for example, “Perhaps, you should let me do that”? The
combination of threat arising from an inferior performance in the presence of
a woman and her disparaging remarks later resulted in an impressive, high
level of aggression against her in the reaction-time competition. It seems that
the gap traditionally recognized between the frequency and severity of aggression directed toward males versus females has narrowed considerably. Among
other factors, target attributes, threat, and situational factors can act to weaken
male inhibitions against inflicting harm on females.
A situation in which the social atmosphere features music containing sexually aggressive lyrics can similarly increase aggression toward the opposite sex.
After listening to misogynous lyrics, men administered hotter chili sauce to a
female and expressed more feelings of vengeance than other men listening to
neutral lyrics. When the tables were turned and women heard men-hating lyrics
they responded in a similar fashion (Fischer & Greitemeyer, 2006).
Women as Targets of Sexual Assault
A major subcategory of violence against women is that of sexual assault.
Almost daily, we learn of horrific attacks occurring locally and/or elsewhere
in the nation. Should the accused be a celebrity, the case is headline material
for the months, even years, to follow. Speculation has been given free rein in
the popular press and some academic quarters suggesting that all-male groups
and organizations foster and/or attract men with attitudes supportive of rape.
Military units, fraternities, and sports teams have taken the brunt of the accusations. The legal difficulties of sport celebrities such as boxer Mike Tyson and
basketball star Kobe Bryant have been subjected to intense and unrelenting
media coverage leading many to conclude that something is terribly wrong in
the sports world. Of course, the question extends beyond the handful of sports
celebrities and hangs over the millions of relatively unknown and unheralded

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males participating in organized sports. Is there strong evidence to support the
view that members of all-male sports teams are disproportionately represented
in sexual assaults against women? It would appear that the findings on the question are “mixed.”
Although opinions and speculation abound in the popular press, relatively
few formal studies have directly assessed the relationship between sexual assault
and athletic participation. For the most part, studies have been conducted on
university or college campuses. Self-reports of male behaviors meeting the legal
definition of rape are tallied for the general student population and compared to
those of student athletes. In other investigations, similar use is made of official
university records of reported rapes. Moreover, the same investigative strategy is
sometimes extended to other all-male campus organizations, that is, fraternities,
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), and all-male housing.
A good starting point is a paper entitled Athletes and rape: Is there a connection? (Caron, Halteman, & Stacy, 1997). Athletes and nonathletes completed
a battery of measures tapping a variety of attitudinal and personality traits. One
of the measures was the Sexual Experiences Survey (aggression), a survey providing data directly pertaining to the incidence of rape (Koss & Gaines, 1993).
Overall, 7% of the respondents indicated that they had engaged in sexual coercion while a further 6% had attempted or completed a rape. However, to the
question raised in the title of the investigation, that is, Is there a connection? the
answer is no. The scores of athletes and nonathletes on the Sexual Experiences
Survey (aggression) did not differ. However, this result contrasts with an earlier
finding by Koss and Gaines (1993). Their investigation revealed a low but statistically significant relationship between participation in athletics and sexual
aggression.
A further study of all-male campus groups was undertaken by Boeringer
(1996). Comparisons were made in the incidence of rape (includes threats)
between intercollegiate athletes versus nonathletes, fraternity versus nonfraternity members, and, all-male versus mixed housing residents. None of these
comparisons yielded differences. The suggestion that all-male environments foster rape supportive attitudes that cause their members to be disproportionately
represented in rape statistics has only thin support.
While Boeringer’s (1996) test of a prediction that men in all-male housing
would be more likely to actually engage in sexual aggression failed for support
(above), a supplemental analysis revealed a surprising turn of events. A companion measure of the “likelihood” of committing rape showed that men in mixedsex housing reported being more likely to rape than those living in all-male
accommodations.
A further investigation involving 139 university males yielded results generally
unsupportive of a relationship between sports participation and assaultive behavior
(Brown, Sumner, & Nocera, 2002). Somewhat surprising, in one analysis “lower
amounts of participation in contact sports was predictive of higher levels of sexual
aggression against women” (p. 948). However, in a supplemental analysis Brown
et al. found that fraternity membership was related to participation in noncontact
sports, as was a measure of sexual assaultiveness against women.

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Aggression in the Sports World

Given the sum of evidence, one is compelled to conclude that sportsmen do
not surpass other all-male groups as sexual abusers of women. Furthermore, it
can be reasonably inferred from these studies that educational programs designed
to reduce the incidence of rape should perhaps be directed at the general population of males. The tactic of specifically targeting athletes is likely misguided.

RACISM
Preliminary to discussing the extent of racism in sports and the research examining its role in conflicts, it seems timely to introduce several definitions of
the major concepts associated with the topic. Emotions tend to run high when
people discuss the issues surrounding racism and ethnic conflicts. Such emotions are also further heightened when the basic terms are found to mean different things to different individuals. This is not to say that all theorists would fully
agree with the definitions I have chosen below but they will serve the purpose of
providing a common starting point.
Definitions
We start with prejudice, defined simply as “An unjustifiable negative attitude
toward a group and its individual members” (Myers, 1996, p. 390). Note that
the attitude is held against all members of the group without regard for exceptions. The definition of racism is two-pronged. Myers (1996) proposes that racism involves “an individual’s prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior
toward people of a given race.” Second, racism involves “institutional practices
(even if not motivated by prejudice) that subordinate people of a given race”
(p. 392). Finally, another term that should be clarified is stereotype. Briefly
stated, stereotypes are “beliefs to the effect that all members of specific social
groups share certain traits or characteristics” (Baron & Byrne, 1997, p. 208).
A recent study (Wolfers & Price, 2007) reveals the pervasive presence of
racism in contemporary sports. It further provides an example of how implicit
stereotypes can influence the split-second judgments required of referees working under the stress of actual game conditions. Data for an investigation of
racial discrimination was obtained from the records of the National Basketball
Association (NBA) covering all regular season games played between 1991 and
2004. Evidence of racial bias was sought by comparing the number of fouls
awarded to Black and White players as a function of the racial composition of
the three-person crews of referees.
An own-race bias was clearly in evidence. The investigators reported that
players are awarded as much as “4 percent more fouls and score up to 2.5 percent
fewer points when the three officials are of the opposite race than when they are
of their own race” (p. 1). It was further noted that relative to a White basketball
player, a Black player is awarded increasingly more fouls as the White members
of the officiating team is increased from zero to three. Wolfers and Price (2007)
favor an explanation whereby “referees interpret similar actions differently,

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27

depending on whether the foul was committed by a black or white player, and on
whether the referee him or herself is black or white” (p. 1). They essentially rule
out malicious intent on the part of referees. Rather, implicit stereotypes possibly
come into play especially where split-second decisions are made in high stress
circumstances. As a footnote, preliminary data from the 2004/2005 season to
the present reveals that a pattern of own-race bias continues in the NBA.
I am beginning this section with several accounts of collective violence that
underscore the centrality of racial and ethnic attitudes frequently found at the
heart of crowd disorders. In examining the role of ethnicity or race as an underlying cause of interpersonal aggression, it is easy to lose sight of the scale of
violence that can be attributed to its effects in the broader arena. To illustrate
briefly, I have chosen a single season of football (soccer) played in Europe, a
season marred by a rise in violence between groups along ethnic/racial lines.
Following several examples, the focus will be narrowed to controlled laboratory and field studies to examine more closely the effects of racial variables
on experimental participants. The first example involved the writer during a
Sabbatical leave at Utrecht University in The Netherlands.
It was while my wife and I were finishing a late breakfast in our Utrecht apartment that a major news event began to unfold. We heard singing and shouting
as the train to Amsterdam rumbled past our apartment window that overlooked
the tracks. The train was packed to overflowing with boisterous supporters of
FC (Football Club) Utrecht. The party aboard the “football special” was already
well underway. We were later to learn that the club’s supporters were on their
way to watch a match against FC Ajax. On the afternoon of the same day, we
again heard the train rumbling by our window jam-packed with rowdy returning
Utrecht fans. We had not anticipated its return until late that evening.
The story actually began to unfold during the previous night when hooligans
broke into Ajax stadium defacing the walls with graffiti and painting swastikas on the playing field (the Ajax football organization has strong Jewish ties).
In covering the event, Columnist Marcel van der Kraan placed the event in a
European context stating “While other European football countries are facing
mainly anti-black problems, the Netherlands has suffered a sudden and dramatic
outburst against Jews” (van der Kraan, 1993). When over 900 Utrecht fans arrived
in Amsterdam singing anti-Jewish songs and distributing hate literature they were
promptly turned around and put back on trains. The order came from the mayor
of Amsterdam. They “lost the money spent on tickets and never saw a minute of
the game” (p. 30).
A number of headlines on news stories filed during the same season illustrate something of the extent and seriousness of ethnic and racially motivated
clashes. Columnist Chris Endean looked at the current state of Italian football
under the headline “Racism takes a turn for the worst”. In a summary statement,
trouble-making supporters given the name “Ultras” are equated with hooliganism,
xenophobia, and racism (Endean, 1993). “Fanning flames of hatred” was the
heading for another capsule summary of Italian football. This writer alerts his
readers to “an alarming increase in racism and hooliganism” (House, 1992).
The star of Vasas Budapest, Claude Mbemba, was Hungary’s only Black player

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Aggression in the Sports World

at the time of another article. He was the target of racial taunts in addition to
being viciously attacked by thugs (Cresswell, 1992). Moreover, slurs consistently
accompanied appearances of Anthony Yeboah, a Black African star playing forward in the German first division (Rotmil, 1992).
There is some measure of comfort to be had from the vigorous actions of
European government and league officials during the season. To be sure, the
mayor of Amsterdam deserves full credit for his actions as does the German
Football Association (GFA) and other bodies for initiatives intended to curb racism. One such initiative is described under a headline reading, “Germany fights
back at racists”. Players on all first division clubs wore a message prominently
displayed on their playing jerseys. It read, “mein freund ist auslander” (my friend
is a foreigner). The intent of the GFA was to send a clear message expressing
total opposition to racism (Stone, 1992). Elsewhere, the French government passed
legislation whereby anyone wearing Nazi symbols would be subject to a 1-year jail
term. Hooligans also face fines up to $30,000 for inciting violence while drunken
supporters could be fined up to $5,000 (“Nazi fans will be jailed,” 1993).
Recent History
All sports have been plagued with prejudice and interracial aggression throughout their long history. Racial riots rocked many American cities in the aftermath
of the heavyweight boxing title fight of 1910. Jeffries, the reigning White champion was soundly defeated by Jack Johnson, his controversial Black challenger
(“Bar fight pictures,” 1910). Nineteen seventy witnessed violent protests involving the Stop The Seventy Tour Committee that opposed a British tour by an
all-White South African cricket team. The team’s continued presence in Britain
brought the police out in force. Barbwire surrounded cricket fields while the
anti-Apartheid forces engaged in heated demonstrations and on occasions, fixed
battles (Hain, 1971).
Racial intolerance and prejudice remain a disturbing presence in sports as
they do in other spheres of human endeavor. Currently of interest are the circumstances under which interracial aggression is likely to occur. Early investigations have yielded a complex pattern of results. Blacks have been shown
to be more physically and verbally aggressive toward White participants than
toward other Blacks (Wilson & Rogers, 1975). This finding represents a reversal of earlier results that instead suggested Blacks directed more aggression
toward other Blacks (Winslow & Brainerd, 1950). Seemingly, the second half
of the 20th century was a more enlightened and tolerant period of American
history in which Blacks became more assertive and expressive of their anger.
However, the situation in which Black–White interactions take place is
all-important.
Experimental Evidence
Consider first a study in which a personal insult was introduced to the situation
(Rogers & Prentice-Dunn, 1981). White participants interacted with either

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a Black or White confederate. For half of the participants the confederate’s
behavior was insulting, for the other half, noninsulting. In the no-insult condition
of the experiment, the participants subsequently were more aggressive toward
the White target than the Black, what the researchers interpret as “reverse discrimination” that is, behavior reflecting mid-century attitudes. However, having
been insulted the participants then directed more aggression toward the Black
target than the White.
The importance of another situational variable, that is, anonymity, is shown
in an experiment by Donnerstein, Donnerstein, Simon, and Ditrichs (1972). A
question for these researchers was whether White people would behave differently when their actions are open to public scrutiny than when others are unaware
of their actions toward Blacks. One might predict that White aggression toward
Blacks would be greater under conditions of anonymity where they cannot be
taken to task for violating the prevailing social norms of racial tolerance. The
public or nonanonymous condition of the experiment was created for the White
participants by an earlier introduction to the confederate, for example, Black or
White. No such introduction was arranged for the participants assigned to the
anonymous condition. The results were straightforward. Participants delivered
significantly stronger shocks to Blacks in the anonymous condition. Where their
identity was known to the target to whom they had been introduced, the strength
of shock delivered to Blacks did not differ from that delivered to White targets.
In all likelihood, the social norms of racial tolerance inhibited the overt expression of aggression toward Blacks. Alternatively, they may have feared later
retaliation by the target.
At this juncture, we move our inquiry out of the social laboratory into the
real world, that is, into America’s baseball stadia. The measure used to assess
interracial aggression is batter hit by pitch, a standard entry on official game
records (BHP is used again in Chapter 3 in a test of a heat-aggression hypothesis).
Timmerman (2002) sought to track the course of interracial aggression through
the second half of the 20th century. His analysis was based on 27,002 individual
playing records that included Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics. Throughout the
five decades covered by the study, the overwhelming majority of batter–pitcher
interactions involved a White pitcher. The researcher hypothesized that Black
batters would be hit at a higher rate than Whites. In addition, it was predicted
that any early differences in Black–White rates of being hit would decrease
over time.
Over the entire period of the study (1950–1997), Blacks and Hispanics were
hit at rates 7.5% and 7.6% greater than Whites. These differences were greatest
in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. However, there were no racial differences
in rates of hit batters during the 1970s and 1980s. Surprisingly, the period from
1990 to 1997 saw a reversal in the hit rates. Both Whites and Hispanics were
hit at much higher rates than Blacks. A supplemental analysis showed race differences in hit-by-pitch rates for the years 1997–1999 had once again vanished.
A complicated pattern of results to be sure!
A leading explanation for the “reversal” in BHP rates from 1990 to 1997
emphasizes the changing perception of what constitutes racial aggression. On the

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Aggression in the Sports World

basis of the earlier work of Beal, O’Neal, Ong, and Ruscher (2000), Timmerman
proposes that more recently the perception of a White pitcher hitting a Black
batter has changed and instead, is now seen as interracial aggression. For example, Beal et al. note that Whites are less likely to aggress overtly against Blacks.
Therefore, White pitchers “may be more reluctant to hit Blacks than they are to
hit other Whites or Hispanics” (Timmerman, 2002, p. 115).
PROVOCATIONS
With a few exceptions, people are not immune to taunts, insults, or rude gestures
directed at them by others. Nor do we generally walk away from a push or shove.
Each of these provocations has a higher than average probability of eliciting some
form of aggressive response. You will recall that provocations were mentioned
earlier in this chapter in the investigation of a culture of honor in the Deep South
(e.g., Cohen et al., 1996). University males from northern and southern states
were deliberately “bumped” and insulted by an experimental accomplice. The
physical and verbal provocations produced strong aggressive reactions from the
southerners and relatively mild reactions from northern students.
Provocations can take a variety of forms in addition to physical and verbal
insults. External social provocations in the form of staring, gestures, and chants
are often seen to be effective in drawing an aggressive response. It should further
be noted that not all people respond to provocations in an aggressive manner.
Many will attempt to reconcile differences or appease their provocateur while
still others will turn on their heels and walk away.
Verbal Provocations
Unkind and insulting words can cut deep. They often strike at our good reputation, our self-image, character, or people and matters close to our heart. Some
will choose to ignore insulting remarks; others will instead find a way to strike
back in an act of counter aggression.
The response to a verbal provocation rocked the football world when in the
dying minutes of the 2006 FIFA World championship game Zinedine Zidane,
captain of the French side, head-butted Italian defender, Marco Materazzi, in
the chest. Zidane was red-carded and ejected from the game, a 5 to 3 overtime
shootout loss to Italy. The incident began with Materazzi persistently tugging
on Zidane’s shirt. As Zidane recounts, “He said some very harsh words, which
he repeated several times. They were words that touch the innermost parts of
me . . . Very personal things, my mother, my sister” (Moore, 2006, p. E01). The
full depth of hurt experienced at Materazzi’s words are expressed in Zidane’s
later comments “I am a man after all. I would rather have taken a punch in the
jaw than have heard that” (p. E01).
Materazzi offered a different version of the incident. In interviews and without
being specific, he acknowledged having insulted Zidane. He continued, saying
that he made no mention of racism, religion, or politics, nor was Zidane’s mother

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31

mentioned. He is further quoted as saying “I didn’t even know he had a sister.”
The incident remains something of a mystery. A fuller account of the circumstances and background can be found in a case study by Kerr (2007).
The strong tendency for verbal provocations to elicit an aggressive retaliatory response is seen in an investigation of media effects (Russell, Di Lullo,
& Di Lullo, 1988–1989). Male participants were shown a 14-min film clip of
either spirited hockey action with aggression edited out or a clip of hockey
fights containing only brief flashes of playing skills. The experimental session had barely begun when the experimenter was confronted by a confederate
who barged into the laboratory and made accusatory and derogatory remarks
directed toward the participant. For half of the participants, the confederate
followed a nonaccusatory script and exhibited a polite demeanor. With the
experiment ostensibly over, the experimenter asked for the participant’s help on
behalf of the long-departed confederate. It seems the experimental accomplice
was also conducting an experiment as an honors project and was desperate to
complete it during the current semester. Failure to complete his assignment
could delay his graduation and necessitate his return to university in the fall.
The measure of participant aggression was the strength of their intention to sign
up and the effort they would make in keeping their lab appointment. In effect,
participants were given the opportunity to harm the confederate by derailing
his academic aspirations. Those who had first been provoked by the confederate
exhibited significantly more aggression after viewing the fight-filled clip than
those who were not provoked. In this circumstance, the confederate’s verbal
provocation elicited a strong retaliatory response that put his spring graduation
in jeopardy.
Songs and Chants
British football has a long-standing tradition of taunting or otherwise provoking
members of the opposing team and their supporters through song. It is a tradition that underwent a fairly dramatic change around mid-century. Before the late
1950s, songs and chants were non-threatening, non-controversial, and pedestrian
(Jacobson, 1975). Consider for example, a ho-hum chant from the 1950s, one
that may rekindle memories from the reader’s high school days: “2-4-6-8, WHO
DO WE APPRECIATE, . . . A-R-S-E-N-A-L!”
It was around this time that Liverpool spawned the Beatles and others, their
influence rapidly spreading to a worldwide pop culture. Football’s youthful fans
quickly embraced the “Mersey sound” creating new songs and lyrics. Earlier
songs and chants were replaced by “a larger, more complex, and often obscene
and symbolically violent repertoire” (Williams, Dunning, & Murphy, 1986,
p. 365). For example, King (1995) notes that a theme of sexual deviance emphasizing the sexual inadequacy of opposing fans pervaded many of the changes.
Easily recognized hand signals that signify masturbation or others that signal
one’s “failure to score” accompanied the chants. The use of the word “bastard”
implies the mother of a rival fan(s) is a prostitute or “on the game.” King recounts

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Aggression in the Sports World

a clever chant used by London clubs when playing teams from the north, namely,
“Did the Ripper get your mum?” (p. 642).
Although the words to chants often portend severe consequences for their
rivals, their effects are usually confined to an exchange of insults. Marsh, Rosser,
and Harré (1978) observed that although thousands may be fiercely chanting
“You’re gonna get your fucking head kicked in” few altercations actually result.
Interestingly, the tradition of obscene chants and songs has not found its way
across the Atlantic to North America. American college football crowds typically sing school fight songs accompanied by their marching band. The lyrics
are tame, frequently portraying the home team as courageous, ready to fight,
fight, fight! and destined to be victorious. To rival fans the lyrics at best, seem
faintly intimidating, scarcely threatening.
While British football fans and American college students may be exposed to
songs with threatening and/or violent lyrics as they watch from the stands, many
may in fact be listening to songs from an additional source. A rapidly expanding
technology has made it a virtual certainty that many fans will have access to
their favorite songs before, during, and after sport contests. Cell phones, I-pods,
MP3s, and variations thereof can bring music to their ears. However, there are
several critical differences between listening to popular music on an I-pod and
both violent television and the playing of video games (Anderson, Carnagey, &
Eubanks, 2003).
Popular music obviously is unaccompanied by a video component. Furthermore,
the lyrics to popular music are almost incomprehensible to all but the most devoted
fans of the genre. Lastly, the focus of listeners’ attention is generally on the music
itself with less attention being paid to the lyrics. Of course, other attractions or
incidents occurring in the sports setting may also draw attention away from the
music. Thus seated in the bleachers at a sports event, many listeners may simply
fail to process the lyrical content of songs.
Note should be taken of the views of some clinical practitioners and social
commentators who would suggest that singing or otherwise experiencing violent
lyrics will reduce feelings and thoughts of aggression. With great regularity,
cathartic notions spring up whenever any form of aggressive behavior is under
scrutiny. Pop psychologists and others enamored with catharsis have a vision of
people venting, draining, or discharging their pent-up aggressive urges through
some sort of safety valve mechanism. Despite the popular appeal of catharsis, the
social science research community has failed to provide support for these views.
Regarding the effects of songs with violent content, the results of five controlled
experiments did not support cathartic views. To the contrary, violent lyrics in songs
were shown to increase aggressive thoughts and hostility (Anderson et al., 2003).
There are several ways in which such increases can contribute to negative
behaviors. In the short run, our perceptions of our current social situation may
take on “an aggressive tint” (Anderson et al., 2003, p. 969). The fact of our heightened hostility and thoughts can influence our perceptions and interpretations of
the social events in which we find ourselves. Negatively toned interpretations
may prompt a stronger than usual aggressive response to an individual, thereby

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setting the stage for an upward spiral of increasingly antisocial exchanges. Thus,
while the immediate effects of violent lyrics may not be dramatic, the escalation
of those effects may lead to serious verbal or physical altercations.
Staring
Among human primates, a direct steady gaze signifies threat. The response to
the threatening stare is largely dependent on the group status of the primates
involved, for example, low, intermediate, and high. In a typical context, the gaze
will elicit a fight, flight, or appeasement response. As with a direct gaze, gaze
avoidance also elicits a range of responses. Both serve as an effective means of
nonverbal communication (Ellsworth, 1975).
Stares have three important properties. First, a gaze is salient. It has an
especially strong likelihood of being noticed by others. Even at a considerable
distance, for example, “across a crowded room,” or in one’s peripheral vision, a
stare has the capacity to draw attention to itself. A second property is arousal.
Making eye contact with someone staring increases one’s galvanic skin response
and heart rate. If staring occurs in a pleasant social situation, a direct gaze
will make it even more pleasant. However, should it occur in a threatening or
negative situation, eye contact would serve to worsen the social atmosphere.
The third important property of a gaze is involvement. In general, we interpret
another’s gaze as indicative of the type of involvement intended or the intensity
of the current relationship. In contrast, an averted gaze is often an attempt to
reduce the level of involvement or to avoid confrontation or conflict. This latter
point warrants a personal example.
My research interests have taken me to a large number of hockey games over
the years. At one point, I was interested in the interaction within pairs of opposing players who had collided heavily and fallen to the ice while the play moved
elsewhere. Typically, they were tangled together with gloves, sticks, and skates,
often with one player on top of the other. I watched their gaze as they struggled
to disentangle themselves and get back on their skates. Specifically, I used a
small pair of binoculars to focus on their faces for signs of words being uttered
and visual exchanges. The results of my informal observations were striking.
The two players glanced at the overhead arena clock, studied the ice surface,
looked at the boards, even appeared to be inspecting the stitching and weave of
their jerseys. What they did not do was make eye contact with each other nor
did they exchange pleasantries. As long as they avoided eye contact, they were
able to get back on their skates and join their teammates. In contrast, when they
made eye contact, a fistfight erupted forthwith.
Some boxers have adopted staring as a tactic intended to intimidate their opponent. During the prefight instructions by the referee, they invade each other’s personal space directing a steady fierce gaze at their opponent. In other social settings,
young men interpret prolonged staring as a challenge to fight. Marsh et al. (1978)
relate an example of staring being taken as a provocation in a series of taunts
and threats. A group of Oxford Rowdies surrounded a small group of Sheffield

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Aggression in the Sports World

football fans at half time. A leader steps forward and begins to torment a Sheffield
boy who thus far “has been looking steadfastly at the ground in front of him,
glances up for an instant at the leading Oxford fan. He is immediately accused of
staring and is challenged to stand up and fight. The challenge is ignored.” (p. 89).
The taunting continues with the leader flicking the collar and hair of the Sheffield
boy. Suddenly “the Sheffield boy leaps up, his face red with anger” (p. 89) striking
a pose to do battle. At this juncture, an older Oxford fan arrives, steps between the
two adversaries and shepherds the Sheffield boy out of harm’s way.
Staring can also produce behavior akin to flight. We see evidence of this in a
novel field experiment (Ellsworth, Carlsmith, & Henson, 1972). An experimental
confederate stood on the curb close to motorists waiting for the light to change
from red to green. He constantly stared at the motorist who found himself in a
thoroughly ambiguous situation and without cues to interpret the meaning of
the stare. Compared to motorists in a no-stare condition, those stared at drove
through the intersection faster. The result was replicated in a number of situations including one in which the confederate pulled alongside the motorist and
stared from a motor scooter.
The point to bear in mind is that the situation in which eye contact or staring occurs is all-important in determining a person’s response. Rival supporters
making eye contact in a confrontational setting will likely respond with aggression whereas motorists being stared at in an ambiguous situation take flight.
Gaze avoidance, a glance, a prolonged stare, all represent means of nonverbal
communication that prompts a variety of behaviors, including aggression.

SUMMARY
The present chapter has examined the role of various external social influences
on human aggression. It began with broad national and regional cultural differences that shape the aggressive character of governments and individuals alike.
Prominent athletes have emerged as a visible category of sport heroes, especially
for boys. Attention was drawn to the influence of negative role models and their
detrimental effects on their young admirers. The extraordinary power of authority figures to influence interpersonal aggression was examined along with that
of others to affect directly or indirectly ongoing aggressive behavior from the
sidelines. The difficulty people have in breaking off from escalating aggressive
exchanges was highlighted. Those disproportionately targeted for aggression in
sports, for example, officials, blacks, women, were the subjects of later sections.
The chapter concluded with a discussion of provocations among which were
staring, chants, songs, and verbal barbs.

Suggested Reading
Nisbett, R. E., & Cohen, D. (1996). Culture of honor: The psychology of violence in the
South. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Social Influences

35

Perhaps as much as 50% of the U.S. homicides for which a cause can be identified
originate with exceedingly trivial matters. They may be sparked by a dispute over a
few dollars, an offhand remark to which offense has been taken or a petty disagreement. For male southerners in the United States, these incidents are exceedingly serious
matters that threaten their carefully cultivated reputation. A culture of honor dictates
that affronts, however trivial, call for violent retribution. The authors trace the cultural
origins and developmental processes by which southerners come to embrace the culture
of honor.

2
Personality

INTRODUCTION
One of the more popular psychology courses in a university or college curriculum
is Personality 101. Entering freshman students generally see the course as central
to the discipline and one that may provide them with insights into what makes
people, including themselves, “tick.” Generally speaking, there are two broad
approaches to understanding the personality of people. They are (a) an idiographic
strategy of inquiry and (b) a nomothetic basis of inquiry. Those adopting an idiographic strategy seek to identify the laws governing the behaviors of a single
individual. To illustrate: the results of an investigation using this approach may
lead to the conclusion: “Coach Svidal consistently reacts to all referees’ decisions,
favorable or unfavorable, with mild good humor.” A nomothetic strategy deals
with efforts to understand the rules governing differences in behavior between
aggregates. The following nomothetic statement might be released to a sports
reporter inquiring about a researcher’s recent findings: “Hockey defensemen are
higher on Machiavellian tendencies than forwards.” The statement represents a
conclusion based on a significant difference in average scores on a measure of
Machiavellian tendencies between forwards and defensemen.
TRAITS
As with many concepts in the social sciences, there is less than complete agreement on a definition of personality. I have singled out two from among the large
number available to provide a common starting point for the pages to follow.
Allport (1965) proposed that, “personality is the dynamic organization within
the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic
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37

behavior and thought” (p. 28). A more recent definition emphasizes the uniqueness and consistency of behavior we recognize in others. R. E. Smith (1993) offers
a definition of personality regarding it “as the distinctive and relatively consistent
ways of thinking, feeling and acting that characterize a person’s responses to life
situations” (p. 430).
Several points should be noted in regard to the concept of personality. There
is, for example, a general recognition that one’s personality is shaped by early
influences that originate with our interactions with others in the community,
institutions, and the home environment. There is a further assumption that
one’s personality is fairly stable and enduring across time. However, there is
a dissenting viewpoint suggesting that how we behave is effectively determined by the situation in which we find ourselves. While personality theorists
may be found aligned with a trait position and others with a state position, a
third viewpoint has emerged and offers a satisfactory resolution for many, that
is, the interactionist position. Mischel (1977), an early staunch situationist,
has modified his views to include person variables alongside those present in the
situation. He proposes: “To understand the interaction of person and environment
we must consider person variables as well as environmental variables” (p. 251).
To summarize in general terms, some behaviors can be best understood as
traits, whereas others can more readily be attributed to the influence of situational
constraints. Narrow traits such as aggression generally provide stronger predictions
of how people will behave (Olweus, 1979). Those of our acquaintances generally
known to be aggressive will display a certain regularity in their public behavior.
They are apt to be found shouting at the referee during their son’s peewee games,
displaying hostility in the workplace, the local sports and recreational center, or
behind the wheel of their automobile. More diffuse broader traits, for example,
extroversion, will produce considerably less agreement among observers that the
individual consistently displays extroverted behavior on a day-to-day basis.
The upcoming pages are intended to provide an overview of personality
research and theory as it is related to interpersonal aggression in sports. The
topic is exceedingly large and, unfortunately, burdened by a literature that is
spotted with studies of inferior quality. Formal reviews of the topic (e.g., Eysenck,
Nias, & Cox, 1982; Martens, 1976) have produced scathing criticisms of much
of the published material on the topic. For example, an excerpt from the Eysenck
et al. overview states “There has been an alarming failure to consider the complexities of the topic, to allow for the weaknesses and deficiencies of many existing
personality questionnaires, or to make distinctions which are absolutely crucial
in this field, e.g., between outstanding and average practitioners of a given sport,
or between different types of sports, such as individual versus group sports”
(p. 1). Martens directs his criticisms primarily at methodological flaws and
errors of interpretation. In particular, he notes the use of inadequate sampling
procedures and statistical analyses that are unsuited to the data. Furthermore,
researchers often generalize their findings to situations and persons that are far
beyond what is justified by their results. Lastly, the fact of a significant correlation between two variables is frequently interpreted in causal language. One is
not justified in doing so (see Supplemental Reading, Chapter 7).

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Aggression in the Sports World

It is the writer’s hope that as a result of providing some basic information on
matters of measurement the reader will be in a better position to evaluate studies
and research proposals or at the least raise pertinent questions on the topic. In addition, a number of major personality theories or models will be described with an
emphasis on those that appear to mediate aggressive behavior (Dengerink, 1976). A
further section will highlight several more extreme seemingly inexplicable, aggressive behaviors on the part of individuals in the sports world. Cognitive influences
frequently underlie the aggressive actions of individuals as do biological factors.
In the latter case, we will consider sex differences and the role of testosterone (T)
in relation to interpersonal aggression. We begin with measurement.

MEASUREMENT OF PERSONALITY
There is a bewildering array of tests and other means available for assessing aggression in the context of sports. They are not however of equal quality. They are far
from it. Some have excellent psychometric properties, that is, validity or reliability,
whereas other measures fail to meet even minimal standards of test construction.
Validity
First, we discuss the psychometric properties of measures purporting to assess
aggression in sports. Of paramount importance is the matter of validity. In asking about the validity of a test or other measure one is simply asking if the test
measures what it purports to measure. While the title of a test may identify it
as the Manson Aggression Intensity Measure (MAIM) and the test items give
every appearance of tapping the trait of aggression, that is, the items have “face”
validity, we should nevertheless require hard evidence that physical aggression
is in fact being assessed. Several means are available by which the validity of a
test can be established. We begin with a description of the most important type
of validity, that is, predictive validity.
Predictive Validity
In the ideal case, we would be looking for evidence of predictive validity. The
fictitious MAIM might be administered to hockey players at the start of their
season, with a view to relating it to their individual records of aggressive penalty
minutes at the end of the season. If the MAIM is a valid measure then a significant correlation between the measures taken at two points in time should result.
Such a study has been conducted (Bushman & Wells, 1998).
Specifically, the Physical Aggression subscale of the Aggression Questionnaire
(AQ; Buss & Perry, 1992) was used to predict the on-ice aggression of young
hockey players in Iowa. Bushman and Wells (1998) administered the subscale to 91
high school hockey players at the start of their season. When the season concluded
months later, two further measures were calculated from official game records.
The first was penalty minutes for aggression (e.g., fighting, slashing, tripping),

Personality

39

the other, for nonaggressive penalties (e.g., delay of game, too many players on
the ice). The relationships between the Physical Aggression subscale and actual
on-ice aggression was r = +.33, whereas that between Physical Aggression and
nonaggressive penalties was negligible, r = +.04. Thus, the subscale administered
at the start of the season successfully predicted the end of season, official tallies
of individual player aggression months later. Such evidence allows us to say that
the Physical Aggression subscale has good predictive validity with respect to
interpersonal aggression occurring in hockey.
Concurrent Validity
Other means of establishing the validity of an aggressive measure include concurrent and content validity. Concurrent validity is similar to predictive validity
except for the fact that the criterion is available at the same time. Had the Physical
Aggression subscale been administered to the young Iowa hockey players at the
end of their season when their records of aggressive penalty minutes became
available, then Bushman and Wells (1998) would instead have been establishing
the subscale’s concurrent rather than predictive validity.
Content Validity
Content validity is seen in the application of the known groups method. For
example, in a hypothetical extension of Bushman and Wells’ (1998) work with
the Physical Aggression subscale, we return to several high schools and seek
the cooperation of two student clubs, the boxing club and the debating society.
By the very nature of their on-going interests and training we would predict
that the student boxers would score quite high on the Physical Aggression subscale. What we know about the activities of those participating in the debating
society would not lead us to expect high scores on a trait measure of Physical
Aggression (verbal aggression, perhaps!). Should our boxers score substantially,
that is, significantly, higher than the debaters, then a claim can be made for the
Physical Aggression subscale having content validity.
Reliability
The second most important psychometric property of an (aggression) measure is
its reliability or its consistency in measuring the concept or trait in question. Note
that the correlation coefficient is again used to represent the strength of association. Is there consistency in test results over time (test–retest reliability) or strong
agreement between two or more judges? Finally, the test items themselves should
show a high degree of consistency in the responses of those taking the test.
Test–Retest Reliability
One should expect a high degree of stability in a measure administered to the same
individuals on two occasions, perhaps separated by 4–6 weeks. Those scoring

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Aggression in the Sports World

high on the first occasion should score quite high 4 weeks later. Conversely,
low scorers would for the most part be expected to score in the lower range after
the interval. A relatively high correlation is generally required to satisfy the
requirement of a stable consistent measure, that is, in excess of r = +.80.
Internal Consistency
There are two means by which the internal consistency of a test is generally
determined. The first is the split-half technique where, for example, the first 15
items are correlated with the second 15 items. An alternative is the odd-even
method in which the odd-numbered items are correlated with the even-numbered
items. The latter method is suited to the case where the scale items are of
increasing difficulty.
Interjudge Reliability
Outcomes in a substantial number of major sports are decided by judges. In
many such sports, their decisions are surrounded by controversy. The fact
of strong nationalistic biases and others lining their pockets have crept into
the judging process in some sports. Malfeasance aside, the question being
addressed here is the extent to which expert judges are in agreement in their
scoring of athletic performance. One would expect a high level of agreement
given they are watching the same athletes perform, albeit from slightly different
angles. Just such a reliability coefficient was calculated for the judges assigned
to one of boxing’s most famous and controversial fights. The occasion was
the 1971 heavyweight bout between the reigning champion Muhammad Ali
and the challenger Joe Frazier. The 15-round-title fight was staged in Manila,
Philippines in what was later called “The Thrilla in Manila.” Enormous
prestige and millions of dollars rested on the outcome. Ali lost his title by a
unanimous decision.
The contest represented the sport at the highest level. With so much riding
on the outcome, fight fans might reasonably expect the two judges at ringside
and the referee to be in fairly strong agreement on each boxer’s round-by-round
score. How did the expert ring officials do that night? In a word, dismally! The
reliability coefficient was r = +.57, far below an acceptable level of interjudge
reliability (Stallings & Gillmore, 1972). Recall from above that a correlation
in the range of +.80 is generally required to demonstrate sufficient reliability.
Certainly, one is entitled to ask about the reliability of judges’ scoring in other
sports, for example, figure skating, diving, and synchronized swimming.
The Aggression Questionnaire
Given the widespread popularity of the Hostility Inventory developed by Buss
and Durkee (1957), I think it appropriate to introduce its successor, the AQ (Buss
& Perry, 1992). For those unfamiliar with the measure, the AQ contains 29 items
that represent the four underlying dimensions of physical aggression, verbal

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aggression, anger, and hostility. Five-point rating scales anchored by “extremely
uncharacteristic of me” and “extremely characteristic of me” accompany each
item. Examples of items representing each of the four scales are provided to give
the reader a sense of the subtle differences between some of the factors. Physical
and verbal aggression are represented by “If somebody hits me, I hit them back”
and “I often find myself disagreeing with people,” respectively. The anger scale
reflects a state of physiological arousal and a readiness for aggression. The item
“Some of my friends think I’m a hothead” captures this state. The subtrait of
hostility reflects a sense of injustice and feelings of ill will toward others. The
statement “Other people always seem to get the breaks” typifies items from this
dimension.
The psychometric properties of the AQ appear to meet acceptable standards.
The predictive validity of the Physical Aggression scale was established by
Bushman and Wells (1998; see earlier section). Furthermore, test–retest reliability over a 9-week interval (N = 372) was +.80 for the entire questionnaire.
Reliability coefficients for the subscales were Physical Aggression +.80, Verbal
Aggression +.76, Anger +.72, and Hostility +.72, showing adequate stability
over the 9-week period.
Several additional points deserve mention. In regard to sex differences,
men scored higher on Physical Aggression, Verbal Aggression, and Hostility.
However, men and women did not differ in their scores on the Anger scale.
Buss and Perry (1992) also administered a battery of trait measures during
the development of the questionnaire. I have singled out two traits that would
appear to be of particular interest to sport aggression researchers, that is,
impulsiveness and competitiveness. On the basis of the combined responses of
1,253 men and women, impulsiveness was positively related to each of the four
subscales and the overall AQ score. Regarding the trait of competitiveness,
a similar pattern of strong, positive correlations with the total AQ score and
subscales emerged.
A researcher’s choice of an instrument to measure trait aggression, or a personality trait for that matter, is all important when considering the merits of a
research report or in designing one’s own study. It is my hope that in having
singled out the AQ for descriptive purposes, the reader will be alerted to the key
questions to be asked of a measure.
Finally, keep in mind that the validity of a measure is of the utmost importance. Without at least a modicum of validity, the reliability of a measure is of
no consequence. That is, if a measure is valid then it must be at least somewhat
reliable. However, if it is reliable it may or may not be valid. There are a number
of reference works that provide psychometric information and evaluations of a
wide range of published tests, for example, Anastasi and Urbina (1997). These
reference works usually contain additional information regarding the norms
associated with a test. That is, during the process of test construction, the test
will have been administered to a large number of individuals against whom it
would later be fair to compare the score of single individuals. The librarian at
the reference desk can direct you to additional sources.

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Aggression in the Sports World

PERSONALITY THEORIES
A number of theories or models that include aggression as a prominent component
trait will be outlined in this section. In each case, a measure of the personality
model will be introduced and described along with an example(s) of its use in
research on topics related to sports aggression.
Macho Personality
The original Spanish concept of machismo has spawned a number of variants
that have pervaded many modern sports. Highly prized in Hispanic cultures,
it has had a major influence on North American sports and even individuals
involved in leisure-time activities. The counterpart of the macho male can be
found on other continents and at other periods in history. Australia has given us
the sports-loving ocker, a stereotype described by Everett (1988) as “the potbellied, singlet-clad, can-in-hand Australian male” (p. 138). The ocker’s origins and
the role he plays in today’s Australian society are portrayed in Lewis’s (1983)
book, Real Men Like Violence.
The cultural expression of macho themes came to the fore in Germany during
the late 19th century and in the early decades of the 20th century. The dueling
practice, or Mensur, was primarily practiced at universities and was believed
to develop courage and coolness in German males. Young boys were taught
swordsmanship and the ritual surrounding the Mensur in the gymnasium. Even
children at play in the nursery were given instruction.
British playwright and journalist Jerome K. Jerome (1900) saw the Mensur as
a brutalizing experience. He provides a particularly graphic eyewitness account
of a duel.
The setting:
The room is bare and sordid; its walls splashed with mixed stains of beer, blood,
and candle-grease; its ceiling, smokey; its floor, sawdust covered.

The combatants:
Quaint and rigid, with their goggle-covered eyes, their necks tied up in comforters,
their bodies smothered in what looks like dirty bed quilts, their padded arms stretched
straight above their heads, they might be a pair of ungainly clockwork figures.

The duel:
The whole interest is centered in watching the wounds. They come always in
one of two places—on the top of the head or the left side of the face. Sometimes
a portion of hairy scalp or section of cheek flies up into the air, to be carefully
preserved in an envelope by its proud possessor, and shown round on convivial
evenings; and from every wound, of course, flows a plentiful stream of blood. It
splashed doctors, seconds, and spectators; it sprinkles ceiling and walls; it saturates the fighters, and makes pools for itself in the sawdust.

“Doctors” (actually medical students) rush in and make deliberately clumsy
efforts to repair the wounds.

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The duel continues:
Now and then you see a man’s teeth laid bare almost to the ear, so that for the rest
of the duel he appears to be grinning at one half of the spectators, his other side
remaining serious; and sometimes a man’s nose gets slit, which gives to him as he
fights a singularly supercilious air.

Paradoxically, the duelist with the most extensive and severe wounds emerges
as the victor! His fondest hope is that his scars will not fade with time. The
ineptness of those attending his wounds virtually guarantees his scars will last
a lifetime. For the mutilated victor, there is the certainty of becoming “the envy
of German youth” and attracting “the admiration of the German maiden. He
who obtains only a few unimportant wounds retires sulky and disappointed”
(pp. 153–154). Jerome tallied up the monetary value of a gaping wound noting
that “such a wound, judiciously mauled and interfered with during the week
afterwards, can generally be reckoned on to secure its fortunate possessor a wife
with a dowry of five figures at the least” (p. 154).
Mosher and Sirkin (1984) developed a groundbreaking theoretical model
of the macho male. The 30-item measure of the hypermasculine personality
is based on three underlying dimensions. First, they exhibit sexually calloused
attitudes toward women whereby “sexual intercourse with women establishes
masculine power and female submission, and is to be achieved without empathic
concern for the female’s subjective experience” (p. 152). Second, verbal aggression is seen as manly and is the primary means by which the macho individual
establishes his dominance over other men. Lastly, the macho male finds danger
and risk exciting. Demonstrations of his survival in dangerous pursuits reaffirms
or enhances his personal sense of masculinity. To expand on this last point, he
can be characterized as fearless, impulsive, and reckless and ever ready for risky
adventures that allow him to test his mettle.
Predictions of drug use, reckless driving while drinking, and a record of
delinquency were confirmed in a university population (Mosher & Sirkin, 1984).
University males scoring high on the Masculinity Inventory have also been shown
to be younger, generally nonreligious, and assaultive. When given a choice of
beverage in the lab, they overwhelmingly choose beer over pop (Russell, 1992b).
However, a chance to win a 1-year subscription to any one of eight mens’ magazines failed to reveal a preference for macho, for example, Field and Stream, or
Gung Ho, versus nonmacho publications, for example, Esquire, GQ.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!
This taste for danger can all too easily find expression behind the wheel of
the family car. Street racing, joy riding, and even organized and supervised
speed track events offer a sense of danger for macho males. The world of North
American Stock Car Association Racing (NASCAR) has a largely male following numbering in the millions. However, media surveys suggest that women
are a strong presence comprising approximately 40% of television audiences
watching NASCAR events (Wann & Waddill, 2007). Many devoted race car

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Aggression in the Sports World

fans are themselves the proud owners of high-powered, often “modified,” racers
on which they lavish attention and money.
While the hypermasculine personality model predicts that macho males
would be strongly attracted to a subculture featuring fast and powerful cars,
evidence of such an attraction has only recently emerged. German psychologists,
Krahé and Fenske (2002) sought to determine the factors that predict aggressive driving behavior. In addition to completing the Hypermasculinity Inventory
(Mosher & Sirkin, 1984), the 154 male participants provided reports of their
own aggressive driving practices.
The Aggressive Driving Scale is a 24-item, self-report measure with a
reliability coefficient of +.85 reported for the scale (Krahé & Fenske, 2002).
A 5-point response format ranging from 0 (never) to 4 (very often) accompanies
each item. Three examples nicely illustrate the diversity of aggressive expression
among German motorists. Consider the following items: “How often do you
swear out loud at other drivers?,” “How often do you get into fights with other
drivers?,” and “How often do you try to edge another car off the road?”
The results were clear in identifying a set of predictors of aggressive driving.
Men scoring high on the measure of macho personality were over represented
among those whose self-reports showed them to be the most aggressive drivers.
Furthermore, it was also the younger men and those who themselves drove powerful
cars that reported dangerous driving practices. Additionally, macho German males
expressed a preference for speed and “sportiness” in a car they were considering to
buy. At the same time, they were less concerned with safety features than nonmacho
males. This study is an important reference point for those personality and applied
researchers trying to understand and/or stem the carnage on our roadways.
Displays of machismo by athletes engaged in combatant sports may hold a
special attraction for the macho male. High- and low-macho men were shown
one of three 14-min film clips: the Hagler–Leonard middleweight championship
fight in 1987, amateur bouts at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, or experts skiing several of the world’s most spectacular runs (exciting control condition). The results
were straightforward. Macho males scored higher on a measure of aggressive
mood following the professional and amateur title fight films. However, lowmacho males show no change in aggressive mood across the three film conditions (Russell, 1992b). Among other things, this study and earlier research
(Smeaton & Byrne, 1987) highlights the fact that macho males are more reactive
to violent events than nonmacho males.
Recent years have seen the aggressive promotion of alcohol, tobacco, automobiles, and sports equipment by the advertising industry using underlying macho
themes. The ads are slick, attention grabbing, and unquestionably profitable for
the industry. Of course, supermacho men have long-graced the screen from Errol
Flynn to Sean Connery to Clint Eastwood to Arnold Schwarzenegger. A subtle
consequence of repeated exposure to these macho portrayals is that many have
uncritically embraced the macho man as an ideal whose values and behaviors
many parents have tried to instill in their sons. Seemingly, the best interests of
society are not well served by elevating macho males to the status of role models
for aspiring youngsters.

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Type A and Type B Behaviors
A close relative of the macho male is the Type A individual. The pattern of
behavior is probably best known for its widely publicized association with heart
disease (Glass, 1977; Houston & Snyder, 1988; Price, 1982). On the brighter
side, their relentless striving to achieve frequently meets with success (Spence,
Pred, & Helmreich, 1989).
Type A individuals can be characterized by three distinct features. Above all,
they are highly competitive and hard-driving. Winning and/or surpassing others
is all-important regardless of the effort required. Second, time is of the essence;
there are deadlines to be met; there are never enough hours in the day. This
sense of time urgency finds expression in extreme impatience when other people
or the situation impedes or slows them down. Third, and most important to the
general topic of aggression, Type As have consistently shown themselves to be
more hostile and aggressive than Type Bs. It is this latter characteristic that is
strongly implicated as a cause in the coronary-prone behavior pattern.
Under normal everyday conditions, Type As and Type Bs do not differ in their
levels of hostility. It is primarily in situations that produce frustrations or a thwarting of their feverish striving that hostility surfaces. An experimental accomplice
made insulting remarks and interfered with the attempts of Types A and B to
solve a puzzle. Later given the opportunity to shock the annoying confederate,
Type A participants delivered substantially stronger shocks than Type Bs. Control
conditions, lacking frustrations, saw equal levels of electric shock being administered by the two Types (Carver & Glass, 1978). It is principally under provocation
that Type As are found to be more hostile than Type Bs (Baron, Russell, & Arms,
1985; Bettencourt, Talley, Benjamin, & Valentine, 2006).
Other research on the topic suggests that high levels of aggression may be
facilitated by the interaction between Type A behavior patterns and hormonal
factors (Berman, Gladue, & Taylor, 1993). Male participants were first classified as Type As or Type Bs and subjected to increasing provocations (shock) by
an experimental confederate. Testosterone levels were initially determined (from
saliva) and classified into high and low categories. High testosterone level Type
As exhibited considerably more aggression than low testosterone level Type As
under conditions of increasing provocation. No differences were observed between
high- and low-testosterone Type Bs. Even using an alternate measure of aggression,
that is, the number of times participants chose to administer the strongest shock
setting available, the results were the same. The most popular and widely used measure of the Type A behavioral pattern is the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS; Jenkins,
Zyzanski, & Rosenman, 1979). The instrument contains 52 items in a multiple choice
format. Questions tap the respondents’ behavior in everyday situations including their
sleep patterns, how rapidly they eat, and how often they take work home with them.
A more lengthy and formal means of assessing Type A behavior is the Structured
Interview (SI; e.g., Price, 1982). The determination of Type A personality relies
heavily on the interviewee’s motor behaviors during the interview and much less on
the actual verbal content of his/her responses. Rapid finger tapping and/or knee jiggling denotes time urgency while a clenched fist, not surprisingly, indicates hostility.

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Coaches should be alert to the Type As among their charges, especially with
respect to their physical well-being. Type As complain less about hard work
(Weidner & Matthews, 1978), report less fatigue (Carver, Coleman, & Glass,
1976), and are more likely to play with injuries (Carver, DeGregorio, & Gillis,
1981). Once injured they make slower than expected progress during treatment.
Furthermore, Type A athletes tend to attribute responsibility for the injury to
themselves and express more anger than other injured athletes (Rhodewalt &
Strube, 1985).
Earlier, I alluded to the close relationship between Type A individuals and
the macho personality. Considering that the two personality types share some of
the same traits, for example, impulsivity and hostility, we should expect some
overlap in their outward appearance. In this regard, Virginia Price (1982) has
observed “Type A behavior and ‘macho’ or masculine behaviors are in many
respects indistinguishable” (p. 72). Price relates an anecdote describing the
behavior of two Type A men. Their actions would also typify the behavior of
macho males. Two men known to be Type A were accosted by armed attackers
in separate incidents. Both challenged their assailants; both were killed! (p. 73).
Where others might pause to reflect on their situations, Type As do not. Where
most of us show fear in dangerous situations, Type As and macho males appear
fearless.
Locus of Control
A commonly used theory of personality that has numerous implications for
sports has been the Locus of Control model (Rotter, 1966). People are presumed
to be disbursed along a continuum ranging from an internal locus of control to
an external locus of control. Individuals with an internal orientation generally
feel they can by their own actions exert a degree of influence over outcomes in
their day-to-day lives, that is, they do not see themselves at the mercy of external forces. People with an external orientation instead see little of a connection
between their own behavior and subsequent outcomes in their lives. Rather,
events in their lives occur largely as the result of external forces over which
they have little control, for example, Lady Luck, destiny, essentially being blown
about by the winds of fate.
Two sample questions from Rotter’s (1973) measure of locus of control will
illustrate the basic underlying distinction. Required to make a choice, would you
choose (a) “The average person can have an influence in government decisions”
or (b) “This world is run by the few people in power, and there is not much the
little guy can do about it?” Choice (a) and similar statements reflect an internal
orientation, whereas choice (b) reflects an external locus of control.
Locus of control has been shown to predict a variety of sport behaviors. To
further illustrate, internals perform better than externals, if a task is competitive
rather than cooperative (Nowicki, 1982). Golfers competing on the Ladies’s
Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour completed a locus of control measure before the start of a tournament. The analysis revealed that golfers with an
internal orientation had a lower scoring average than women with an external

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orientation. The better golfers then believed the quality of their play was largely
the result of their own efforts (Crews, Shirreffs, Thomas, Krahenbuhl, &
Helfrich, 1986).
Studies have generally shown a relationship between an external locus of
control and both verbal and physical aggression. A large international study
involving 722 youngsters from Finland and Italy was conducted in an effort
to replicate the predicted associations with aggression and, further, to extend
the measurement of aggression to include indirect aggression (Österman et al.,
1999). The predictions were confirmed for three forms of aggression, that is,
physical, verbal, and indirect, but only in the case of boys. For girls, the relationships between an external orientation and the three types were nonsignificant.
There is a suggestion that externals may perform better in one aspect of ice
hockey. Players with an external locus of control were credited with more assists
during the regular season than their internally oriented teammates. Furthermore,
their playmaking skills are overshadowed by their pugilistic skills. Players with
an external orientation are also involved in a greater number of on-ice fights
(Russell, 1974). Seemingly, internals respond more constructively to frustrations
seeing obstacles as “surmountable,” whereas externals generally regard obstacles
as “insurmountable” (Brissett & Nowicki, 1973). Consequently, externals are less
able to utilize alternative, nonaggressive responses such as negotiation or compromise. Believing there is little they can do to change the course of a developing
confrontation, they just let the inevitable happen and the gloves come off.
The Machiavellian Personality
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), the 16th-century advisor to the princes of
Italy’s feuding states is equated in the public mind with guile, deceit, opportunism, and manipulation of others. His tactics described in The Discourses and
The Prince provide a blueprint for gaining and holding power. Psychologists
Richard Christie and Florence Geis (1970) questioned whether Machiavelli and
his ilk are still with us today or whether he was, perhaps, a historical anomaly.
Is there a percentage of the population that shares his values and use the same
tactics to manipulate others in their own self-interest? To answer that question,
Christie and Geis developed a scale of Machiavellian tendencies using many
items drawn directly from the writings of Machiavelli.
The Machiavellian personality is a composite of four major characteristics.
First, they show a lack of affect or emotion in their interpersonal relationships.
Were they not to appear distant and lacking empathy, their deceptions and use
of psychological leverage to get others to do their bidding would be considerably
more difficult. Second, there is a lack of concern with conventional morality.
Lying, cheating, and bending the rules are not in the least troubling to the high
Mach individual. To be concerned would limit their effectiveness in manipulating others. The third characteristic of high Mach individuals is their lack of
commitment to the ideology or goals of groups in which they hold membership.
Consequently, they are more than willing to abandon idealistic group ideologies,
instead pursuing immediate, personally advantageous ends. Finally, not in any

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sense do high Machs have a distorted view of reality. Rather, they have a clear
view of their social surroundings. In particular, they know where the power lies
and how it might be turned to their advantage.
Sports that provide participants with numerous opportunities for social
interactions favor the high Mach athlete. More precisely, it is in those social situations that are in some sense ambiguous or uncertain that the manipulative skills
of the high Mach athlete gives them a clear performance advantage. To illustrate,
the success of Machiavellian tactics is seen in a study of football and tennis
players (Paulhus, Molin, & Schuchts, 1979). Ratings of athletic proficiency were
related to Machiavellian tendencies, that is, high Machs generally excelled at both
sports. What is the likely key to their success? The authors of the study suggest
high Mach football players push “every rule to the limit” (p. 204). In addition,
they willingly exploit their relationship with the coach to get more playing time.
In the case of high Mach tennis players, the suggestion is they resort to a number
of questionable tactics intended to unsettle or “psych out” their opponent.
The success of Machiavellian tactics in providing a performance edge however, does not extend to ice hockey. High Mach players have essentially the same
record of assists and goal scoring as their low Mach teammates. In the case of
physical aggression, it is a different story. Over the course of a full season of
play, high Machs drew more penalties for aggressive infractions, for example,
fighting, charging, spearing, than did lows. Interestingly, high Machs are more
likely to be found playing on defense. It is inside the blue line that their superior
interpersonal skills, for example, reading cues and the intentions of incoming
forwards, work to their advantage (Russell, 1974).
It was noted earlier that several of the personality models described in this
section overlap as a result of sharing the central trait of aggression. In some cases,
the overlap is minimal; in other cases, considerable. For example, R. J. Smith
(1978) undertook a comprehensive review of the psychopathic personality. His
work included a comparison with the Machiavellian personality. He concluded,
“There seems hardly a single serious contradiction between the two profiles
emerging from theory and research” (p. 92). We turn now to an examination of a
Machiavellian relative, perhaps a close cousin.
The Psychopathic Personality
Admittedly an overworked phrase, it seems the true psychopath has flown largely
under the radar for at least six decades. Until recently an accurate clinical diagnosis has proven elusive. In addition, the origins of psychopathy remain matters
of vigorous scientific debate, that is, the “nature” versus “nurture” controversy.
Important advances have been made toward identifying the true psychopath. Psychologist Robert Hare of the University of British Columbia and his
colleagues have developed the Psychopathy Checklist, a complex, clinical
instrument for identifying the psychopath. The instrument is intended for use
by professionals with specific training in its use as a diagnostic tool. Items are
scored by combining case history, archival, and interview data. Hare (1993) cautions us in the strongest terms to “not use these symptoms to diagnose yourself

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or others” (p. 34). He further notes that many individuals may exhibit several
of the symptoms. Someone you know may be impulsive, superficial, glib, even
antisocial but that does not mean he/she is a psychopath.
There are 12 major symptoms underlying psychopathy, half of which involve
emotional and interpersonal traits, the remainder are characteristics of the
psychopath’s antisocial lifestyle. Taken together, they provide an inclusive picture of the psychopathic personality (Hare, 1993). However, the following is a
shortened listing with a very brief description of each symptom, hopefully sufficient in detail to convey a sense of its nature. We begin with three emotional/
interpersonal symptoms.
1. Glib and superficial. Psychopaths in many ways exhibit superior social
skills. One investigator sees these skills as a hallmark of the psychopathic
personality in observing “they have charming and winning ways”
(R. J. Smith, 1978). These individuals then are attractive, amusing, and
persuasive. However, there is a hollow ring to their conversation, a certain shallowness, a lack of substance and sincerity.
2. A lack of remorse or guilt. The apparent absence of a conscience has
long been the hallmark of the psychopathic personality. The psychopath
is not in the least troubled having manipulated, conned, or physically
harmed another person.
3. Deceitful and manipulative. Psychopaths are manipulative and given
to lying, cheating, and deception to gain their ends. They show little
concern with being found out. They can with considerable effect con
people or “the system” without regret, exploiting their victims’ weaknesses to their own advantage.
A second set of three symptoms are characteristic of the psychopath’s erratic,
antisocial behaviors in everyday circumstances.
1. Impulsive. Impulsivity is an important symptom in contributing to a
overall pattern of social deviance. Psychopaths act suddenly giving
little or no thought to the consequences of their actions. Little thought
is given to the future. Instead, they live day to day.
2. Poor behavior controls. The psychopath’s behavior is often volatile.
Minor provocations produce responses that are out of all proportion to
the size of the insult, criticism, or frustration. Quick to take offense,
they show an inability to control or inhibit their fiery temper.
3. Early behavior problems. The early childhood of the psychopath is
marked by serious behavioral problems. Among the range of problems
are truancy, persistent lying, animal cruelty, and violence.
On a cautionary note, Hare reminds us that far more psychopaths are outside
the walls of prisons than inside. They can be found virtually anywhere plying
their trade, using their charm and winning ways to achieve their self-serving
ends. Their victims are invariably left devastated, their lives in ruin.
Identifying the individual psychopath is ideally achieved through use of the
Psychopathy Checklist (Hare, 1993). As noted, extensive training is required

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for its use. Levenson (1990) has developed a 13-item alternative measure of
psychopathy based on clinical criteria, notably that provided by the early work
of Cleckley (1976). A sample item is “I often do things just for the hell of it.”
The scale’s relevance to testing psychopathy symptoms in the context of
sports aggression is seen in the results of personality variables in relation to fan
violence (Russell, 1995). Ice hockey fans in two Canadian cities were asked to
rate their reason(s) for attendance and the likelihood of their joining in a disturbance should one erupt nearby. The analyses yielded strong positive correlations
between psychopathy and both “I like to watch the fights” and their willingness
to join in a disturbance in the stands. In addition, the Levenson (1990) scale of
psychopathy and a measure of assaultiveness were highly correlated.

The Aggressive Personality
Eysenck et al. (1982) provide an insightful analysis of manipulative tactics in sports
using violence as a means of intimidation. First, an explanation of this is provided.
P is one of three superfactors underlying personality labeled by Eysenck as introversion–extroversion (E), neuroticism–stability (N), and psychoticism–superego
(P). Eysenck et al. describe the individual scoring high on the P dimension as
egocentric, cold, aggressive, impulsive, hostile, and antisocial. Individuals scoring
low on P are described as cooperative, caring, and empathic. In general, males are
concentrated on the high end of the P dimension, females on the low end.
Patmore (1979) draws upon that gentlemanly game of cricket for her example
of extreme intimidation. Violence may provide an edge in the psychological duel
between batsman and bowler when the bowler elects to aim for the batsman
rather than the wicket. Traveling at speeds in excess of 90 mph, there is little
the batsman can do to avoid a well-aimed ball. The attitude of a celebrated fast
bowler, Jeff Thompson, is cited below:
I enjoy hitting a batsman more than getting him out. It doesn’t worry me in the
least to see a batsman hurt, rolling around screaming and blood on the pitch.
(Patmore, 1979, cited in Eysenck et al., 1982, p. 7)

Eysenck et al. comment further:
His teammate Dennis Lillee is known to work himself into a state of intense
hatred with the support of Australian cricket fans who willingly chant, “kill, kill,
kill” when he bowls. Such attitudes suggest a high degree of aggressiveness and
cold egocentricity which is the hallmark of “P.” (p. 7)

We round out this series with a clinical profile of an aggressive personality
type who can without too much difficulty be found among parents, coaches,
and fans involved with combatant sports. Millon (1969) has described an
active-dependent pattern of behavior characteristic of the aggressive individual.
A prominent feature of their personality is an underlying irritability, one that
easily erupts in outbursts of anger. Projection is used as a defense mechanism
whereby their malevolent motives are attributed to others. Moreover, these
individuals project an assertive self-image. They take particular pride in their

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realism and “hard-nosed” style. The aggressive individual is described as
intimidating, vindictive, and punitive in his interpersonal relations. Hostility is
cloaked in rationalizations making their actions seem acceptable and even in
the best interests of society. Millon observes: “He espouses such philosophical
balderdash as “Might is right,” “This is a dog-eat-dog world,”. “It’s better to
get these kids used to tough handling now before it’s too late,” and “You’ve
got to be a realist in this world, and most people are either foolish idealists,
appeasers, commies or atheists” (p. 247). By coating his actions with a thin
veneer of respectability, the chronic aggressor can feel justified in his own
mind and in the eyes of others who might share his views.
The interpersonal relations of the chronic aggressor are marked by being
blunted and lacking genuine affection, sentimentality, or empathy for other
people. Note the overlap. These characteristics can equally be applied to the
high Mach and psychopath. Each in turn would deprecate these qualities.
Millon (1969) provides us with a glimpse of precisely how the chronic aggressor becomes embroiled in an altercation. Deeply suspicious and given to outbursts
of anger, he often seeks out an adversary who he provokes. “He carries a ‘chip on
his shoulder,’ seems to be spoiling for a fight and appears to enjoy tangling with
others to prove his strength and to test his competencies and powers” (p. 275).
The choice of weaker adversaries ensures his being frequently reinforced and
finding enjoyment in his attacks.
Identificatory Ties
The topic of individual differences in sports took a major step forward with the
recent work of Daniel Wann of Murray State University (Wann, 2006). Much
of his research has centered on the identification of individuals with a favorite
team and the implications of that identification for their day-to-day behaviors.
The concept of “identification” refers to the extent to which the individual sport
fan feels psychologically connected to a team or athlete (Wann, 1997).
Fans’ level of identification tends to remain fairly stable, even over extended
periods of time. Through the good times and the not-so-good times, highly identified fans are unwavering in their loyalty. Reflecting back on a losing season, for
the highly identified fan there is always “next year.” In truth, their self-selected
role as a team supporter has become an important element in their personal
identity.
Research into the correlates of strong team identification has been furthered
with the development of the Sport Spectator Identification Scale (SSIS; Wann &
Branscombe, 1993). Several attempts to establish the relationships between SSIS
and interpersonal aggression have yielded mixed results overall. Initial studies
administered the Buss–Durkee Hostility Inventory (Buss & Durkee, 1957) as
the measure of trait aggression with nonsignificant results (Russell & Goldstein,
1995; Wann, 1994; Wann, Peterson, Cothran, & Dykes, 1999). However, a
more recent investigation used the updated AQ (Buss & Perry, 1992) finding
a significant positive relationship between SSIS scores and physical aggression
(Wann, Shelton, Smith, & Walker, 2002). However, this finding was restricted to

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the male sample. It is further noteworthy that a similar positive relationship was
found between antisocial behavior and the 5-item Sport Fandom Questionnaire
(SFQ; Wann, Hunter, Ryan, & Wright, 2001). A systematic replication of the
latter study might help to clarify the issue. There is considerably less uncertainty
if we turn to a behavioral criterion of aggression involving self-reports from fans
indicating how they would behave in real world circumstances.

On a National Scale
The response of spectators exposed to displays of sports violence is mediated
by the degree to which they identify with a favorite athlete, team, or nation.
An experiment by Branscombe and Wann (1992) demonstrates the effects of
witnessing sport violence on the physiological state of viewers. Subjects were
shown two film versions of an international boxing match in which the American
boxer wins and one in which the Russian fighter wins. The subjects were
divided into two groups, that is, those who strongly identified with the United
States and those with weak identificatory ties to the United States. Irrespective
of which fighter won the bout, those with strong ties to their country showed
pre- to postfilm increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Moreover, the
individuals most highly identified with the United States were also harsher in
their evaluations of the Russian people. Elevated blood pressure is a reflection
of heightened arousal, a condition that generally serves to increase the intensity
and likelihood of aggression, albeit under fairly specific circumstances (Baron &
Richardson, 1994).
A field study conducted in Italian football illustrates the role of identification in influencing antisocial behavior (Zani & Kirchler, 1991). Over 500 registered club supporters from Naples and Bologna provided information to the
investigators that included self-reports of the strength of their identification
with their respective teams. Fans who strongly identified with their team were
labeled “fanatics,” while those less strongly identified with their club were
called “moderates.” Predictably, fans labeled fanatics were embroiled in disturbances more often than moderates. Moreover, the more closely fans identified
with their football club (FC), the more likely they had participated in crowd
disturbances.
Interestingly, the behavior of the Naples fans differed from that of the
Bologna fans. The Bologna fanatics became involved in a greater number of
disorders than did those from Naples. The researchers speculate that Naples fans
acquired a positive self-image as a result of their team’s first place finish during
the season. By contrast, Bologna finished deep in the lower ranks. Seemingly,
the identification of fanatics with the Bologna team was severely weakened as a
result of their poor showing. The researchers suggest the Bologna fanatics
lack the possibility of a positive identification with their team. Since their team “has
nothing left to lose” they are not interested in the game and in the sporting values
and norms, but develop their own rules which govern the disturbances they themselves create in the stadium. (Zani & Kirchler, 1991, p. 19)

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Identification and Terror Management Theory
Terror Management Theory (TMT) emerged from the writings of philosophers
and early social theorists concerned with questions of why people need self-esteem
and how they manage an awareness of the inevitability of their own death. Our
instinct for self-preservation is shared with all species, yet humans are alone in
their awareness that death is certain. This certainty creates the potential for what
TMT theorists call “paralyzing terror” in the individual.
A two-part cultural anxiety buffer consisting of a cultural worldview and
self-esteem manages the potential for the terror, that is, being overwhelmed
by thoughts of death (e.g., Harmon-Jones et al., 1997). A cultural worldview
involves a set of beliefs that provide meaning, order, permanence, and stability
to our existence. This view of reality is shared by groups and offers the prospect of immortality, literal or symbolic, to those living in accordance with the
values espoused by the worldview. Self-esteem derives from one’s belief that
their behavior meets the standards set by the worldview. Sports fans are not
immune from mortality concerns and may well enhance feelings of self-worth
through their association with a successful team. In this regard, Dechesne,
Greenberg, Arndt, and Schimel (2000) tell us of an imaginative undertaking
on behalf of fans by Ajax Amsterdam, for years the most successful football
team in the Dutch league. It seems they have built a cemetery for their most
dedicated supporters.
Dechesne et al. (2000) conducted an experiment testing the proposition that
inasmuch as allegiance to a sports team is presumed to protect against mortality, reminders of one’s mortality should increase his optimism regarding the
outcome of the team’s upcoming contests. Dutch high school students served as
participants with half having their death made salient by completing a survey
asking opinions on issues surrounding their own death. Youngsters in the control condition answered questions about television viewing. Next, all students
were asked to make a prediction of the final score between the Dutch national
team and Germany in an upcoming match. As predicted, those reminded of
their death were more optimistic, that is, predicted a greater number of goals by
the Dutch national team.
Dechesne and his colleagues conducted a second experiment in an attempt to
replicate the Dutch results in a different culture and with different sports. Equal
numbers of male and female introductory psychology students at the University
of Arizona served as participants. All described themselves as having strong,
above average allegiances to the Arizona football and basketball teams. At the
time of the study, the Arizona basketball team was the reigning NCAA champions; the football team was beginning their season following a so-so record in
the previous year.
Participants in the condition in which their mortality was made salient made
higher estimates of success for their favorite team thus replicating the Dutch
results. In addition, when the Arizona football team lost their first game of the
season, optimism fell among those reminded of death. Thereafter the participants became more optimistic regarding the success of the Arizona basketball

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team in the upcoming season. The investigators concluded “optimism about
and identifications with successful sports team [sic] are, at least in part [italics
added], motivated by the need to reduce concerns about mortality” (Duchesne
et al., 2000, pp. 829–830).
Crossing the Line
The occasion was the U.S. National Figure skating championships held before
the 1994 Winter Olympics. Millions of horrified figure skating fans watched the
television screen as Nancy Kerrigan wailed in pain and despair from a crippling
blow to her leg. Favored to win the title, her chances now dimmed sharply. The
assailant fled the scene but a police investigation subsequently revealed he was a
friend of a co-competitor, Tonya Harding. It was alleged that she instigated the
attack with a view to clearing her path to the title. Nancy’s doctors patched her
up and she later skated to Olympic Silver in Lillehammer, Norway. The skating
world was stunned by the attack. How could such an aberrant incident occur in
one of the most genteel of sports? Was it an isolated incident? Could it happen
again?
Another perversion of the competitive ideal is seen when individuals are so
intent on furthering their own careers or that of someone close to them that
they employ tactics intended to injure or worse. A 46-year-old former French
army helicopter pilot was recently sentenced to an 8-year prison term (Sauvey,
2006). Christophe Fauviau is the father of a son and a 16-year-old daughter, the
latter described as a rising star in French tennis. Fauviau was accused (later
confessed) of spiking the water bottles of his childrens’ opponents. The drug
Temesta was slipped to opponents 27 times at French tournaments from 2000
to 2003. Temesta is an antianxiety drug producing symptoms of weakness, dizziness, nausea, fainting, or drowsiness. A young schoolteacher who had been
defeated by Fauviau’s son died in a car crash on the way home after his match.
According to police, he fell asleep at the wheel. A toxicology report revealed
traces of Temesta were in his system. Fauviau was described by the prosecutor as “an adult who turned his children into objects of his own fantasies of
success.”
Seemingly, the “unthinkable” is thought about by significant numbers of the
general population. For example, more than two-thirds of the general public
report having had homicidal fantasies (Kenrick & Sheets, 1993). Moreover, an
estimated 10% of individuals openly state they would willingly murder someone
they thoroughly hated under a guarantee of anonymity and freedom from retaliation or prosecution (Russell & Baenninger, 1996). However, the circumstances
described in the question above requires hatred of a potential victim, anonymity,
and zero likelihood of physical or legal repercussions, a rare circumstance.
Just as Tonya had a strong interest in advancing her career by disabling her
rival, so too did Monsieur Fauviau take steps to advance the career of his daughter. However, sport fans in general without any apparent financial or personal
stake in a team’s success also appear willing to improve the fortunes of their
favorite team or athlete by a variety of means. But how extreme are the actions

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they might take? Would they go beyond booing, heckling, threatening gestures,
and verbal abuse? Certainly, personal threats against prominent athletes are not a
rarity. East German figure skating star Katarina Witt, among others, has reported
receiving threats (Brennan, 1994). Perhaps the most publicized act of violence
was the savage attack on tennis player Monica Seles during a match in Hamburg,
Germany. A fan of her rival Steffi Graf, stabbed her during a changeover on the
court. The man was apprehended and later given a 2-year suspended sentence.
The severity of her wound caused her to retire from competitive tennis for an
extended period of time (Brennan, 1994).
We see further evidence of potentially lethal tactics being adopted by some
racing car fans eager to advance the cause of their favorite drivers.
The 1994 Monte Carlo rally lost much of its lustre when thrill-seeking spectators threw a shovelful of snow onto a stretch of mountain road early in the race.
In a split second, with all traction lost between their slick racing tyres and the
safety of dry asphalt, three-times Monte Carlo winner Didier Auriol and potential
world champion Colin McRae spun out of the rally just hours after it started.
Auriol retired immediately, his Toyota too badly damaged to continue, but
McRae restarted his Subaru Impreza 555. The most glamorous rally in the world
is slipping into chaos. This year’s stages were badly marshalled as police failed
to prevent spectators strewing snow in the path of whichever driver happened
to threaten their chosen idol. Only Frenchman Francois Deleco was allowed to
pass freely through the Ardéche where drivers ran the gauntlet between snow and
spectators at more than 180kmh. “There are only a few throwing snow, but they
are idiots,” said Colin McRae. “I understand that they want to see dramas, but at
what price?”
FISA, the sport’s governing body will be under pressure to improve marshalling. In 1986 spectators were killed in the Portugal rally after a car lost control.
“In that country they throw gravel which has the same effect as snow,” said world
rally champion Juha Kankkunen. (“Rally crowd’s stupidity,” 1994)

At this juncture, it is important to re-affirm that active fans indeed have the
power to influence the outcome of contests (e.g., Greer, 1983; Laird, 1923; Lehman
& Reifman, 1987). Furthermore, that belief is strongest among sports fans that
most highly identify with their favorite team (Wann, Dolan, McGeorge, &
Allison, 1994). Consider a further implication of strong team allegiances. Students
at Murray State University were asked if they would be willing under a condition
of anonymity and with no possibility of arrest or retaliation to “break the leg of
the star player/coach of the opposing team immediately before the championship
game, thereby injuring them so they could not participate” (Wann et al., 1999,
p. 559). A second version of the question was created instead asking students if they
were willing to trip the opposition’s star player or coach. The percentages of the
willing ranged from 32% expressing a willingness to break the leg of the opposing
coach to 48% willing to trip the star player. Was there a relationship between the
strength of team identification and each of the four aggressive actions? Yes, the
analyses yielded significant positive correlations. The further significance of this
study is evidence that male and female fans are entirely willing to proactively
commit illegal acts of instrumental aggression even before a contest begins!

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The above study (Wann et al., 1999) examined sport fandom in relation to
instrumental aggression. That is, a large percentage of fans expressed a willingness to assist their team by influencing the outcome through violent and
illegal means. However, the question remained as to whether highly identified
fans would also commit acts of hostile aggression under similar conditions of
anonymity.
A replication provided a test of this hypothesis (Wann, Haynes, McLean,
& Pullen, 2003). Again under the cloak of anonymity, participants were asked
to rate the likelihood they would trip the opposing star player/coach or break
the leg of the player/coach. The question was posed in a context described as
providing no competitive advantage to be gained from their actions. That is, the
participants’ violent acts are solely expressions of purely hostile aggression.
For all male and female participants, team identification was positively related
to tripping or breaking the leg of a star player or coach. Interestingly, there was
a greater willingness to commit instrumental acts of anonymous aggression than
overtly hostile acts of aggression. For example, 34% and 32% of fans were willing to consider breaking the star player’s or coach’s leg for instrumental reasons
(Wann et al., 1999), whereas 14% and 13% would do so for hostile motives
(Wann et al., 2003). Parenthetically, only 3% and 4% of participants expressed
a willingness to consider the murder of an opposing player or coach (the small
numbers precluded an analysis). More recently, Wann et al. (2005) conducted a
replication in which the outcome of a college men’s basketball game against a
bitter rival was made known before participants’ providing self-reports of anonymous acts of hostile aggression against the opposing team members. Highly
identified fans informed of a loss by their favorite team expressed a greater
willingness to commit more serious acts of violence, that is, break the leg of a
star player or coach.
More common to our experience as sport spectators is verbal aggression.
Here too, it can be asked if an outpouring of verbal abuse originates with
those fans most closely aligned with a team. In a test of this question, Wann,
Carlson, and Schrader (1999) had nearly 200 students attend an intercollegiate
men’s basketball game. Upon their arrival, they completed a pregame battery
of measures. Following the contest, the students were asked to answer four key
items assessing the extent to which they shouted abuse at (a) game officials and
(b) the opposition as well as whether the abuse was instigated for (c) instrumental or (d) hostile reasons.
Consistent with other studies in this series, highly identified spectators exhibited more instrumental and hostile aggression than students less strongly identified. Confirmatory findings were reported in a study of verbal aggression among
spectators witnessing intercollegiate basketball and ice hockey games (Wann,
Schrader, & Carlson, 2000). In this replication, instrumental and hostile forms
of verbal aggression were again directed equally at opposition teams.
To be sure, there are many more ways for fans to assist their team other
than by resorting to overt physical or verbal attacks against their rivals. The
unscrupulous fan has at their disposal a range of dishonest, unethical, antisocial, and illegal actions by which they potentially can assist their sport team.

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Using the same overall design, Wann et al. (2001) asked a college sample to rate
their willingness to engage in a series of highly questionable acts, again with
an assurance of anonymity. Three actions will suffice to illustrate the breadth
of misdeeds participants were asked to consider. They might write a paper for
a player, help a player acquire steroids, or lie in court to protect a player. A
substantial 41% of the students expressed at least some interest in cheating on
behalf of their team, that is, letting a player cheat off you in class. As with
other studies in this research program, the analyses yielded a positive relationship between team identification and a willingness to implement each of these
deplorable acts.
Learning Lethal Skills to Reduce Aggression
Can individuals in the course of acquiring lethal physical skills at the same time
become less aggressive? The notion somehow seems counterintuitive. Yet, there
is some evidence to suggest that individuals undergoing training in traditional
martial arts become increasingly less aggressive as they advance through the
ranks (Daniels & Thornton, 1990; Lamarre & Nosanchuk, 1999; Nosanchuk,
1981; Nosanchuk & MacNeil, 1989; Trulson, 1986). Perhaps the clearest example of research on the effects of martial arts training on its students is Trulson’s
Texas field investigation.
Juvenile delinquents were individually assigned to one of three groups. The
first group underwent training in the traditional Korean art of Tae Kwon Do,
a program that included a philosophical emphasis. The second group of boys
underwent training in a modern version, a program that did not include a philosophical component. The third group served as a control condition in which the
youngsters participated in sports activities with their instructor. All groups met
three times a week for a period of 6 months. The results were straightforward.
Boys trained in the traditional form of Tae Kwon Do showed a decrease in
aggression. By contrast, those trained in the modern version that de-emphasized
the philosophical component exhibited a major increase in aggressiveness at the
conclusion of the 6-month program. Even more impressive is the finding that
the youngsters assigned to this condition subsequently exhibited an increase in
their delinquent activities. Finally, the aggression of boys assigned to the control
group, that is, sports activities, remained unchanged over the course of the program. Parenthetically, it should further be noted that the delinquents trained in
the traditional version of Tae Kwon Do that included the philosophical emphasis
showed improved social skills and self-esteem along with lower anxiety.
On the face of it we can discount the possibility that a cathartic process is
at play insofar as reviews of the question have consistently shown that aggressive behaviors generally lead to an increase in aggression and not less aggression (e.g., Bushman, 2002; Russell, 1993). The point to be emphasized is the
apparent reduction in participants’ aggression that occurs in traditional versions
of the martial arts. Such training involves philosophical underpinnings taught
to students in the traditional dojos. A fairly basic restructuring of cognitions
is thought to take place such that nonviolent options to solving interpersonal

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conflicts are adopted at the expense of violent ones. Inner peace and harmony is
a primary goal sought throughout the training regimen (Nosanchuk, 1981).
As they stand, the findings of Trulson (1986) and others (e.g., Daniels &
Thornton, 1990; Nosanchuk, 1981) offer promise of a therapeutic means of
reducing aggression in selected populations. Indeed, Trulson optimistically titled
his article “Martial Arts Training: A Novel ‘Cure’ for Juvenile Delinquency.”
However, before being swept up with martial arts programs intended to reduce
aggression in various target groups, a cautionary note is in order. The research
is not without its critics on methodological grounds (e.g., Nosanchuk, 1981;
Nosanchuk & MacNeil, 1989). As examples, the martial arts instructor and the
experimenter cannot be the same individual (see experimenter artifacts, Rosnow
& Rosenthal, 1996, Chapter 7). Furthermore, as Becker (1982) has noted there
is wide variability in the content of both traditional and modern martial art
schools. The elements comprising a traditional program of instruction must be
fully present and emphasized in order to assess the program’s effects (see also,
Twemlow & Sacco, 1998).
Methodological shortcomings notwithstanding, it appears we can attribute
any reduction in the boys’ aggression to their having learned the philosophical lessons of inner peace and harmony. Boys assigned to the modern version
de-emphasizing a philosophical component instead showed a sharp increase
in aggression (Trulson, 1986). Seemingly, any reduction cannot be credited to
training in lethal skills.

Cognitive Influences
False Consensus Effect
The manner in which individuals construe events as they unfold will often
determine the actions they take. Spectators in attendance at an event when a
fight erupts nearby may be influenced in their decision by a strong cognitive
bias, namely the false consensus effect. This bias may to a degree be responsible
for some spectators escalating a crowd disorder. The cognitive phenomenon is
the tendency of individuals “to see their own behavioral choices and judgments
as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances while viewing
alternate responses as uncommon, deviant, or inappropriate” (Ross, Greene, &
House, 1977, p. 280).
Consider for a moment an example of how a cognitive psychologist might
provide a demonstration of the false consensus effect operating in a real life
situation. A major junior hockey league has recently been “sold” on the merits
of power skating in the development of young players. As the saying goes, “you
skate from the waist down and play hockey from the waist up.” The league
governors have invited several nationally certified power skating coaches to
their summer training camp for an extra 5 days of training sessions, clinics, and
workshops after the regular camp ends. All of the young players in camp are
assembled and the coaches describe the basics and advantages of power skating.
They are further told that there is no charge to them for the extra 5 days. The

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league is interested in developing young hockey talent and will cover all costs,
for example, their room and board plus a little spending money.
After the coaches depart, the players are surveyed and asked whether they
personally plan to stay the extra 5 days. Next, each player is asked to estimate
the percentage of players attending the summer camp that will also take
advantage of the opportunity. Were the psychologist to actually conduct this
simple demonstration, the prediction based on the false consensus effect would
be supported if those planning to stay for the 5 days of power skating gave
higher percentage estimates than players not planning to stay. Specifically,
the results of the survey might show that those intending to stay estimated
on average that 61% would also stay. By contrast, those not intending to stay
estimated that on average only 39% would take advantage of the opportunity.
Simply put, people generally believe that others in their shoes would behave
much as they do.
Field studies that recruited spectators found in actual attendance at hockey
games have consistently shown the false consensus effect to be a strong predictor of involvement in disturbances. That is, men who express a strong likelihood of joining in a fight nearby provide higher percentage estimates of other
men who would do likewise compared with those who see little likelihood of
their getting involved. (Russell & Arms, 1995, 1998). In addition, hockey spectators who rate “I like to watch the fights” as a strong reason for their presence
at the game also believe that a disproportionately larger number of other men
are attending for the same reason.
How might this perceptual bias set the stage for an escalation of crowd
violence? Those considering or wavering in their decision to join in a disturbance
may be emboldened by their belief that an inflated number of other men will
tacitly approve of their action and are themselves likely to intervene. Believing
others are approving and poised to join the battle, the individual takes a step that
he might not otherwise take.
Rumination
Recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in the effects on aggression
of another cognitive factor, namely, rumination. In general terms, it has been
defined as one’s “propensity to think almost obsessively over past experiences
that have provoked negative affect in the form of anger” (Maxwell, 2004,
p. 279). In effect, the individual mulls over the thoughts and feelings triggered
by an earlier provocation including the rehearsal of thoughts of retaliation
(Bettencourt et al., 2006). Inasmuch as people differ in the degree to which
they typically ruminate over provocations, the question becomes one of whether
rumination has an effect on subsequent aggression.
For those enamored of cathartic theory, reliving the provocative incident
should result in a venting of anger with a subsequent decrease in aggression.
By contrast, aggressive cue theory (Berkowitz, 1993) would predict an increase
arising from the availability of aggressive cues present throughout a reliving of
the incident (see Chapter 7).

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Preliminary to testing the relationship, Bushman (2002) assigned male and
female participants to one of three experimental conditions, that is, rumination, distraction, or control. They were then individually paired with a same-sex
(confederate) partner who insulted them. Those in the rumination condition
were instructed to think about their confederate partner who had insulted them,
whereas those in the distraction condition were instead instructed to think about
becoming physically fit. Control participants were asked to do nothing, that is,
to just sit quietly while their partner’s computer was being adjusted.
At this time, participants were provided the opportunity to hit a punching
bag. Measures of the number and force of hits were taken, after which participants provided self-reports of the anger they felt. In the next step, participants
competed in Taylor’s (1967) reaction time task. Blasts of white noise were delivered by the winner of the trials at an intensity and duration of their choosing.
Support for cathartic views was not forthcoming. Rather than experiencing a
venting of anger, those in the rumination group were angrier than those in the
distraction and control conditions. A similar pattern was found for the intensity
and duration measures of noise, that is, aggression by participants in the rumination group was greater than for those assigned to the control condition.
In a follow-up investigation, Bushman, Bonacci, Pedersen, Vasquez, and
Miller (2005) examined the effects of rumination on displaced aggression, that
is, the individual is simply a bystander, innocent of any wrongdoing. We see in
the results an increase in displaced aggression triggered by a minor annoyance
when people ruminate over an earlier provocation. The effects of rumination,
then, are not limited to the individual who provoked us but extend to other
people or objects unrelated to the initial provocation. Equally important to note,
the internal aggressive state rising from rumination can persist for long periods
of time, for example, 8 hr (Bushman et al., 2005).
All manners of provocations occur in sports. The question to be asked is
whether the resulting ruminations are related to athletic aggression on the field
of play. Max-well (2004) sought an answer to this question through the administration of a rumination scale and short, self-report of aggression to over 300
U.K. university students and staff involved in a wide variety of sports, for example, rowing, hockey, tennis, and football. Consistent with the Bushman et al.
(2005) findings, anger rumination was significantly related to verbal aggression
toward rivals and officials in addition to physical aggression toward opponents.
Parenthetically, Maxwell notes levels of self-reported aggression were greater for
males than females. Also, athletes participating in team sports reported higher
levels of aggression than those playing individual sports.
BIOLOGICAL INFLUENCES
Sex Differences
There is a fairly widespread assumption that sports are more suited to males than
females. Indeed that may be true if we are referring to sports that favor physical
strength, stature, and a willingness to do violence. In such sports as football, ice

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hockey, rugby, and boxing, athletes compete against same-sex opponents. Yet,
in sports where brute force is not critical to success, women have performed
on a par with men. As examples, women have dominated long distance swimming during the past century and more recently scored victories in the grueling
Ididyrod dog sled race covering the 1,169-mile course from Anchorage to Nome,
Alaska.
In two other sports women have been shown to clearly surpass men in head
to head competition. Women excel at Grand Prix jumping earning more points
and prize money over the season than male riders (Ray & Grimes, 1993, p. 59).
The same is true of thoroughbred racing where despite a number of discriminatory barriers, female jockeys earn significantly larger purses than male jockeys.
Even more telling is the sex difference in sheer riding ability. In the words of the
researchers’ “holding everything else constant, women appear to be outperforming men at the finish line” (Grimes & Ray, 1995, p. 103). Where brawn is not
essential to success, women can likely hold their own in competition with men.
The dramatic and attention-getting nature of physical aggression often overshadows other forms of aggression that may be occurring at the same time,
for example, verbal and indirect forms. When we consider the question of sex
differences, the answer should be based on all forms of expressing aggression.
Interest in the general question of sex differences in aggression has remained
high throughout the past century. Reviews of the scientific literature have also
been periodically conducted. We begin with an influential review by Maccoby
and Jacklin. Their comprehensive review led them to the conclusion that “males
are more aggressive than females in all human societies for which evidence
is available” (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974, p. 242). They further noted that differences in aggression between the sexes had been reported with considerable
consistency back through the 1930s. Moreover, these sex differences in aggression were found in field studies and formal laboratory experiments conducted
in a large number of cultures using a variety of measures. Maccoby and Jacklin
argued for a biological basis for sex differences in aggression in addition to
recognizing influences stemming from social learning.
A more recent review of sex differences examined studies that used adults as
participants (Eagly & Steffen, 1986) in contrast to young children who were the
focus of investigations in the Maccoby and Jacklin review. The analysis yielded
results that showed men were, overall, again more aggressive than women,
although not all studies reviewed showed that difference. Where male participants were clearly more aggressive was in experiments where their aggressive
behavior could ostensibly harm their target, for example, electric shock.
In a final example, overall sex differences were again apparent in a literature
review by Björkqvist, Österman, and Lagerspetz (1994). Across all forms of
aggression, males were found to be more aggressive than females. However, if
comparisons are restricted to less assaultive forms, the gap between men and
women appears to shrink.
Social commentary and the results of some investigations raise interesting
questions regarding sex differences in aggression, or the lack thereof. For example, sociologist Murray Straus and his colleagues conducted a national survey of

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U.S. couples (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980). To paraphrase a major result,
the investigators were led to conclude that although wives physically beat their
husbands almost as frequently as husbands beat their wives; it is the husbands
who inflict the most damage.
Jeffrey Goldstein of Utrecht University has described his informal observations of childrens’ playground activities. While boys are generally more active
than girls, for example, chasing and pretend gunplay, girls stand mainly in small
groups chatting excitedly. He raises the distinct possibility that a portion of
their ladylike activity masks aggressive behavior intended to harm other girls.
Gossip, ostracism, manipulation, and character assassination represent forms of
indirect aggression (Björkqvist & Niemelá, 1992; Owens, Shute, & Slee, 2000).
Goldstein advances an insightful hypothesis: “What at first sight appears to be
aggressive boys and nonaggressive girls may, in deed and in consequence, be the
other way around” (Goldstein, 1998, p. 54).
Women as Troublemakers
Although their numbers appear small and researchers have paid them little heed,
young women in the company of male supporters and troublemakers have a clear
presence at football matches. What role if any, do females play in disorders? An
informal opinion survey of London area police officers (Trivizas, 1980) revealed
two ways in which the presence of females may indirectly incite males to antisocial behaviors. First, some males may engage in confrontational behaviors as a
means of showing off. The second opinion takes note of the fact that females are
frequently the target of indecent gestures in football crowds. However, Trivizas
(1980) correctly observes that the mere presence of females may also reduce
the aggression of males (p. 285). Studies have shown that individuals administer higher levels of shock to their opponent when a passive male is watching
than when a female is observing their choice of shock settings (Borden, 1975).
One explanation for this effect allows that females are generally less approving
of aggression than males. As a consequence, males may hold their aggressive
impulses in check in the presence of women.
As noted, the numbers of females in attendance at European football matches
appears small. Depending upon the region, the traditions of individual stadia,
for example, family oriented or otherwise, provision of comfortable seating, or
a history of female involvement in supporters’ organizations, their numbers can
range up to approximately 20%.
Coalter (1985) undertook an examination of crowd behavior at three Scottish
football grounds using a questionnaire approach that involved nearly 12,000
respondents. The presence of female spectators was markedly different at
the venues. The largest percentage of female supporters (14%) were found at
Pittodrie, a family-oriented organization and home to the Aberdeen Football
Club (FC). Matches at Ibrox Stadium and Easter Road, home of the Glasgow
Rangers FC and Hibernian FC, respectively, attracted approximately half the
numbers of females (7%) seen at Pittodrie. A frequently cited reason for their
low attendance at matches has been the lack of comfortable seating. Coalter is

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quick to point out that seating alone has a minimal influence on overall crowd
composition. However, he acknowledges that it may be a factor attracting female
supporters and less committed spectators. It is noteworthy that Pittrodrie was
all-seated and Ibrox was predominantly seated, whereas Easter Road provided
mostly terraced standing room from which to view matches. In sum, females are
in the stands in modest numbers while the factors influencing their decision to
attend remain somewhat obscure.
We see a closer involvement of a considerable number of females among
Italian “ultras.” These groups instigate disturbances in and around stadia and
have been distinguished from hooligans (see Roversi, 1991). Within the “ultras”
groups, 17.1% overall are female. Interestingly, Roversi makes mention of an
all-girl “ultras” group reflecting a tradition of female fans attending matches in
Bologna.
Italian football fans were also the subject of a second study that used a questionnaire approach in comparing registered Bologna supporters to those from
Naples (Zani & Kirchler, 1991). In this case, a distinction was made between
“fanatic” and “moderate” supporters. As the labels imply, “fanatics” watch all
matches, strongly identify with their team, and wear team-related apparel and
insignia. “Moderates” attend matches irregularly, have weaker ties to their club,
and have a looser organizational structure.
Again, females were represented in significant numbers. Among Bologna
supporters, females made up 20% of respondents, a preponderance of which
were declared “moderates.” Among the more strident Naples supporters, females
represented 8% of respondents, a preponderance being self-styled “fanatics”
(Zani & Kirchler, 1991, p. 10).
Notwithstanding the suggested “indirect” influence that females may exert
on male troublemakers (Trivizas, 1980), we turn to the question of their direct
involvement in disorderly behavior. Trivizas used an archival method, that is,
official arrest records, in comparing offenses occurring in football crowds
with a control group comprised of the same offenses committed in settings
unrelated to football over a 2-year period. Virtually all arrests for offenses
in British football crowds were made of males (99.2%). Arrests of teenage
females (less than 1%) were for offenses such as police obstruction, obstruction of the highway, and the use of insulting words, the latter charge accounting for over two-thirds of all arrests of males and females. Yet, in the control
sample, that is, in situations unrelated to football, females committed 12.7% of
the offense of “using threatening or abusive or insulting words or behaviour”
(Trivizas, 1980, p. 280). Females then, appear to play a less active role in
disorders when attending matches, leaving the largely verbal confrontational
behaviors to males.
Origins of Aggression
A long-standing question has centered on the origins of human aggression. Is
it behavior that is inherent in our nature, something that has been passed down
through inheritance over countless generations or does it have more immediate

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situational causes? During the early years of the last century, the prevailing
view held that behavior was learned. Few in North America believed that it has
its origins in hereditary processes. That view has since changed (see Renfrew,
1997, pp. 25–28).
Animal studies have clearly established that aggressiveness is inherited.
Finnish psychologist Kirsti Lagerspetz (1979) initially classified young rats as
either aggressive or nonaggressive on the basis of their observed behavior, for
example, ratings of attacks and biting. Subsequently, rats in each group were
interbred and the offspring rated on aggression. The selective breeding program
continued over successive generations with the aggressive group exhibiting
increases in aggression scores up until the tenth generation. Of course, the question remained as to whether the aggression of humans has a similar genetic
component.
The obvious ethical and methodological problems associated with selective
breeding programs with humans have been bypassed by means of twin studies. In
twin studies, comparisons are made between identical twin pairs (monozygotic)
and nonidentical (dizygotic) or fraternal twin pairs. Monozygotic twin pairs share
a common environment and in addition, have an identical hereditary make-up.
Zygotic twin pairs also share a common environment but are not identical in
terms of genetic make-up. If a trait has a genetic component it should be more
strongly in evidence between monozygotic than between zygotic twin pairs.
Rushton, Fulker, Neale, Nias, and Eysenck (1986) have presented a convincing case for aggression being a partially inherited trait in humans. In excess
of 500 pairs of monozygotic and dizygotic twins completed measures of five
personality traits. These included aggression, assertiveness, altruism, empathy,
and nurturance, all of which had much stronger correlations within the sample
of monozygotic twins. Aggression then would appear to have its origins in both
our genetic inheritance and the social circumstances in which we are raised.
The relative contribution of each remains a matter for conjecture.
Chromosomal Anomalies
The notion that a chromosomal abnormality is a causal factor in human aggression has maintained a persistent presence in the media and the minds of the
general public. Men normally possess 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs.
However, an estimated 1:550 men in the general population have an extra Y
chromosome. These XYYs were found to be disproportionately involved in antisocial behavior that included aggression (Price & Whatmore, 1967). Similarly,
XYY men were also found to be overrepresented in the populations of prison
and other security institutions where ratios ranged from 1:35 to 1:100 (CourtBrown, 1968). It was an easy step to conclude that the extra Y chromosome was
responsible for their aggression and/or incarceration. More recently, a critic has
taken more than a step, in fact a giant leap, suggesting that chromosomal abnormalities are responsible for violence among British soccer fans (Lehmann-Haupt,
1992). Interestingly, early on several criminal court cases involved men who
were defended on the basis of their possessing an extra Y chromosome.

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Support for an XYY-aggression association failed to materialize in a major
Danish study (Witkin et al., 1976). However, it did confirm earlier findings of
lower intelligence among XYY individuals. Other studies have additionally
found XYYs to be of somewhat greater stature than men without the extra Y
chromosome. One plausible explanation involving IQ and a tendency to tallness
seems to fit the data. Although it is unclear that XYY men are more aggressive than their normal counterparts, their overrepresentation among prison and
security institution populations may be the result of their greater visibility and
ineptitude. Quite possibly, their height makes them easier to spot and be singled
out for arrest. Otherwise, a lower intelligence may result in poorly planned or
bungled criminal activities. To this point, evidence of an association between
the XYY pattern and aggression has yet to be established.
Testosterone and Aggression
Over the past two decades, the notion of “testosterone-driven” aggression has
provided a quick and ready explanation for male violence. The general public
has unreservedly embraced the idea of a causal relationship between high levels
of testosterone and aggressive behavior in many areas of human endeavor,
including sports. However, the evidence for such a relationship is far from
conclusive. Investigations of nonhuman primates and numerous mammals have
yielded overall a strong (positive) correlation between aggressive behavior and
testosterone concentrations in the blood. However, comparable investigations
of human males have revealed the relationship to be tenuous, at best (Ferris,
2006, p. 166).
A variety of sports has served as the setting for examinations of the effects on
testosterone levels of competitive outcomes. One of the earliest studies involved
members of a nationally ranked U.S. college hockey team (Scaramella & Brown,
1978). Two team coaches provided highly reliable ratings of aspects of each
player’s aggressiveness, for example, competitiveness, frustration tolerance,
and body contact. Their principal finding was a significant positive relationship
between testosterone levels and the players’ typical response when threatened.
A subsequent series of studies in sports has provided a fairly consistent pattern of results. Klinesmith, Kasser, and McAndrew (2006) reported an increase
in testosterone among males assigned to an experimental condition in which
they played with a gun in contrast to others assigned to a condition where they
played with a child’s toy for 15 min. They also displayed more aggression toward
a confederate after having interacted with the gun. College wrestlers who won
their matches exhibited greater increases in testosterone than did losers (Elias,
1981). Similarly, tennis players (doubles) who won their matches showed higher
levels of testosterone whereas losing couples showed a decline. However, the
effect was found only in tennis matches that were won decisively. In addition,
winners also showed more positive mood and not surprisingly, losers became
less positive (Mazur & Lamb, 1980). Finally among judokans, their records
of past successes in competition were positively related to changing levels of
testosterone during a match (Salvador, Simon, Suay, & Llorens, 1987).

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The foregoing results were not supported in a subsequent investigation.
University tennis players were followed for their entire season. Suggestive trends
developed whereby testosterone levels increased for winners and decreased for
losing players (Booth, Shelley, Mazur, Tharp, & Kittok, 1989). However, as
intriguing as these trends might appear, they were not significant.
Chess players competing in city and regional tournaments also served
in a study relating testosterone to outcomes (Mazur, Booth, & Dabbs, 1992).
Testosterone levels were found to be higher in tournament winners than losers.
An important point to note regarding this study is that the results were found
among individuals engaged in an intense intellectual competition that did not
require physical exertion other than periodically punching the timer. A supplemental finding also showed competitors experienced an increase in testosterone
shortly before their matches. This prematch rise only occurred in the more
important regional tournaments among those players who advanced to ultimately
become winners.
Several studies have extended the question of testosterone levels in athletes
in examining the effects on those who merely observe a competition rather than
participate. Partisan fans who can be described as highly committed to their
respective teams served as participants in field studies (Bernhardt & Dabbs,
1998; Bernhardt, Dabbs, Fielden, & Lutter, 1998). University fraternity men
attended several basketball games at which they provided saliva samples before
and after each game. The same procedures were followed in a control condition
in which the men attended a fraternity chapter meeting (Bernhardt & Dabbs,
1998). Two predictions were made. First, highly committed fans would show
elevated testosterone in anticipation of a contest, and second, highly committed
fans would show increased testosterone when their team was victorious. The
researchers report support for the first hypothesis in further noting that fans
clearly committed to sport teams experience testosterone changes similar to
those reported for sport participants.
A further investigation in this series (Bernhardt et al., 1998) involved basketball fans from the University of Georgia and their traditional rival Georgia Tech.
The annual game was played at a neutral site with the University of Georgia
winning in the dying seconds of the contest. Saliva samples were taken immediately before and after the game. The results were clear. Fans of the winning team
underwent an increase in testosterone levels over the course of the game, whereas
those supporting the losing Georgia Tech team experienced a decrease.
Bernhardt et al. (1998) extended their investigation to include dedicated fans
observing the fate of their team in World Cup soccer play on television. The
final match featured Italy and Brazil with Brazil winning on a penalty kick
following a nil–nil tie and an overtime period. Male participants were recruited
at two Atlanta taverns. One group had strong ties to the Italian American community while the other group was associated with the Brazilian American
Society. As in the previous study, the exuberant Brazilian fans showed increased
levels of testosterone. As predicted the despondent Italian supporters exhibited
a significant drop in testosterone levels following the loss. The series of investigations reveals a consistent pattern with heightened levels of testosterone being

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associated with victory and lowered levels being associated with defeats. The
result appears fairly stable and extends across age levels, sports, cultures, and
means of viewing a contest, that is, in person or on television.
Finally, the case for testosterone being directly involved in aggression is
bolstered by Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle, and Schwarz (1996) studies of the Southern
culture of honor. As you will hopefully recall from Chapter 1, Southern and
Northern university males were bumped in a narrow passageway and insulted
by being called an “asshole.” Following the affront, Southerners exhibited a rise
in testosterone levels whereas those of Northerners remained relatively constant.
The researchers interpreted their results as reflecting the Southerners’ preparedness for aggression or dominant behavior.
Mehta and Josephs (2006) extended their investigation of the effects of
saliva testosterone (T) and cortisol (C) arising from competition to include
the participants’ decision to face the same opponent or instead choose a noncompetitive activity. Pairs of university men competed against each other in
a rigged puzzle test that ostensibly measured their “spatial reasoning speed.”
One of the males in each pairing was randomly chosen and given easier
puzzles to solve. Of course, he emerged the “winner,” his opponent, the “loser.”
Participants provided saliva samples before and shortly after the competition.
Immediately after the second sample was obtained, the men were presented
with a choice. Either they could face the same opponent in a new competition
involving a fresh set of puzzles or complete a questionnaire on their food and
music preferences.
The participants were divided into two groups, the top third who showed an
increase in T, the bottom third who showed a decrease in T. For winners, both
increases and decreases in T were unrelated to their choice of further competition against their earlier opponent versus completing the questionnaire. However,
for losers it was a different story. Those experiencing an increase in T chose
competition with their former adversary. Losers experiencing a decrease chose
the questionnaire option. Finally, the changes in C were unrelated to choice for
both winners and losers.
The relationship between hormones and behavior has been expanded by
the work of Bateup, Booth, Shirtcliff, and Granger (2002). Their use of young
women rugby players in their investigation of T and C under competitive conditions adds to a sparse literature on effects on females. In addition, their choice of
rugby dispels any doubts that the competition involves anything less than excessive physical aggression. Whereas women in the Edwards, Wetzel, and Wyner
(2006) study competed in soccer, rugby requires hard physical contact, tackling,
or kicking for 80 min with no time-outs. The women wear no protective equipment. Female boxing notwithstanding, “this is one of the rare natural social
ecologies in which women’s hormonal responses to highly physical aggressive
competition can be studied” (Bateup et al., 2002, p. 182).
Seventeen female rugby players (ages 18–22 years) served as participants
over the course of five university league matches. Saliva samples were collected
at three points in time, that is, 24 hr before, 20 min before the match began,
and immediately following each match. Analyses yielded an interesting pattern

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of results. During the 24-hr period when the women could only “anticipate”
the upcoming match, both T and C levels increased. Levels of T and C also
increased from pre- to postgame. However, whether the team won or lost their
match was unrelated to T changes. On the other hand, changes in C levels during
the game were negatively related to losing.
A final study rounds out the topic of hormonal influences in competitive
settings (Edwards et al., 2006). The researchers’ chose soccer as their competitive sport in an intercollegiate varsity program that included men’s and
women’s teams. Saliva samples were obtained before and after matches. The
women played two matches: one, a victory; the other, a defeat. The men played
only one match, a victory. Among the findings, both men and women experienced increased levels of T and C during their matches. In victory or defeat, the
increases in women’s T and C were highly similar.
Throughout this section, I have emphasized studies conducted in sports at the
expense of those in nonsport settings, for example, prison populations. Overall
the nonsport studies reveal more of a mix of results, some predicted differences
finding support, others, not. Furthermore, interpretations of the evidence are
sometimes problematic (Edwards, 2006). For example, a testosterone–aggression link may be bidirectional. That is, testosterone may lead to an increase in
aggressive behavior. Equally likely, aggressive behavior may lead to an increase
in testosterone. Also, it is not entirely clear that the investigative contexts
involved sports that are truly aggressive (see Chapter 1, Definitions). Boxing
and other combative sports would have been a better choice than sports such as
tennis or wrestling. While the latter two sports involve assertive, vigorous, and
competitive behaviors, they do not necessarily involve physical aggression to the
same extent.
It would be a fair summary to conclude that the evidence from all quarters
in support of a testosterone-aggression link is weak. As one authoritative source
suggests “The majority of evidence indicates that in the general population
differences in aggressiveness reflect the level of testosterone only to a limited
extent, if at all.” (italics added; Benton, 1992, p. 46). A second authoritative
opinion concludes, “The relationship between testosterone and aggression in
human males is far less robust than that shown in other mammalian species. In
many cases the data are equivocal” (Ferris, 2006, p. 166).
Fist Fights: A Biological Parallel
Most of us have witnessed the spectacle of two boys fighting, perhaps after
school, on a playground or at a party. Other boys may be watching, possibly
even girls, as they swing wildly at each other. The dust finally settles and the
two battle-weary combatants go their separate ways to lick their wounds.
A young aggression theorist might be attracted to this age-old phenomenon as
a topic deserving of investigation. Numerous questions arise in his mind. What
kinds of events preceded or triggered the altercation? What purpose(s) does a
fight serve? In the animal world, intraspecies fights between males may serve to

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establish territory or gain access to a food supply. Unlikely in the present example!
More likely, fighting achieves a certain status or establishes a dominance hierarchy. In addition, our theorist may be interested in the effect of an audience on
the fighters or what onlookers themselves learn from their observations.
The thoughts of our theorist now turn to the problem of how to design an
experiment that can provide empirical data to answer his many questions. Upon
reflection, he quickly realizes that ethical and practical considerations pretty
much limit him to surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. His initial idea of a
controlled experiment seems pretty much out of the question.
As many of my readers will know, behavioral scientists working with lower
animals have investigated fighting between males under controlled experimental
conditions. Their efforts have yielded data of the highest quality and, depending
on one’s willingness to generalize the findings to human interactions, provided
insights into questions surrounding our two boys in the schoolyard. Regarding
generalizing, the watchword should be “caution.”
Let me return to the opening paragraph (above) and describe a set of findings
related to boys squaring off against each other. At the outset, one term in particular needs clarification, that is, eavesdropping. In using fish as a research model,
it can refer to the ability of a bystander to extract information from observing
two conspecifics interacting with each other (McGregor & Peake, 2000).
The typical lab apparatus consists of specially designed tanks in which the
experimenter can manipulate the ability to observe aggressive encounters by
way of clear, one-way mirror or opaque partitions. A “contest arena” contains
two male fighting fish while an “observation arena” is adjacent and contains a
bystander and a separated control fish.
In an investigation of communication networks, Earley, Tinsley, and Dugatkin
(2003) used green swordtail fish (Xiphophorus helleri) in their examination of
the effects of previewing a conspecific they will later fight. Initially, two separated males had the opportunity to visually assess each other, for example, size,
sword length, before being introduced into the same tank.
The fight that followed was significantly shorter than when only one or neither
fish had advance knowledge of his opponent. Among other findings, aggression
against a larger fish occurred more frequently but only after previewing their
opponent. This is taken as evidence that swordtails can gain information on
body size from observing a single conspecific. In addition, when a disadvantage
to fighting is observed, tactics are adopted that will increase their probability of
victory, for example, a rapid escalation of attack.
A further question of interest is whether observing fights produces changes in
the observer’s aggression in other settings and with other conspecifics? Using the
paradigm above, those bystanders able to watch encounters were subsequently
set against conspecifics not previously seen fighting. The results indicated that
general changes in aggressive behavior do not occur after observing a fight
(Earley, Druen, & Dugatkin, 2005). That is, there was no change in the tendency
of bystanders to initiate attacks against previously unseen conspecifics nor was
their tendency to escalate or even win contests changed.

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Having looked at the effects on onlookers of witnessing a fight, we turn to
an examination of the response of animals to the presence of an audience
(Dzieweczynski, Earley, Green, & Rowland, 2005). The audience itself provided
two contexts in which male, Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) viewed the
combatants. The audience was comprised of either all-male or all-female conspecifics or, there was either one nest present, two nests, or no nest (control).
The analysis yielded a complex pattern of findings, that is, a statistical
interaction. More aggression was displayed by males when in the presence of
a male audience and only one male had a nest than when a female or no audience was present. More aggression was also displayed by males when only one
male had a nest and a male audience was present than in the female audience and
no audience conditions. Finally, there was less aggression between males when
one male had a nest or neither had a nest. The combination of the variables of
nest and audience was necessary to account for the results. Neither alone was
sufficient.
How much has our theorist gained in understanding why boys do battle and
others gather around to watch? For some the pattern of findings is a reflection
of processes at work in our schoolyard example; for others, that reflection is
indeed faint.
Finger Length Ratio
We rely on a large number of nonverbal cues in assessing the mood, character,
or intentions of someone we are meeting for the first time. These cues may
be subliminal or overt and provide us with important information about that
person. Cues, for example, body language, pupil dilation, gait, touching, and the
information we gain from them, shape our initial impressions and often determine the course of our future interactions with that person.
It appears that another revealing source of personal information is at hand for
our use, specifically our right hands. The reference here is to the finger length
ratio, that is, the ratio between the second digit (index finger) and fourth digit
(ring finger). A man’s ring finger is generally longer than his index finger, that
is, a low digit ratio, whereas for women, they are roughly of the same length,
that is, a high digit ratio.
The digit ratio is determined late in the first trimester of fetal development by
exposure to sex hormones. It is thought that during this critical time of sexual
differentiation higher levels of testosterone facilitate growth of the ring finger
whereas growth of the index finger is facilitated by estrogen (Manning, 2002a).
The digit ratio of males and females has been linked, in some cases tentatively, with a number of personal characteristics. As examples, males with
low digit ratios are more fertile, are more assertive and aggressive, and possess
higher aptitudes for music and sports. Similar to males, females with low digit
ratios tend also to be more assertive and aggressive.
A number of studies have provided strong evidence of a relationship between
digit ratio and both aptitude and excelling in sports. Slalom skiers with low digit
ratios recorded faster times than a matched control group (Manning, 2002b).

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Turning to professional footballers, a comparison of males with high digit ratios
made with those having low ratios revealed sharp differences in attainment.
First team squads had lower ratios than reserve players as did men who had
represented their country in international play compared with those without
international experience (Manning & Taylor, 2001).
In addition to excelling in physically demanding sports, recent evidence
further suggests that finger length ratio is related to physical aggression (Bailey
& Hurd, 2005). These researchers administered the four subscales of the Buss
and Perry (1992) AQ to 298 introductory psychology students. Scans were
made of the participants’ hands and measurements taken of the index and
ring fingers. The findings confirmed the predicted association between finger
digit ratio and physical aggression in males, although there was no evidence
of such a relationship among the female sample. The remaining subscales of
anger, hostility, and verbal aggression were unrelated to finger digit ratio for
both sexes. The researchers had hoped to collect aggressive penalty data from
the playing records of university hockey players to further confirm their results
using a behavioral criterion of interpersonal aggression (cf. Bushman & Wells,
1998). Unfortunately, scheduling difficulties forestalled the project (P. L. Hurd,
personal communication, December 13, 2005).

SUMMARY
In briefly summarizing this chapter, several points bear repeating. As with many
of the concepts in the social sciences, for example, leadership or competition,
there is rarely agreement on a satisfactory definition. Personality is no exception.
The measurement of traits was emphasized insofar as the psychometric properties of a measure, for example, validity or reliability, are fundamentally important in the design and interpretation of a personality study. In addition, a half
dozen personality models that feature aggression as a central trait were briefly
reviewed. The identificatory process was examined and extended to situations in
which fans and others used aggression to affect competitive outcomes. Also, sex
differences in aggression were examined along with extended coverage of the
role of testosterone. The chapter concluded with a summary of a new marker for
physical aggression, that is, the finger digit ratio.

Suggested Readings
Hare, R. D. (1993). Without conscience: The disturbing world of the psychopaths among
us. New York: Pocket Books.
An estimated 2 million psychopaths are living among us in North America. Many
can be found in prisons; others use their charming ways and manipulative skills to
skirt the law. These are dangerous people who live in our neighborhoods and cause
heartbreak, fi nancial ruin, and shattered lives for those with whom they become
involved.

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Aggression in the Sports World

Manning, J. T. (2002). Digit ratio: A pointer to fertility, behavior and health. NJ: Rutgers
University Press.
Press the palm of your right hand down on a tabletop. Look down. Do you have a
long ring finger and a shorter index finger? If so, you have a low digit ratio. In general,
men with low finger length ratios are more aggressive and excel at sports, for example,
football or skiing. This book details an extensive body of research findings from this
emerging topic of inquiry.
Zuckerman, M. (2005). Psychobiology of personality (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
This book is ideally suited for those students of personality interested in taking a
broad approach to the topic. The volume presents an overview that includes extended
coverage of topics such as psychobiological methods, trait structure, psychoticism,
impulsivity, sensation seeking, and aggression/hostility. This carefully researched book
is highly recommended to the more advanced student of personality.

3
Environmental and Situational
Influences

ENVIRONMENTAL DETERMINANTS
Introduction
Consider the plight of an unfortunate baseball fan who finds himself in searing
afternoon heat, sandwiched between two huge sweating men, both of whom
reek of body odor. The capacity crowd is roaring its approval for well-executed
plays by the locals, while screaming abuse at the visitors at every opportunity.
Under these adverse conditions, that is, excessive noise, oppressive temperatures,
noxious odors, and crowding, should we be surprised if the quality of moods
and interpersonal relations worsened among the spectators? To be sure, these
and other environmental conditions can act individually or in any number of
combinations to affect spectators and others in attendance, that is, officials and
athletes. Each factor will be individually examined principally with regard to its
possible influence on aggression.
The latter half of this chapter will examine a second set of external influences
beginning with coverage of a sample of drugs, some legal, some not, accompanied by representative research findings attesting to the effects of each on human
aggression. Included in the sample are alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana,
diazepam, and steroids.
What are the effects on people’s aggression when they are placed in competitive situations? Notwithstanding its widespread popularity, does competition
bring out the best in people? Equally controversial is the “weapons effect,” the
hypothesis that the mere presence of a weapon, for example, a gun, is sufficient
to elicit aggression from those in the immediate vicinity. Finally, the chapter
concludes with sections on the geography of sports aggression, that is, the where
and why of aggressive incidents.
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Crowding
The hapless fan we placed in the most unlikely of circumstances (above) is
undoubtedly feeling the effects of being squashed as he is between two large
men. Notwithstanding the effects of several additional factors weighing on his
mood, crowding per se and the inevitable intrusion on his personal space can
result in mood-altering changes for our fan. A similar scenario has been experienced at one time or another by nearly all of us. Finding ourselves leaving a
stadium in a slow-moving, densely packed crowd can produce stress or, at the
least, apprehension.
At this point, note should be taken of a basic distinction between crowding
and density. Crowding is a subjective feeling of unease arising from being physically restricted. The discomfort derives from a perception that there are just too
many people in the immediate area. Density simply refers to the concentration
of people within a defined space. While this section highlights the relationships
between aggression and crowding/density, note should be taken of the relative
absence of aggression in a number of densely populated countries. The former
British colony of Hong Kong and the Netherlands are two prime examples. Both
cope well with their crowded circumstances at the same time enjoying low rates
of social violence.
However, crowding can lead to conflict in just about any circumstance. In
writing of the role of mountaineers in advertising the unique beauty of Nepal,
Lindsay Barrett (1993) observes that “things have gotten a little out of control.
On a recent ascent of Everest, so many different teams converged on the summit
[italics added] that a fight broke out at 8,848m. The government has begun to
organise matters so that such debacles cannot happen again” (p. 27).
Two early investigations of crowding pointed up some of the complexities
for one to consider before assuming a direct crowding-aggression relationship
(Freedman, Levy, Buchanan, & Price, 1972; Marshall & Heslin, 1975). In the
former study, sex differences came to the fore insofar as women experienced
crowding in positive terms. They tended to see such situations as rich social
occasions. However, men reacted to crowding quite differently. They felt personally threatened when crowded together and found the experience to be aversive.
Crowding appeared to sow the seeds of distrust with hostility evident between
some of the male participants. Freedman et al. (1972) attributed their results
to the differing socialization processes between males and females, that is, the
creation of different interpretations and expectations stemming from the close
presence of others.
A second study appeared to contradict the Freedman et al. findings (Marshall &
Heslin, 1975). Contrary to the foregoing results, Marshall and Heslin reported
that women working together liked each other less under crowded conditions.
Men came to like each other more when crowded! A critical difference in design
between the two studies was the greater time required for the experimental task,
one-and-a-half hours in the Marshall and Heslin investigation. They propose
that over time men’s initial hostility gives way to the development of a team

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75

spirit and a striving to attain the task goals. They further reason that at the
outset women responded positively to the intimacy of being crowded. However,
given the structure of an extended time frame for the task, feelings of warmth
and intimacy are soon relinquished and instead they “focus on leadership and
achievement.” Feelings of ambivalence toward their own success and achievement
makes “the close proximity uncomfortable for them” (p. 958).
The potential for interpersonal conflict arising from crowded conditions can
also be viewed from the personal space model. Personal space has been defined
as “the area individual humans actively maintain around themselves into which
others cannot intrude without arousing discomfort” (Hayduk, 1978, p. 118). Also,
the greater the incursion into one’s personal space the greater the amount of
discomfort they experience (Hayduk, 1981). These unwelcome intrusions may in
some circumstances serve as a strong provocation (Kinzel, 1970).
Note should be taken of two additional points in generalizing the personal
space model to events in a crowded section of the bleachers. That is, violent
individuals maintain a larger personal space than do peaceable spectators. They
and others requiring greater interpersonal distance also react more strongly to
intrusions (Hayduk, 1981). It follows that the reaction to crowding would be
strongest among particular spectators, that is, those who are dispositionally
assaultive.
Several points regarding crowding as a factor associated with disorders at
sports events should be noted. First, peoples of different nations and cultures
require different distances between themselves and others with whom they interact. Moreover, their tolerance for being jam packed with others in a dense crowd
will vary in a similar fashion (Hall, 1966). Against this background, Mann
(1989) has suggested that the high rates of entry panics and crowd violence seen
in Latin America can be partially attributed to the tolerance of fans for high
levels of crowd density. In his view, a breakdown in order is more likely to result
when interpersonal distances between spectators are minimal.
Expert opinion has historically favored the view that crowding is a major
factor favoring the facilitation of outbursts of spectator violence. Mason (1980)
identified 17 incidents involving crowd disorders at English football matches
occurring over a half century of play before 1915. Terrace overcrowding was cited
as the second leading cause of crowd disturbances just behind anger at referees’
calls and ahead of unpopular decisions taken by football club officials.
The second point to note is that on those occasions when altercations erupt
among crowded spectators, it is unlikely that crowding is solely responsible.
More likely, several factors in addition to crowding have combined to facilitate the outburst. For example, British researchers have long recognized terrace
crowding at football matches as a likely contributing factor in crowd disorders.
Yet, a large number of other less obvious factors could also be involved on any
single occasion. These might include the presence of individuals in the crowd
who are bent on causing trouble, friction between rival supporters, controversial
calls by officials, and weather-related factors. We turn now to consider one such
weather factor.

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Temperature
I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And, if we meet, we shall not ‘scape a brawl;
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The notion that heat is conducive to interpersonal violence is not a new or
even a recent invention. Throughout the decade of the 1960s and 1970s, a number
of major U.S. cities was stricken with large-scale riots. The media and others
took note of the fact that riots seemed to be concentrated during the hottest days
of summer, an observation that gave rise to a “long hot summer” hypothesis.
Consequently, a variety of investigations were undertaken with a view to establishing the merits of the hypothesis. Examples of these investigations include the
effects of high temperatures on altruism and interpersonal relations. Perhaps not
surprisingly, prosocial behavior and interpersonal attraction have been shown to
decrease under extremely hot conditions (Bell, Fisher, Baum, & Green, 1990). A
field study conducted in the searing heat of a Phoenix, Arizona, summer showed
that drivers without air-conditioning units were more likely to honk when they
found themselves stuck behind a stalled car (Kenrick & MacFarlane, 1986).
The availability of official U.S. crime and weather records facilitated a number of investigations of the relationships between temperature and social indices of interpersonal violence. Consider a field study by Craig Anderson (1987).
Archival sources provided data on violent and nonviolent crime over a 10-year
period. Violent crimes included murder, rape, and assault, whereas relatively
nonviolent crimes were robbery, burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft.
The calendar year was divided into quarters that provide a fairly good match to
the seasons, that is, January–March, April–June, July–September, and October–
December. Anderson’s predictions were that violent and even nonviolent crimes
would be greatest in the second and third quarters when virtually all of the
hottest days occur. The results were conclusive. The relationships between temperature and criminal activity was stronger for violent than for nonviolent crime.
Also, violent crimes were more common during the hotter years in addition to
occurring with greater frequency in the second and third quarters.
Of course, it can be argued that other weather factors accompany increases
in temperature, for example, humidity, wind, and barometric pressure (Rotton &
Frey, 1985). Any one or a combination of these factors could be responsible for
social violence. Further, local air-conditioned bars may attract record numbers
of people anxious to escape from a heat wave. Thus, one could plausibly argue
that alcohol and/or mingling with bar patrons may account for much of the
increase in violent crimes.
The case for a causal relationship between temperature and interpersonal
aggression was considerably strengthened by a series of lab experiments (e.g.,
Baron & Bell, 1976). However, the relationship was generally best described
as curvilinear rather than linear (Bell, 1992; see also Anderson & DeNeve,
1992). That is, aggression increases as temperatures rise, but only to a point. At

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77

exceedingly high levels (above 100˚F), aggression takes a downward turn. In the
upper range of temperatures the relationship of temperature to aggression is best
described by an inverted-U curve.
Baron and Richardson (1994) make note of several other factors in accounting for the curvilinearity at very hot temperatures, factors that influence people
under these extreme conditions, for example, stress, fatigue, anxiety, and odors.
These additional factors are combined along with heat and labeled negative
affect. Up to a point, aggression is the dominant response in a response hierarchy that determines our reaction to high temperatures. As temperatures soar to
oppressive levels, aggression is replaced at the top of the individual’s response
hierarchy by a need to escape what is clearly a thoroughly aversive situation.
Hence, aggression is no longer the dominant response and is seen to take a
downward turn when temperatures soar above 100°F (40°C). With evidence
available supporting both the linear (e.g., Carlsmith & Anderson, 1979) and curvilinear models, a resolution of these two conflicting views might best be left to
ongoing research.
Many sports are played in exceedingly hot conditions. Fans and athletes in
many countries are exposed to temperatures topping 100 ˚F. Interpersonal aggression by fans in the stands or around the stadium would predictably be a more
common occurrence on such days. But what about the athletes? Would they not
also be more aggressive on very hot days? An archival study conducted in major
league baseball allows us to respond, “yes” (Reifman, Larrick, & Fein, 1991).
The researchers chose the number of batters hit by errant pitches (HBP) as
their measure of aggression. The HBP measure was tallied from the records of a
major Texas league for all games played over three seasons, a total of 826 contests. Records of the U.S. national weather office provided the temperatures at
game time. As predicted, the number of batters hit in games steadily increased
as temperatures rose to very high levels. A number of rival explanations such as
pitcher wildness due to fatigue or sweaty palms were ruled out by means of supplemental analyses. Lastly, a footnote may be provided to the linear–curvilinear
debate. Within the range of game time temperatures that rarely exceeded 100°F,
the relationship was linear.
Noise: Getting an Earful
Those of us who have lived near a major airport know well the stress created
by the arrival and departure of large aircraft. While attending graduate school,
I lived 4 months under a flight path of the Ronald Reagan Washington National
Airport. Our Cherrydale, Virginia apartment was shaken with every jet passing
overhead, the picture on our television went wonky, dishes rattled, our toddler
cried, and all conversation came to a halt. Moreover, the pattern of arrivals and
departures seemed to be random and hence unpredictable.
My experience is not uncommon, especially for people living in urban settings, nor are the effects of such exposure trivial. Whether the noise comes from
construction sites, elevated trains, or jetliners, the quality of our interactions with
others may as a consequence suffer. Early on, Glass and Singer (1972) suggested

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that “unpredictable and uncontrollable noise should affect aggressiveness, exploitive
behavior, liking for others, and general irritability in interpersonal relations”
(p. 159).
Noise is an integral part of the entertainment package at most spectator sports.
Whether it is the roar of 33 supercharged engines on the starting grid of the
Indianapolis 500, the final out in baseball’s world series, a Gold Cup hydrofoil race, or a game-winning touchdown in the dying seconds of a football
Superbowl, spectators and athletes alike are often exposed to extremely high,
sometimes prolonged, levels of noise. Even our attendance at a local high school
basketball game exposes us to a degree of risk from excessively loud noise. The
shouting of high school cheerleaders giving it their all registers 101 decibels,
“louder than the sound of a New York subway train, as heard from the platform”
(Hardy & Latané, 1988, p. 111).
The effects of noise in producing diverse symptoms are well documented
(e.g., Pennebaker, Burnam, Schaeffer, & Harper, 1977). However, we will narrow
our focus to the theme of this section, starting with a simple noise-aggression
experiment by Knipmeyer and Prestholdt (cited in O’Neal & McDonald, 1976).
Participants were required to throw foam rubber balls at what they were told was
a “passive resister” who was in fact a stooge or confederate of the experimenters. Same-sexed groups of three men and women threw balls at the confederate
who was of the same sex for 3-min periods. All sessions were videotaped and
provided the basis for judges to tally the number of balls thrown by each subject
in addition to rating their aggressiveness. During each experimental trial audio
speakers introduced an 88 dB white noise, a boxing crowd noise of about the
same loudness, or no noise.
The results were clear. Irrespective of the kind of noise surrounding their
task, that is, white noise or boxing crowd, males and females threw more balls at
the confederate than when the audio speaker was turned off. Finally, the judges’
ratings of participants’ aggressiveness showed the same pattern of results, being
higher in the two noise conditions of the experiment.
One of the earliest investigations on the topic of noise examined the possibility that noise-induced arousal would lead to an increase in aggression (Geen &
O’Neal, 1969). Unlike later studies, participants were not first angered as part
of the experimental protocol. Participants watched either a film clip of a brutal
boxing match or a clip of equal length featuring nonaggressive sports action.
At this point, subjects were asked to evaluate a written solution to a human
relations problem apparently written by a subject in a nearby experiment. They
were to communicate their evaluation to the confederate by means of electric
shocks, that is, up to 10 shocks with intensities ranging from 1 to 10. Subjects
wore earphones ostensibly to mask any noisy distractions. Half of the subjects
heard a moderately loud white noise of 60 dB; the other half heard nothing. The
introduction of noise increased only the aggression of subjects who had earlier
seen the boxing film. Presumably, the effects of noise after witnessing a spirited
boxing match are heightened by the aggressive cues provided in the film.
Further investigations have shown the importance of anger and controllability
in determining people’s aggressiveness in response to loud noise. Participants

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79

in the first study (Donnerstein & Wilson, 1976) were initially angered by a
confederate who evaluated their essay by means of administering shock within
the teacher–learner paradigm, using an aggression machine (Buss, 1961). Two
levels of white noise, 65 dB and 95 dB, were delivered by means of a headset.
The noise had no effect on nonangered participants. However, individuals who
were previously angered displayed high levels of aggression in the intense noise
condition of the experiment. In the second part of the investigation, participants were given the option of terminating the noise if they chose; others were
not given that option. Again, participants were either angered or not angered.
Participants received bursts of white noise (95 dB) at unpredictable intervals
while engaged in a task. Angered participants not exposed to noise did not
differ from those exposed to very loud noise yet having the ability to control
it. Those exposed to loud noise without the ability to terminate the bursts of
noise displayed significantly higher levels of aggression, that is, they delivered
stronger shocks to the confederate. Similar findings have been reported by
Geen and McCown (1984). Noise had no appreciable effect on the aggression
of unprovoked participants. Those who were provoked but had the option of
controlling the noise were more aggressive than participants without the option
to terminate the noise. Those without the option to terminate the noise, that is,
uncontrolled, delivered significantly higher levels of shock than the other two
groups of provoked participants.
A critical feature of the designs sketched above is the fact of participants
being angered or provoked before being exposed to loud noise. The provocation
itself leads to a heightened state of physiological arousal, a condition generally
believed to facilitate the expression of aggression (Baron & Richardson, 1994).
The effects of extreme noise levels are considerably stronger when people are
already angry. Consider the example of 20,000 screaming baseball fans infuriated by the umpire’s controversial call during the ninth inning of a championship
game. In the loud din of protest, violence becomes a distinct possibility.
Parallels with my short stay in Cherrydale are evident. Stress notwithstanding,
the schedule of arrivals and departures were unknown to us and, hence, unpredictable, and of course, the noise of the planes was beyond our ability to control.
In our case, Cherrydale was such an idyllic DC suburb that the noise proved to
be only a series of momentary distractions.
Color
Do colors in some way influence the level of aggression in sports or is the idea
just too far-fetched? Seemingly color plays a central role in athletic performance
and aggression. Take red as an example. Red coloration has been associated
with male dominance and increased testosterone levels in a variety of animals.
A question arising from this literature prompted Hill and Barton (2005) to ask
whether red would favor combatants in aggressive sports. Athletes competing in
four combatant sports during the 2004 Olympic Games (Athens) were randomly
assigned to either of two conditions, that is, a red outfit or a blue outfit. The sports
were boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling.

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The results were straightforward. Across all four competitions, athletes wearing
red won more bouts than those wearing blue outfits. The same result was found
across the weight divisions in each of the sports. A further analysis assessed
won/lost differences as a function of how close the fighters were in sheer athletic
ability. It was only when the two fighters were evenly matched that a difference
arose favoring the athlete wearing red.
Hill and Barton extended their investigation of color to include team sports.
The performance of five teams competing in the Euro 2004 international soccer
tournament wearing red shirts were compared with their performance in matches
wearing some other color (predominantly, white). Once again, teams performed
better, that is, goal scoring, wearing red than when their shirt was of a different
color.
The study was quickly followed by a systematic replication intended to determine if the color red had “special” properties. If so, then other colors would
not yield results similar to those above (Rowe, Harris, & Roberts, 2005). The
sport of judo was chosen from the Athens Olympics, a competition in which
athletes were randomly assigned blue or white outfits. The analysis revealed a
significant winning margin by athletes wearing blue outfits, and again, the difference was most pronounced when the contestant pairs were clearly matched
in ability. Having produced the winning edge with blue and white outfits, Rowe
et al. (2005) concluded “there is nothing inherently special about red” (p. 293).
At this early stage, explanations for the effect are highly speculative. Barton
and Hill (2005) proposed an evolutionary view wherein color is believed to produce changes in the mood, emotions, and aggression of humans. Among many
nonhuman species color serves as a means of signaling during competitive interactions. Moreover, they make note of the fact that attaching an artificial red
stimulus to some nonhuman species can increase a male’s dominance.
Given their results, Rowe et al. (2005) have instead adopted the view that
“outfit colour affects opponent visibility, which is crucial for avoidance and
interception, and for anticipating behavior” (p. E10). Their (untested) visibility
hypothesis suggests the white outfit is perceived as brighter and provides a
greater contrast with its background. Consequently, the athlete wearing blue has
a visual advantage in being better able to anticipate his opponent’s moves.
Other colors in other sports have also been linked to aggression. We know
for example, that in the Western world black has represented dark forces, evil,
and death (for the Chinese, white serves this function). This pervasive belief in
Western societies that black is the color of sinister intentions prompted researchers to investigate whether people wearing black are seen by others as aggressive.
Taking it a step further, are those in black attire more “black-hearted” and do
they actually behave more aggressively than others?
In addressing the first question, researchers recruited naive subjects with virtually no knowledge of football or ice hockey. National Football League (NFL)
and National Hockey League (NHL) uniforms were rated on their malevolent
qualities, for example, bad, mean, and aggressive. Uniforms that were predominantly black from both the NFL and NHL were perceived to be more sinister
than uniforms of generally lighter colors (Frank & Gilovich, 1988).

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An answer to the second and more important question was found in the NFL
and NHL records for all seasons dating back to 1970. In both leagues, aggressive penalties served as the measure of team aggression. Teams wearing dark
uniforms were penalized for greater yardage and spent more time in the penalty
box than teams attired in lighter colors.
Those of my readers who follow football and hockey have no doubt thought
of an explanation for the results. Could it simply be that referees judge the
play of defensive players as more aggressive when they wear black uniforms?
Knowledgeable college students and experienced referees were recruited in a
test of this possibility. A staged video featuring defensive play was rated by both
groups of participants. In each case the play was rated as more aggressive and
somewhat dirtier when the team wore black rather than white uniforms. The
key finding was that the referees call a tighter game, that is, they awarded more
penalties to the team in the black version.
Perhaps the simple act of putting on a black uniform in some way prompts
an athlete to seek out more aggressive situations. This appears to be the case.
Participants were given black or white uniforms—ostensibly to create team
cohesion—and then given a choice of activities in which to compete. Teams
wearing black more often chose aggressive contests, for example, chicken fights
and dart gun contest.
To summarize, teams wearing black uniforms are awarded an excess of
aggressive penalties for two reasons. They seek out opportunities for acts of
aggression, and in addition, referees more strictly enforce the rules of play. As a
footnote, teams wearing black fared no better in the win column over the course
of the season.
The Frank and Gilovich (1988) findings, however, have not gone unchallenged. A study by Mills and French (1996) sought to replicate the earlier finding of a significant relationship between uniform color and aggressive penalties
in the NFL and NHL. In testing their hypothesis, they drew upon the official
NHL records of play by the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota/Dallas Stars.
An analysis was based upon records of aggressive penalties 1, 2, and 3 years
before a switch in uniforms from multicolored jerseys, for example, white,
yellow, and purple, to predominantly black. In their article, Mills and French
simply announce in the “Results” section, “There was no statistical significance
to support the relationship between the color of jersey worn and an increase in
the number of infractions (i.e., penalty minutes) in the NHL” (p. 57). No further
tabled or descriptive details are provided to allow a close inspection of their
data. For this reason alone, I would regard the challenge as weak.
We turn now to an odd study that touches sport only briefly. It involves
several anecdotal bits of evidence supporting the notion that a particular hue of
pink (Baker–Miller Pink) dramatically reduces the aggressive behavior of those
exposed to the color. Violent offenders placed in a cell painted pink are suddenly
calmed as are unruly schoolchildren when taught in a pink classroom. While
these stories invite skepticism, they nonetheless capture the public’s imagination.
I have watched them appear in the media and then disappear only to resurface
again over the past 25 plus years. Most recently, my interest was piqued when

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a story surfaced describing the controversy swirling around planned renovations
to the locker room at the University of Iowa football stadium. At the instigation
of longtime Jayhawks coach, Hayden Fry, visiting teams were assigned a dressing room painted “bubble gum pink” (http://akvis.com/en/articles/color-andbody/drunk-tank-pink.php). Seemingly sapped of their strength and lacking the
will to fight, they would be easy picking for the home team. Despite opposition
based mainly on grounds of political correctness, the visitors’ locker room has
a fresh coat of pink paint.
Several studies have been undertaken by the originator of the pink-calming
hypothesis (Schauss, 1979) as well as other investigators (e.g., Profusek &
Rainey, 1987). Such evidence as exists is largely anecdotal and makes at best, an
extremely weak case. Myths abound in the sports world (Russell, 2001) and like
superstitions, are difficult to dispel. In the case of the calming effects presumed
to derive from exposure to pink paint, it would seem prudent to wait for more
convincing evidence of its validity.
Lunar Influences
Deep-seated beliefs that the moon exerts an influence on human behaviors are to
be found in Shakespeare, the Bible, legal writings, folklore, and music. Close to
two-thirds of North Americans see at least some events as attributable to lunar
influence (Russell & Dua, 1983). A list of such events includes births, deaths,
pyromania, mental illness, epilepsy, accidents, suicide, homicide, interpersonal
aggression, and, of course, lycanthrophy (werewolves). However, the present
focus is on aggression in sports and the extent to which it is conceivably associated with lunar cycles.
The records of over 500 Western Hockey League games covering over two
seasons of play provided the basic data in two studies (Russell & de Graaf,
1985; Russell & Dua, 1983). The measure of interpersonal aggression was the
total minutes in penalties awarded in each game for aggressive infractions, for
example, fighting, slashing, and boarding. The games were classified into four
72-hr periods centered on the time of each phase of the moon, that is, new
moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter. A second analysis compared
games played during the 72-hr periods centered on apogee (moon is furthest
from Earth) with those played during equivalent periods of perigee (moon closest
to Earth). In analyses involving both the synodic (four moon phases) and anomalistic (apogee–perigee) cycles, there was not a hint of associations between lunar
phase and player aggression (see Rotton & Kelly, 1985 for a review of other
lunar hypotheses).
Parenthetically, those who tenaciously cling to lunar beliefs typically draw
our attention to the gravitational pull of the full moon in causing ocean tides.
This strong gravitational force is seen to exert similar effects on our body’s
water content. For example, during the full moon phase of the synodic cycle, the
water content of each of our zillion or so cells is presumed to be sent sloshing
this way and that prompting us to set fires, commit murder, or start fights.

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A few straightforward calculations reveal the fallacy in this line of reasoning.
The desk on which I am writing this book is exerting a gravitational pull on my
body some 40,000 times greater than that exerted by a full moon. What is the reason for this? My desk is at arms length, whereas the moon is 385,000 kilometers
distant. While I am frequently driven to despair at my desk, I am neither gripped
by homicidal impulses nor gripped by an uncontrollable urge to fight someone.
Under the Cover of Darkness
In many of our social settings, lights are purposely dimmed to create a more
relaxed environment in which inhibitions are lowered. The prevailing view
holds that soft lights (and music) encourage the timid among us to be more
sociable, whether in a bar, at a party, or in the bedroom. However, insofar as
dim illumination acts as a general disinhibitor, it also opens up the possibility
of facilitating antisocial behaviors. Criminal assaults increase in frequency with
the onset of darkness with estimates of their occurrence running as high as
90% during the nighttime hours. Social ills surface in countries situated at high
northern latitudes where lives are lived in near total darkness for 2 months each
year. It is this period of darkness, that is, morketiden, that an Oslo psychologist
makes reference to in describing its effects on the Norwegian population namely,
“The polar night has a tendency to bring out the least desirable elements in
human behavior—envy, jealousy, suspicion, egotism, irritability” (Kaare, 1973).
It has also been seen as a time of increased risk taking and suicidal behaviors
(Wechsberg, 1972).
Modern sports venues have installed massive arrays of lights to illuminate
the playing surface at indoor competitions as well as events staged outdoors
after sunset. Typically, the front rows of spectators are brightly lit, less and less
so as spectators are seated further from the playing surface. Depending on the
facility, those in the furthest reaches of the audience may be in relative darkness.
The question to be asked is whether near-dark conditions facilitate interpersonal
aggression.
An investigation of spectator fights erupting at 39 professional baseball games
yielded an interesting result. Fully 69% of the fights occurred at night (Dewar,
1979). Only weak support for a link between darkness and crowd disorders is
seen in a Belgian report on hooliganism (Van Limbergen, Colaers, & Walgrave,
1989). A set of situational factors generally regarded as predictive of hooliganism
was in total characterized as nonsignificant or weak. The set included outcome
and importance of the match, selling of alcohol, and time of day (afternoon or
evening). How much stock should we place in this evidence as support for a
darkness-aggression hypothesis? At best, it is suggestive of a relationship. After
all, could it not be that night games attract a rougher, tougher crowd than do
afternoon games? Similarly, are more aggressive fans to be found in less expensive areas of the stands that in all likelihood are less well lit? Fortunately, we
have the benefit of an early lab investigation that shines light on the question of
darkness and aggression.

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Page and Moss (1976) conducted a major test of the prediction that lighting
and interpersonal aggression are related. Male subjects were randomly assigned
to one of four experimental conditions of a lab experiment. Using the Buss (1961)
aggression machine, participants ostensibly administered levels of shock to a
confederate learner in either a brightly lit room or a dimly lit room. In addition,
the learner was either close at hand in the same room or at a distance in a nearby
room. Strong support was found inasmuch as participants administered shocks
of greater intensity and somewhat longer duration in the dimly lit situation (for
details on the aggression machine procedure see Chapter 7, pp. 207–208).
How might a relationship between darkness and crowd aggression be
explained? First, crowd members in semidark conditions are generally unknown
to each other and are thereby afforded a measure of anonymity. Furthermore,
spectators in darkened surroundings may experience a state of deindividuation
whereby they become less self-aware and show little concern with how others
will evaluate their behavior. Add to this a reduction in perceived accountability
for their actions. The result for those watching a competition from darkened
sections is a weakening of inhibitions against aggression (Mann, Newton, &
Innes, 1982).
Ions
The public and researchers have long recognized associations between various
weather phenomena and human behavior. For instance, dry seasonal winds
in various parts of the world have been associated with increases in suicides,
accidents, and some crimes. At the least, people report increases in tension,
irritability, and difficulty in sleeping. These negative effects appear to be shared
by people in the path of the Chinook winds of Western Canada, the Sirocco
(Italy), Santa Ana (California), Foehn (Switzerland), or Sharav (Israel). Studies
of the effects of wind events are typically correlational and yield results that
are open to a number of rival explanations. That is, there is a confounding of
weather variables. With the onset of the Santa Ana wind, there are corresponding changes in air quality, temperatures, barometric pressure, and humidity in
addition to wind velocity, itself an aversive experience. Each weather variable
or various combinations of such variables could be responsible for any observed
effects. In general, a controlled experimental setting is best suited to isolate and
pinpoint a weather variable as the cause of a particular behavior, for example,
aggression. Such relationships have been established between aggression and
the variables of temperature (e.g., Bell & Baron, 1976), air pollution (Rotton &
Frey, 1985), and foul odors (Rotton, Frey, Barry, Milligan, & Fitzpatrick, 1979)
by means of lab experiments.
A weather-related event that is generally unrecognized as an influence on
behavior is ionization of the immediate atmosphere, that is, whether there is a
concentration of positive or negative ions. The prevailing belief has been that
negative ions have generally beneficial effects whereas positive ions produce detrimental effects. However, an early correlational study (Muecher & Ungeheuer,

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1961) suggested that concentrations of negative ions are associated with higher
rates of crime, suicide, and accidents in the workplace. Other studies have yielded
mixed results overall. Included among the naturally occurring events that create a preponderance of negative ions are rain and lightning strikes. However,
modern technology contributes to the creation of positive ions in a major way
through machinery, automobiles, air conditioners, and the production of smog.
Commercially manufactured negative ion generators have been marketed
along with claims of positive health and beneficial social effects for users. Such
a machine was used to examine various effects on experimental subjects, specifically Type A individuals (Baron, Russell, & Arms, 1985). As noted previously,
Type A individuals are gripped by an overriding sense of urgency; there is never
enough time; there are deadlines to be met. They are impatient, hard driving,
and competitive as they strive for “success.” Also included as a prominent trait
in the Type A personality profile is hostility. It is mainly when their pursuit
of success is thwarted or they are in some way frustrated that their hostility
surfaces.
One phase of the Baron et al. (1985) experiment involved placing angered
versus nonangered participants in the role of a “trainer.” They ostensibly delivered a pulse of heat of varying intensities to another participant. Those assigned
earlier to the anger condition overheard the experimenter and his accomplice
speaking about him, that is, “I mean, look at him . . . he looks like an idiot;
what if he screws up?” Otherwise, those in the nonanger condition heard them
discussing the experimental task. The participants were later fully debriefed.
The results of this aspect of the investigation revealed that angered Type A
participants exposed to a negative ion environment showed a major increase in
aggression. On the other hand, Type B individuals, similarly angered, showed
no change in their aggression from low to high concentrations of negative ions.
A key point to note is that negative ions act to increase the aggression of individuals who are already in an aggressive state. That is, negative ions heighten a
person’s preexisting aggressive mood state rather than create the mood.
Liking for another person is also subject to influence by levels of negative
ions. People whom we initially like because we share similar opinions are liked
even more in a negative ion setting. Those whom we dislike because of differing
opinions are disliked even more intensely in the same negative ion environment
(Baron, 1987). In sum, with respect to aggression and/or a dislike of others, the
presence of a concentration of negative ions can further heighten preexisting,
negatively toned social interactions.
Inasmuch as crowds themselves contribute positive ions to a situation, they
are in effect increasing the likelihood of a crowd disturbance. If a sports event is
being staged in front of hostile, partisan spectators, a preponderance of negative
ions may worsen matters. If instead, the crowd is in a friendly, jovial mood, then
negative ions will act to further enhance goodwill. These effects would likely
occur among Type A individuals. The rush to buy a negative ion generator in
hopes of bringing health and tranquility to your home should perhaps be given
more thought, perhaps even postponed or shelved.

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DRUGS: LEGAL AND OTHERWISE
Alcohol
The part played by alcohol in the daily lives of athletes and their fans varies
dramatically across sports and cultures. For instance, the reputation of a rugby
player is based on three attributes. Apart from any playing skills he may possess, he must additionally consume excessive amounts of alcohol. His reputation
is further enhanced by an ability to tell raunchy stories and sing naughty ditties
(Young, 1988). By contrast, there is a relative absence of alcohol use among
athletes in other sports, for example, golf, body building, swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, and track and field. It is tempting to speculate that alcohol
use is more common in team than in individual sports.
Alcohol has historically been vilified. Sunday morning sermons have railed
against its use, often with good reason. The tragedies of alcoholism and the
daily carnage on our highways clearly attest to its pernicious effects on society.
It is but a small step to conclude that disorderly behavior by intoxicated individuals is similarly brought on by drink. Common wisdom holds that when an
individual has had too much to drink he/she is likely to get belligerent, hostile,
or unruly. Of course, not everyone follows this pattern when drinking. But the
question remains, is there a general tendency for people to become aggressive
after consuming alcohol, that is, a causal effect (for more on causality see
Chapter 7, pp. 231–232)?
The field of criminology has provided a considerable number of correlational
studies highlighting the role of alcohol in social violence. For example, a review
of 10 studies (MacDonald, 1961) found that over 50% of murderers had been
drinking before committing their offense. British investigators of soccer violence
and the media have consistently drawn public attention to the drunken state of
some of the young fans. In the case of crowd disturbances, they have been quick
to identify alcohol as a leading cause (Williams, Dunning, & Murphy, 1984).
North American sports fans hold similar views. Buffalo Sabers hockey fans were
asked to rate the importance of 14 factors in contributing to spectator violence.
Questionable decisions by referees and the age of fans were first and second,
respectively. Alcohol was third (Cavanaugh & Silva, 1980). Of course, being
correlational we are unable to attribute causality to the observed relationships.
Some of the earliest formal investigations yielded mixed results. In some
cases, alcohol was found to have no effects on physical aggression (e.g., Bennett,
Buss, & Carpenter, 1969). Not a surprising result for many people. Most of us
attending parties have observed that even when the drinks are flowing freely, the
partygoers become increasingly mellow and sociable as the night wears on. The
foregoing points up the fact that the relationship is complex and other factors
are likely at play.
Researchers at Kent State University (e.g., Taylor, Gammon, & Capasso, 1976)
note a critical difference between studies showing a relationship and those that
failed to find a relationship. Simply put, it was the degree of threat present in
the situation. Participants in some of the studies that failed to find a relationship

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were intoxicated in nonthreatening situations. In effect, their “victim” had no
opportunity to retaliate against the aggressor.
Threat was introduced as a factor in Taylor’s competitive, reaction-time task.
Participants with the slowest reaction time on each trial were shocked at a level
ostensibly chosen by the opponent. In the no-threat condition of these experiments, participants overheard their opponent telling the experimenter they did
not want to hurt anyone and planned to push the number 1 button (minimal
shock) on every trial. Participants in the threat condition did not hear those
reassuring words.
The results of the Taylor, Gammon, et al. (1976) experiment strongly confirm
the importance of threat in a situation in determining whether alcohol facilitates aggressive behavior. There was no difference between inebriated and sober
subjects, when the situation was nonthreatening. In the threat condition, both
inebriated and sober subjects showed increased aggression. The increase can be
described as dramatic in the case of the intoxicated subjects. In a review of their
research program, Taylor and Leonard (1983) concluded that, “the data strongly
suggest that the aggression evidenced by intoxicated persons is a joint function of the pharmacological state produced by alcohol and situational factors”
(p. 94). It should be noted that intoxicated persons may display aggression even
in situations that are nonthreatening (e.g., Gantner & Taylor, 1992). Intoxicated
individuals with strong rivalrous attitudes underlaid by a desire to hurt an opponent, even going to extra lengths to do so, will aggress though the situation is
nonthreatening.
A second consideration determining whether alcohol leads to interpersonal
aggression is the expectations people have regarding the effects of alcohol.
People may feel less responsible for their actions when under the influence and
consequently more willing to engage in antisocial behaviors. Beliefs and the
expectations they create facilitate aggression on the part of intoxicated individuals. Participants who thought they had consumed alcohol showed increased
aggression (shock) in the teacher–learner setting, regardless of whether they
had ingested alcohol or tonic. Thus, the expectancy effect simply overrode
any pharmacological influence in determining the subjects’ aggression (Lange,
Goeckner, Adesso, & Marlatt, 1975). In some instances, then, individuals may
see their intoxication as a justification or excuse for their aggression.
A final point to note is the differing effects on aggression of alcoholic beverages themselves. Distilled spirits, for example, bourbon, appear to have stronger
effects on aggression than brewed drinks, for example, beer or wine (Gustafson,
1999). Furthermore, among distilled beverages, whiskey has been shown to elicit
significantly more aggression than vodka (Taylor & Gammon, 1975). In one
representative study, participants who ingested a distilled drink gave shocks of
longer duration to a partner than those who consumed an equivalent amount of
beer. Equally telling with respect to expectations, participants given a placebo
drink they believed to be alcohol subsequently were more aggressive than others
who ingested a drink they believed to be beer (Pihl, Smith, & Farrell, 1984).
Clearly, a cultural expectation comes into play as a likely explanation for this
result. That is, drinking hard liquor has long been associated in the public

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mind with a tough guy, macho image. By contrast, beer drinkers are typically
portrayed in fun-filled, party situations. Participants then were behaving in ways
entirely consistent with our cultural expectations regarding the supposed effects
of these two types of beverages.
An Overview
The research literature on alcohol and human aggression is extensive. Several
large-scale reviews of the research findings have been conducted using a procedure called meta-analysis. As examples, Bushman and Cooper (1990) sought
evidence of a causal relationship between alcohol and aggression based on
30 experimental studies as did Steele and Southwick (1985) using 35 alcohol
investigations. A more recent overview of alcohol-aggression investigations was
undertaken (Ito, Miller, & Pollock, 1996), again using meta-analysis. An analysis of 49 studies yielded results that led to the conclusion that alcohol facilitates
aggression, a conclusion consistent with that reached in the earlier Bushman and
Cooper (1990) and Steele and Southwick (1985) reviews. A more recent review
concludes that the relationship between alcohol and interpersonal aggression is
causal and the evidence incontrovertible (Hoaken & Stewart, 2003).
To bring perspective to the importance of alcohol alongside other facilitators
of aggression, the comments of Bushman and Cooper deserve special note.
Alcohol “appears to influence aggressive behavior as much or more than it
influences other social and nonsocial behaviors.” That is “alcohol and aggression effects are by no means trivial” (p. 348). This view is somewhat tempered
by Ito et al. (1996) who comment “we do not view aggression as an inevitable consequence of intoxication” (p. 77). They draw attention to the fact that
alcohol studies create conditions that specifically encourage aggression from
participants in nonjudgmental circumstances. Rather, “most real-world settings
contain many fewer aggression-instigating cues and many more inhibiting
ones” (p. 77). In sum, a causal relationship between alcohol and aggression
is well established. Indeed, much of current research activity has shifted in
emphasis and is centered more on increasing our understanding of the means
or mechanisms, for example, pharmacological, cognitive, by which alcohol
increases aggressive behavior.
Consumption in the Stands
There is a public perception that sports fans and alcohol go hand in hand. A
study by Wann (1998) sought to assess the relationships between the degree to
which college students regard themselves as avid sport fans and self-ratings of
their own beer and liquor consumption.
The degree of students’ fanship was measured by a Likert-type scale and
measures of money spent (e.g., tickets, memorabilia) as well as time spent reading, watching, or listening to sports programs. Irrespective of how fan dedication
was assessed, there were no significant correlations between level of dedication
and either beer or liquor consumption for both men and women. Seemingly the

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rabid fan and casual spectator alike partake of alcohol in equal amounts. Men,
however, consume more of both beverages.
A Digression
Liquor sales at many sports facilities are necessary to a viable economic operation.
Yet at the same time, the selling of alcohol carries with it the potential for facilitating some minor and a few major spectator disturbances. It is instructive to pull
back from the stadium or arena and glimpse the full scale of its presence from a
distant perspective, that is, an overview. An informal estimate by a knowledgeable observer of sports puts the number of intoxicated baseball spectators on any
given day at 8% (O’Brien & Hersch, 1998). At first glance, not a large figure.
However, in a crowd of 20,000 spectators, approximately 1,600 individuals are
in their seats or wandering about the facility legally drunk, many of whom will
later drive home. While this picture may be disconcerting for some, the picture
worsens considerably when we add an unknown percentage of spectators who
are using a variety of other drugs.
The public’s use of over-the-counter medicines, prescribed drugs, and drugs
acquired illegally is widespread. Many of these have the appearance of being
benign with respect to their effects on aggression. At the same time, an entire
class of “alternative medicines” or ancient remedies, for example, herbs or
potions, have not been evaluated for their effect on aggression or other side
effects, except by testimonials of dubious value. However, researchers have conducted investigations on a considerable number of the more commonly used
drugs under controlled laboratory conditions. Some of these investigations are
highlighted on the pages to follow. We start with the writer’s drug of choice
(a one-cup-a-day habit).
Caffeine
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and is found in some soft drinks,
tea, chocolate, and of course, coffee. Hyperirritability is a leading symptom
associated with the excessive use of caffeine. Moreover, people who undergo
withdrawal experience dysphoria, a state marked by nervousness, restlessness,
and irritability. The “cure” for dysphoria is a resumption of caffeine ingestion!
An imaginative field study was conducted using long-term patients in a psychiatric facility (De Freitas & Schwartz, 1979). The investigators secretly switched
the patients to decaffeinated coffee for a period of 3 weeks, after which regular
coffee was reintroduced. The ward staff and patients knew nothing of the changes,
that is, a double-blind procedure. The nursing staff followed their routine procedure in evaluating the behavior of patients at four points in time: just before the
introduction of decaffeinated coffee, 1 week later, 3 weeks later when the decaffeinated period ended, and a short while after regular coffee was reintroduced.
Following the switch to decaffeinated coffee, nurses’ ratings showed decreases
in patients’ anxiety, tension, irritability, and hostility. However, all of these gains

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vanished with the reintroduction of regular coffee. The researchers’ case for a
causal relationship between caffeine and hostility would be strengthened had
they included a control condition in the design of their study, that is, a comparable patient group who were not switched to decaffeinated coffee.
The effects of caffeine on aggression were later examined in a controlled laboratory setting (Cherek, Steinberg, & Brauchi, 1984). People who consumed caffeine on a daily basis exhibited modest decreases in aggressive behavior. Cherek,
Tcheremissine, and Lane (2006) offer a plausible explanation in describing their
results, that is, “Since subjects reporting higher caffeine consumption had larger
decreases in aggressive responding, these effects could be attributed to acute caffeine
withdrawal” (p. 432). Similar effects are seen in the upcoming section on nicotine.
Nicotine
While a large number of investigations examining the health effects of smoking
tobacco products have been conducted, very few have studied its effects on
human aggression. In an early laboratory study, Schechter and Rand (1974)
compared the aggression of smokers with that of nonsmokers. Using the Buss
(1961) aggression machine procedure, participants who regularly smoked administered shocks of both a longer duration and greater intensity to an experimental
confederate. This result occurred after the smokers had been restrained from
smoking. That is, at the time they were experiencing acute tobacco deprivation.
In a subsequent study, Cherek (1981) compared the aggressive behavior of
those smoking low or high nicotine content cigarettes. Compared with nonsmokers, those smoking tobacco cigarettes exhibited overall fewer acts of aggression.
In particular, those smokers in the high nicotine content condition showed a larger
decrease than subjects in the low nicotine condition. With respect to findings
on this question, Cherek et al. (2006) conclude that the results “are consistent
with the view that acute tobacco deprivation may increase aggressive responding,
rather than acute tobacco smoking reducing aggressive responding” (p. 431).
Marijuana
The familiar Taylor competitive reaction time procedure was used to test the
effects of marijuana on interpersonal aggression in an early experiment (Taylor
et al., 1976). Participants were given either a small amount of marijuana or a
large dose of the drug. Participants in both the small and large dosage conditions had the choice of electric shock levels (0–10) they could administer to a
confederate partner when they lost on a trial. Participants in the small dose
condition showed negligible effects. Others in the large dose condition showed a
modest but nonsignificant decrease in aggression.
A systematic replication of the Taylor et al. study was undertaken by
Myerscough and Taylor (1985). Their purpose was twofold. First, they wanted
to assess the effects on shock setting of a considerably larger dose of marijuana,
and second, they wanted to see the effects on intoxicated participants of a much
more intense level of provocation.

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In the competitive reaction time procedure, button number 10 is set to represent
the participant’s “unpleasantness threshold,” an intensity of shock he/she had earlier judged to be highly unpleasant. Participants and the (confederate) opponent
were given the added option of a shock equal in strength to twice the opponent’s
unpleasantness threshold. An eleventh button was labeled as 20 and programmed
to be used by the confederate opponent on two occasions. On both occasions the
participant “won” and was not shocked.
One of three doses (low, moderate, or high) of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) was administered to male participants. The most aggressive response to
provocation was displayed by those assigned to the low-dose condition of the
experiment. Those in the moderate and high-dose conditions showed no increase
from before to after the provocation. The researchers concluded, “The most
parsimonious explanation for the results of this study would appear to be that
the phenomenological state produced by THC is simply incompatible with the
expression of physical aggression” (Myerscough & Taylor, 1985, p. 1546). Thus,
two controlled experiments, the second of which administered a very large dose
and subjected participants to an extreme provocation, have failed to show any
increases in interpersonal aggression resulting from marijuana use.
Diazepam
The effects of diazepam (Valium) on aggression are of particular interest, given
its widespread use as a treatment for anxiety. Moreover, it would appear that the
majority of psychotropic drug users are females. A study by Gantner and Taylor
(1988) was conducted using the competitive reaction-time design to examine the
effects of diazepam on aggression. Male and female undergraduates served as
participants.
In contrast to participants administered a placebo, those given a 10 mg dose
of diazepam exhibited an increase in aggression across trials of the competition.
Perhaps surprising, there was no sex difference. The researchers suggest that the
pain-reducing properties of diazepam may have caused participants to be relatively unconcerned about the shocks given in retaliation for their aggression.
Other studies have also shown increases in aggression arising from the
administration of diazepam (Ben-Porath & Taylor, 2002; Weisman, Berman, &
Taylor, 1998). The Taylor competitive reaction time paradigm was used in each
case. However, researchers using the Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm
(PSAP) to examine the effects of diazepam uncovered a different pattern of
results (Cherek, Lane, & Pietras, 2003). Several studies (e.g., Cherek, Steinberg,
Kelly, & Robinson, 1986) show instead a lessening of aggressive responding;
a result possibly attributable to methodological differences (Cherek et al., 2006).
Steroids
For six years I was unaware I was being given a form of steroid of the legal kind
they used to give to horses until they decided it was too strong even for the horses.
John Mc Enroe, The Daily Telegraph, January 12, 2004

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The emergence of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) began in the early
fifties. It was during the 1954 World Weight Lifting Championships in Vienna
that the Soviet team doctor told his counterpart on the U.S. team that his athletes
were taking testosterone. From this small beginning, worldwide use and concern
with AAS spread to a number of sports.
Before continuing with the central theme of this section, that is, drugs and
aggression, it is important first to consider the prevalence of anabolic steroid use.
It is difficult to obtain precise figures of steroid use by athletes. Perhaps a survey
by Pope, Katz, and Champoux (1988) will give us a rough estimate. A total of
3,275 questionnaires were sent out to males attending three U.S. colleges and
universities. Of these, 1,010 were completed (31% return rate) with 17 students
(2%) reporting steroid use. The authors mention that none reported having medical complications although approximately half reported “increased irritability
and aggressiveness” (p. 77). While the principal reason given for steroid use was
to improve sports performance, a number of users were not involved in athletic
programs. Their motivation for using steroids was based on a desire to improve
their appearance. Lastly, extrapolating from their college survey data, Pope et al.
(1988) estimate that the number of American men who have used or are presently using steroids number “in the hundreds of thousands” (p. 78).
Structured psychiatric interviews with three men who committed extremely
violent crimes while on anabolic steroids provide a measure of support for a
steroid-aggression relationship (Pope & Katz, 1988). All three young men (32,
23, and 24 years) were described by the researchers as having earlier had benign
psychiatric histories, “no evidence of antisocial personality disorder, and no history of violence” (p. 28). What else did they have in common? Apart from three
separate assaults that included a homicide, the men were heavily involved in
weight lifting. One was preparing for a bodybuilding contest, a second for football; all were stacking different drugs.
Case studies understandably do not provide anything like conclusive evidence
of a causal relationship between steroid use and the impulsive, violent actions of
these three individuals. Yet, they do “strongly suggest that anabolic steroids may
cause some law-abiding and psychiatrically asymptomatic individuals to develop
manic and psychotic symptoms, culminating occasionally in violent crimes”
(p. 30). If the researchers are correct in their conclusion, then it seems likely that
anabolic steroids may be responsible for many other violent crimes that have
been misattributed to other causes.
Regarding a more formal study, Yates, Perry, and Murray (1992) compared
male weightlifters with a group of lifters who were not on anabolic steroids.
Those who were using steroids were found to be more aggressive and hostile
than the comparison group. While the findings are supportive of a steroidaggression relationship, they do not provide conclusive evidence. Quite possibly,
the lifters who chose to take steroids were already more aggressive and hostile
at the outset.
Studies intended to answer the central question of whether violent behavior
is triggered by AAS use have been foiled by a selection bias. For example,
Pope, Kouri, Powell, Campbell, and Katz (1996) interviewed 133 prison inmates

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convicted of violent crimes. Participation in the study was voluntary. Only half
of the inmates approached agreed to be interviewed. Surprisingly, only two
attributed their violence to AAS use! In all likelihood a selection bias was operating making the results of this and similar designs inconclusive. AAS studies
in which participation is voluntary raise the strong likelihood that users were
numerous among those declining the opportunity to participate.
Swedish researchers Thiblin and Petersson (2004) conducted a selective
review of AAS studies, that is, those meeting the criterion of including a clear
statement describing the study’s design. Articles not meeting the criterion were
excluded from the review. In addition to summarizing the prevalence of AAS
abuse, they further took stock of diseases and other deleterious effects arising
from such abuse. Regarding our immediate interest in AAS and its effects on
aggression, the investigators were unequivocal in their conclusion. The researchers found overall strong support to the effect that users assume “an increased
risk for developing certain changes in mood characterized by agitation and
increased aggressiveness” (Thiblin & Petersson, 2004, p. 44).
A second Swedish study tested the hypothesis that AAS use may cause
uncontrolled violent rage (Klötz, Garle, Granath, & Thiblin, 2006). Participants
(N = 1,440) in this cohort study had earlier been tested for AAS use during a
6-year period. Participants who tested positive for AAS were compared with those
testing negative with regard to their respective records of criminal offenses, for
example, violent crimes, weapons offenses, property crimes, and fraud. Of the four
types of crimes, it was weapons offenses that were associated with those testing
positive for AAS. In a summary statement the investigators concluded “that the
use of AAS is associated not only with impulsive antisocial behavior but also with
an antisocial lifestyle involving various types of criminality” (p. 1278).
While the anticipated difference between the two groups in violent crimes
did not materialize, the researchers offered a fairly plausible explanation for the
difference in weapons offenses. Criminals involved in armed robberies “or the
collection of crime-related debts” have an advantage if they have a heavy, muscular build (p. 1277). Presumably, AAS can provide that edge.

SITUATIONAL INFLUENCES
Competition and Aggression
Competition is by far the most central and hallowed concept in the sports world.
Most children are introduced to the notion of winning during their formative
years. Thereafter, it pervades both individual and group interactions at all levels
of play. Moreover, competition has taken root as the preferred means of conducting activities in the business world, education, and, possibly to a lesser extent,
in scientific circles. One might assume that competition brings out the best in
people, more so than say, cooperation.
Parenthetically, the common assumption that competition is superior to cooperation as a means for conducting human interactions is based more on a shared

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cultural truism (McGuire, 1964), certainly not on the empirical evidence. A
cultural truism is a widespread, unquestioned belief that is rarely, if ever challenged. For example, when was the last time you heard someone take issue with
the age-old advice to “brush your teeth after every meal?” In North America at
least, competition is every bit as much a cultural truism as the importance of
brushing after meals.
A review of 121 published studies comparing the effectiveness of competitive versus cooperatively structured tasks on performance and achievement was
undertaken (Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, & Skon, 1981). Cooperation
was found to be clearly superior across a variety of tasks, including motor tasks.
In one analysis involving 109 findings, 8 favored competition and 65 favored
cooperation, whereas 36 favored neither type of setting. We see further that in
conjunction with an enjoyment of hard work and a preference for difficult and
challenging tasks, low competitiveness is associated with higher salaries among
businessmen and higher academic grades among male and female undergraduates (Helmreich & Spence, 1978; see also, Russell 1993, pp. 89–91).
Competition often fails us in other ways. That is, competitive situations are
frequently found to breed hostility among participants. Part of the reason lies
with the attitudes of competitors. If participants enter the competition with
rivalrous attitudes, then hostilities are apt to develop. The association between
rivalry and competition is learned in childhood. Rivalrous attitudes “appear
in the form of personal intentions that go beyond merely doing well in competition and involve the goal of hurting the other person, perhaps going out of
one’s way to do so” (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959, p. 228). Competition itself can be
defined as “two or more units, either individuals or groups, engaged in pursuing
the same rewards, with these rewards so defined that if they are attained by any
one unit, there are fewer rewards for the other units in the situation” (Berkowitz,
1962, p. 178).
The tendency for competition to produce aggression has been well documented (e.g., Berkowitz, 1962, 1973; Deutsch, 1949; Diab, 1970; Sherif & Sherif,
1969). A classic field investigation by Sherif and Sherif (1969) will illustrate the
differences between competition and cooperation in fostering hostility. The setting was a summer camp for young boys (11–12 years) in Oklahoma in what is
called the Robber’s Cave experiment. The boys were carefully matched on skill
level and physical stature. The boys were normal, well-adjusted youngsters who
did not previously know one another. Upon their arrival at the camp in separate
buses, they were assigned to either of two cabins, later named by the boys as
the “Rattlers” and the “Eagles.” Strong bonds of friendship and group loyalty
quickly developed within each group. Their cabins were located a considerable
distance from each other, and no contact was made until the second stage of the
experiment. During the week following their arrival, the youngsters engaged in
a number of highly appealing activities, for example, camping out in the woods,
improving a swimming hole as well as organized informal games. By week’s
end, the two groups had developed stable group structures.
Shortly after, the groups were made aware of each other’s existence, strong
“we” versus “they” perceptions of one another emerged. Brought together for a

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variety of competitions, for example, tug of war, touch football, baseball, and
treasure hunt, the early expressions of good sportsmanship and mutual respect
began to evaporate. In its stead verbal and physical hostilities began and escalated to the point of a full blown donnybrook in the mess hall. Name calling and
throwing of food and then dinnerware brought the experiment to an abrupt halt.
Several days of concerted effort by camp personnel were required to restore
some semblance of peace between the Rattlers and the Eagles.
The investigators next arranged a series of tasks for the boys that required the
cooperation of both cabins to succeed. They were superordinate goals or “goals
that have a compelling appeal for members of each group, but that neither group
can achieve without participation of the other” (Sherif & Sherif, 1969, p. 256).
Several “emergencies” having potentially dire consequences for both cabins
were created by the researchers. The camp truck that went for food mysteriously developed engine failure. It could only be started with both groups pulling
together on their former tug of war rope. At another point the waterline broke
down stopping the flow of water to the camp. The Rattlers and Eagles agreed to
join forces to search for the break in the line. In both examples, it was clearly in
their best interests to cooperate with one another, as in fact they did. The result
was that intergroup hostility gradually diminished and a number of friendships
even began to blossom between the cabins.
A similar field study was undertaken in Lebanon (Diab, 1970) and illustrates
the ease with which competition can lead to ill will, if not outright aggression.
Following similar procedures, the youngsters were “matched” and assigned
to two groups in the camp. Interestingly, each group contained roughly equal
numbers of Moslems and Christians. Friendships and camaraderie within each
group developed during the early days of the camp. However, when competition
was introduced, hostilities again erupted between the cabins. So intense was the
animosity—a knife was brandished—that Diab was required to prematurely end
the study. The battle lines were drawn between two temporary and artificially
created groups. Surprisingly, the centuries-old divisions between Moslems and
Christians played no part in the hostilities.
One might be forgiven for concluding from the Oklahoma boys camp study
that the answer to increasing liking between two competing groups lies with
having them cooperate in pursuit of a common goal. The answer is not quite
that simple. Worchel, Andreoli, and Folger (1977) reasoned that two variables,
the outcome of the cooperative endeavor and the nature of the groups’ past
interaction, would determine the level of intergroup liking. In a nutshell,
previously competing groups who failed in their combined effort experienced
less attraction for one another. However, success resulted in increased liking.
For previously cooperating groups, success and failure on the superordinate task
resulted in increased liking between the groups.
Early writers have long contended that aggression is an inherent element in
most competitions. Konrad Lorenz (1966) makes the point in noting that “sport
indubitably contains aggressive motivation, demonstrably absent in most animal
play” (p. 242). This conclusion is echoed by Caplow (1964) who observed
that “In virtually all competitive situations some degree of hostility develops

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between the competitors” (p. 318). Certainly, the summer camp studies support
such a conclusion. In addition, it was noted earlier that the trait of competitiveness is strongly related to the subscales and total scores on the Aggression
Questionnaire (Buss & Perry, 1992). However, laboratory investigations testing
the merits of a competition–aggression hypothesis have yielded mixed results.
For example, members of a competitive group were less helpful and friendly
and more verbally aggressive toward each other than were members of a cooperative group (Deutsch, 1949). A more direct test of the hypothesis was conducted using a two-person reaction time experiment in which electric shock for
slow responses served as the measure of interpersonal aggression (Gaebelein &
Taylor, 1971). Three levels of motivation were provided subjects: high competition, no shock for fastest response plus 5 cents; moderate competition, no
shock; and no competition, shock predetermined. Support for a causal association between competition and aggression was not forthcoming. In the words of
the researchers “competition had little influence on the expression of physical
aggression” (p. 66).
A video game (Super Mario Brothers) provided the means for a further
investigation of competition and its effects on aggression (Anderson & Morrow,
1995; see also, Bartholow, Sestir, & Davis, 2005). Specifically, pairs of male and
female, university-aged participants were led through experimental instructions
to adopt either a competitive or a cooperative frame of mind. A cooperative
mind set was established for a pair by the experimenter stressing that their performances were to be combined and assessed together. For pairs in the competitive condition, they were told their performances would be compared at the end
of the session. The goal for both groups then, was to avoid losing the life of the
main character, that is, to advance as far as possible in each scenario.
The main characters are Mario and Luigi both of whom are controlled by
the participants. Their task is to help the character avoid “cute but deadly creatures” as they navigate scenes. Participants can have their character deal with
the creatures they encounter in either of two ways, killing or avoiding them.
Jumping on top of a creature kills it as does hitting it with a fireball. Creatures
can instead be avoided by the main character taking a different path or jumping
over the creature.
The prediction that pairs assigned to the competitive condition would dispatch a greater number of creatures than those playing in the cooperative condition was confirmed. Competitive subjects had a 66% kill ratio in contrast to
cooperative subjects who killed only 41%. Sex differences were not in evidence,
that is, men and women had virtually the same kill ratios.
Fingers and Triggers
Guns play a central role in the lives of many people and serve a variety of
purposes. Police, the military, security personnel, gun collectors, and private
licensed citizens have access to guns under the terms of governmental legislation. Others possess weapons illegally. There are few political issues in North
America that are more emotionally charged than gun control.

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Participation in a considerable number of sports involves the use of weapons,
for example, hunting, trapshooting, biathlon, sport shooters, Olympic marksmen,
and competitors in javelin and archery. Other sports are played with equipment
that can, and often is, adapted to aggressive purposes, for example, ice hockey
and lacrosse.
A scientifically based argument was injected into the public forum in the late
sixties with the publication of a classic paper entitled “Weapons as Aggression
Eliciting Stimuli” (Berkowitz & Le Page, 1967). The results of that investigation
strongly suggested that the mere presence of a weapon is sufficient to draw or
elicit aggression from individuals in the immediate area.
Weapons in general are presumed to be rife with aggressive cues as a result
of their longstanding associations with death and injuries. The learning process
by which weapons acquire their aggressive cue properties is that of classical
learning. The Pavlovian model allows that objects that were initially neutral over
the course of time and owing to repeated pairing with violent images acquire
aggressive cue value. That is, we have all grown up with guns displayed primarily in circumstances where they are used to threaten or harm people. For
generations of children, especially boys, guns have been the toy of choice. This
close association with guns and other weapons, for example, knives or clubs,
has developed from watching movies, television, and video games. For others,
such associations originate with firsthand experiences, that is, military training
or neighborhood street violence.
The first demonstration of a weapons effect used the number of shocks the
participant chose to direct at a confederate as the dependent measure of aggression (Berkowitz & Le Page, 1967). Participants were assigned to either a mild
anger condition or strong anger condition in which they received mild (1 shock)
or strong (7 shocks) attacks from the confederate during the early stages of the
experiment. The number of shocks received by each participant (1 or 7) was
ostensibly the confederate’s evaluation of an essay written by the participant.
Participants were subsequently afforded the opportunity to administer shocks to
the experimental accomplice in one of four conditions.
In two “weapons-present” conditions, a 38-caliber handgun and a 12-gauge
shotgun were lying on the table near the shock apparatus. Subjects in these
conditions were told that either the guns were being used in another unrelated
experiment or they were to be used in an experiment that the victim-confederate
himself would later be conducting. In a third condition, a badminton racquet
and shuttlecocks were displayed alongside the shock apparatus. There were no
weapons or objects present in a fourth, control condition.
The key findings showed no differences across conditions in the number of
shocks delivered to the confederate by participants who had not been angered.
However, among angered participants, those in the presence of the gun administered a significantly greater number of shocks to the confederate than those
in the control condition. Finally, participants in the control (no object present)
and badminton racquet conditions did not differ in their aggression toward
the experimental accomplice. In expanding on the implications of a weapons
effect Berkowitz (1981) observed “Guns carry with them meanings that increase

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aggression: They create aggression that in the absence of guns would not exist.
It is in this sense that the trigger can pull the finger” (pp. 11–12).
This widely publicized study sparked a flurry of research activity. While
some investigations provided support for a weapons effect (e.g., Boyanowsky &
Griffiths, 1982; Frodi, 1975; Klinesmith, Kasser, & McAndrew, 2006), others
did not (e.g., Buss, Booker, & Buss, 1972). Swedish high school males served as
participants in an investigation faithful in design to the original Berkowitz and
Le Page (1967) experiment (Frodi, 1975). Once again, the confederate administered one or seven shocks to each participant, the number representing his evaluation of their essay. The procedures next called for the participants to evaluate
the confederate’s essay (always the same essay) by means of electric shock. This
was done under one of three conditions: a weapon was present next to the shock
key, a baby bottle was on the table, or no objects were present. Participants gave
a greater number of shocks when weapons were present than they did in the
other two conditions. Furthermore, the Frodi experiment supported the weapons effect both for participants who were highly angered having received seven
shocks and those minimally angered, that is, one shock. It is noteworthy that
this additional finding extends the weapons effect to include individuals who are
not in an angered state.
Buss et al. (1972) conducted several experiments that include a replication of
the Berkowitz and Le Page (1967) investigation. The weapons effect was not in
evidence nor were there any effects on aggression from having fired a gun.
Two possibilities have stood out as explanations for failures to replicate the
weapons effect. The first suggestion involves demand characteristics whereby
participants discern from the experimental instructions or other cues how the
experimenter would like them to act. An indeterminate number of compliant
participants will then behave in accordance with their perceptions of the
experimenter’s hypothesis or wishes. That is, should the participants sense that
the experimenter is anticipating more shocks in the weapons-present condition, compliant behavior may result (for more on demand characteristics see
Chapter 7, pp. 205–206).
A second possibility involves evaluation apprehension. Here participants are
anxious to avoid being seen as psychologically maladjusted by the experimenter
and take steps to behave in ways they hope will avoid such an interpretation.
In this case, participants may hold back on the number of shocks to prevent a
negative evaluation from the experimenter. Thus, experimental support for the
weapons effect is most likely to be forthcoming when participants’ suspicions
are not aroused (Carlson, Marcus-Newhall, & Miller, 1990).
More recent views highlight the process of “priming” (Anderson, Benjamin,
& Bartholow, 1998). In this view, aggression-related thoughts are automatically
made more accessible to the individual upon recognizing a weapon. In a test
of a priming explanation, Anderson and his colleagues predicted that participants would require less time to recognize and pronounce aggression-related
words following exposure to a weapon concept. The prediction was confirmed.
Exposed to either a weapon name, for example, a gun, or a picture, for example,
a flower, participants’ reaction times (RT) were shorter to aggressive words than

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to nonaggressive words. Participants in comparison conditions were exposed to
animal names or plant pictures. In sum, aggressive thoughts were more readily
at hand to the participants after exposure to a weapon-related concept.
Considering that there is good evidence supporting the weapons effect and
some evidence challenging its validity, it would seem prudent to pull back from
a final judgment on its merits. Meanwhile, the presence of weapons may play a
role in facilitating specific incidents of sports aggression in circumstances not
yet well understood.
The Geography of Aggression
Where on the playing surface is interpersonal aggression involving athletes
most likely to occur or is it perhaps randomly distributed? Of course, the same
question can also be asked regarding spectator disturbances. Seemingly, features
of the physical setting in relation to interpersonal aggression between athletes
is a predictor in many, though not all, sports. This is particularly true in boxing
and its variants. For example, managers of a groggy fighter admonish their
man to stay off the ropes and especially out of the corners. Where do crowd
disturbances occur? Inasmuch as physical altercations often result in injuries,
the topic assumes importance for sports medicine researchers. American football provided the research setting for a study attempting to identify the areas
of greatest risk to players who ran or were knocked out of bounds during
games (Garrick, Collins, & Requa, 1977). Game films were used to identify the
locations where players collided with sideline obstacles. The analysis revealed
that collisions occurred more often in the area of the 50-yard line and less so
at other points along the sidelines. However, the distance of player excursions
remained constant with field location. Obstacle-free, buffer zones along the full
length of the field were recommended.
A similar study sought to identify areas of the ice surface that present a
heightened risk of injury to young hockey players (Hastings, Cameron, Parker,
& Evans, 1974). Official reports of serious injuries were classified into three
zones: center ice (between the blue-lines), inside the blue-lines, and behind the
goalie’s net. With the area of zones controlled for, the analysis revealed that by
far the greatest number of injuries occurred behind the net.
Note that while both studies pinpoint the location of injuries, in neither case
were they necessarily caused by an intent to injure. Rather, a ball player running
an end sweep at high speed may be forced out of bounds. Similarly, a hockey
player may simply lose his balance as he races for the puck and crashes into
the boards. Undoubtedly, some of these injuries were the result of malevolent
intentions; most, likely not.
A subsequent investigation used a measure of interpersonal aggression devoid
of unintentional actions (Russell, 1991). Pairs of trained observers witnessed 10
home hockey games from opposite sides of the arena. Their task was to record
on a diagram of the rink the location of each hostile exchange that occurred
during the game. A hostile exchange was judged to have occurred if play was
stopped because of an actual or impending fight. Confrontations that involved

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threats or shoving were recorded: they need not have resulted in a penalty being
awarded.
Overall, few hostile exchanges occurred between the blue lines; nor did they
occur on open ice. As seen in Figure 3.1, confrontations were instead found to
be concentrated along the boards, behind the net, and immediately in front of
the goal. The flow of a game is relatively slow along the boards and behind
the net. Consequently, would-be attackers stand to benefit insofar as they are
presented with easier, slow-moving targets in these areas. Moreover, they can
be hit with greater effect. An initial body check drives the player on a collision
course with the boards. Also, the player frequently rebounds off the boards to be
hit yet again, that is, a multiplier effect.
The concentration of player aggression in front of the goalmouth invites a different explanation. This is an area of the ice in which an abundance of frustrations lay in wait for both teams. Goalmouth scrambles involve an intense, often
frantic, battle for the puck with the players crowding and jostling one another.
Also, they frequently contain just the elements necessary for aggression to occur
in response to frustration. For the attacking team, a goal is close at hand and may
involve the scoring of a game-winning goal. Alternatively, the attackers may be
severely thwarted by a skillful defense on the part of their opponents. For the
defenders, a sudden game-winning goal can mean an unsuccessful outcome to
the game or perhaps the dashing of their hopes for a championship season.
Aggression in Defense of Territory

1

2

3

4

The ubiquitous ethological concept of territoriality has been described as
“one of the most hallowed concepts of animal behavior” (Moyer, 1987, p. 169).
Popularized in large part by the engaging writings of playwright Robert Ardrey
(The Territorial Imperative, 1966), it has caught the imagination of the sporting

Figure 3.1 Ice location of hockey fights. (From
Russell, ed. Ronald Baenninger. Athletes as Targets
of Aggression. Targets of Violence and Aggression,
New York, Elsevier, 1991, pp. 211–252. By
permission of Elsevier.)

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public, among others. Various sport researchers have embraced the concept to
account for the home field performance advantage whereby teams and individual athletes excel in their home facility, for example, stadium, arena, or pool.
However, a number of more immediate, straightforward, and plausible explanations are at hand (see Russell, 1993, pp. 34–41). Its usefulness as a general
explanation for even animal behavior is in serious question. As Barnett (1988)
reminds us, many species, including some herd animals, are not territorial.
Rather than reaching far down the phylogenetic scale to adopt a complex concept
and uncritically apply it to the human level to explain the outcome of baseball
games seems at best unnecessary. This seems particularly so in light of Moyer’s
(1987) conclusion, “the construct is of dubious value in understanding animals,
it may be even less useful in understanding humans” (p. 182).
As regards our present interest in aggression, a prediction drawn from the
concept of territoriality allows that the occupant(s) of a territory would be more
vigorous and savage in its defense than an intruder. The tiny cichlid fish will
with some regularity drive off a larger interloper, a virtual necessity if the
species is to survive. From this and similar observations, it is but a small step
to a prediction that athletes will more vigorously and, perhaps, savagely defend
their turf from incursions by visitors.
Canter, Comber, and Uzzell (1989) cite the example of violent British football
fans acting out in defense of their “end” a segregated area they might claim as
their own. Rival supporters have a similar area to which they also lay claim.
One of the groups will be seen to make forays in an attempt to capture the
other’s end. However, at this point any similarity between an animal’s territory
and an end rapidly fades. The taking of an opponent’s end is a matter of symbolic ownership and not an attempt to obtain essential survival resources such
as food or mates.
The fact of leagues in several sports having detailed records of players’
aggression allows the possibility of testing the territorial prediction of more
aggression by teams playing at home. Russell (1981a) summarized the results of
nine archival investigations comparing the aggression of home teams with that
of visiting teams. The evidence has not been kind to a territorial defense hypothesis. Across all studies, the location of a contest, home versus away, was unrelated to a team’s aggression. Recent studies add still further weight to the overall
conclusion (Jones, Bray, & Olivier, 2005; Sivarajasingam, Moore, & Shepherd,
2005). It is noteworthy that the finding of no relationship was based on four
sports: soccer, American football, ice hockey, and rugby played in five countries.
It is not therefore a conclusion limited to a single sport or country but one having
considerable generality. The major territorial prediction of more aggression by
home teams defending their turf against intruders appears untenable.

SUMMARY
The chapter began with coverage of a half-a-dozen environmental factors generally believed to have an influence on our mood states. With the exception of the

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full moon and the color pink, the remaining factors, for example, temperature,
noise, and ions, were generally shown to increase people’s aggression. Next, a
similar examination of the effects of a number of legal and illegal drugs on interpersonal aggression was undertaken. Again, drugs such as alcohol, diazepam,
and steroids were shown to increase aggression, an exception being marijuana.
While competition is revered by sports people, it comes with a price, namely, it
increases the aggression of competitors. By contrast, cooperation was shown to
be a superior mode of human interaction across a variety of settings. Weapons in
general were shown to increase the aggression of those merely in their presence.
Finally, a review of studies failed to show any differences between the aggression of home versus visiting teams. Thus, support for a defense of territory
explanation for interpersonal aggression was not forthcoming.

Suggested Reading
Nelson, R. J. (Ed.). (2006). Biology of aggression. New York: Oxford University Press.
This edited work provides in-depth coverage of recent research by a panel of distinguished academics. The volume contains 18 chapters organized in five levels of analysis
starting with sections on genes, neurotransmitters, and hormones. The remaining two
sections cover developmental aspects and the psychopharmacology and psychophysiology of aggression. It is an invaluable reference source.

4
Witnessing Aggression: Media
and Firsthand

INTRODUCTION
Our focus in the previous chapter was on sports spectators and athletes under
a number of environmental conditions, each of which was shown to potentially
effect changes in aggression. The same can be said for a number of drugs,
some of which have almost certainly been ingested by a majority of those in
attendance at major sporting events. Rarely are these events simply demonstrations of athletic skill. Rather they are made competitive. There will be a
winner and a loser. In this climate of rivalry, ill will and hostility often come
to the fore.
In the present chapter, we shift our focus from environmental, pharmacological, and competitive influences to effects arising from witnessing
aggression firsthand from the stands or as part of a vast television audience.
First, we consider the more immediate effects of witnessing aggression at
close quarters and second, far reaching effects that extend well into the community following the event. Answers to several social questions surrounding
the viewing of aggressive sports are provided from the perspective of existing
research findings. For example, are the violent elements in some sports a sufficient attraction to prompt fans to purchase tickets? Does a marital or romantic
partner’s all-consuming passion for sports undermine the strength of their relationship? The role of sports broadcasters and commentators’ esoteric language
in shaping the viewers’ perceptions and interpretation of events is explored.
A final section takes the reader inside the world of several quasi-sport, theatrical
presentations.

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MEDIA
Media and Relationships
If a man watches three football games in a row
he should be declared legally dead
Erma Bombeck, 1927–1986

Conflicts can arise in marital and romantic relationships from a variety of
sources, for example, a dalliance, a financial setback, or meddling in-laws. Any
of these can damage or even destroy a couple’s relationship. Interpersonal violence is often a part of the break up (Russell, 1988). Avid sports fans are open
to an additional potentially destructive source of conflict. That is, their intense
passion for sports can easily consume the time and energies normally reserved
for more serious life pursuits, for example, job or education, that are important
to a healthy and developing relationship.
The media has coined and popularized the term “sport widow” to describe a
woman whose boyfriend or spouse is totally immersed in his favorite sport(s). We
are all familiar with the stereotype. She is that long-suffering woman who keeps her
significant other supplied with beer and chips while he sprawls on the couch watching endless hours of sports programming. In turn, he is seen as an unshaven, potbellied, couch potato with little time for his wife and his household responsibilities.
A less gender-specific term “sportsaholic” has been proposed by Quirk
(1997). These fans are predominantly males who are so strongly addicted to
their sport that their relationships with wives or girlfriends are best described as
tenuous. Not surprisingly, the disproportionate attention given to sports by the
sportsaholic can give rise to tensions, even open hostility from his/her partner.
For example, among men who describe themselves as avid sports fans, fully
26% acknowledge their television viewing is a source of friction in their relationships (Smith, Patterson, Williams, & Hogg, 1981).
The foregoing begs the question is there good evidence to support the stereotype? Are relationships imperiled by a partner’s all-consuming passion for
sports? With the exception of Quirk’s (1997) analysis, there is little to suggest
that the quality of marital and romantic relationships is adversely affected by
one’s enthusiasm for sports (see Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001 for a
methodological critique, pp. 162–163).
In a study of relational harmony among university couples, support was not
forthcoming “for the notion that conflict over sports adversely affects relational
quality” (Roloff & Solomon, 1989, p. 307). Similarly, telephone interviews revealed
that watching televised sports “appears to be a minor and non disruptive activity
in most ongoing relationships” (Gantz, Wenner, Carrico, & Knorr, 1995, p. 352).
Canadian university females involved in a romantic relationship were recruited
in a more recent study (Russell & Arms, 2002). They rated the influence of their
partner’s interest in sports on the strength of their relationships using a 7-point
scale anchored by “weaken” and “strengthen.” In addition, they completed the
Relationship Closeness Inventory (RCI) and Affect for Partner Index (Berscheid,
Snyder, & Omoto, 1989). The results failed to show any association between the

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extent of men’s involvement in sports and either the closeness of their relationships (RCI) or the women’s love/liking for their partners. However, the coeds
did perceive a strengthening of their relationships as their partners were increasingly involved in sports. Seemingly, the quality of their relationships stand to be
somewhat enriched by a partner’s enthusiasm for sports.
The same set of measures were also administered to older couples drawn
from communities across Western and Northern Canada. Unlike the university
coeds, the women were under no illusions that their partner’s interest in sports
was drawing them closer together, strengthening their relationship, or otherwise increasing their liking or love for their partner (Russell & Arms, 2002).
However, quite a different view was expressed by the older sample of male participants. Their increasing involvement in sports was seen instead to strengthen
relationships and bring the couple closer together. The weight of evidence on
this question appears to tip the scales in favor of involvement in sports generally
fostering relational harmony at the expense of conflict.
Sports Broadcasters
An important factor influencing the public’s response to media presentations of
aggressive sports is the commentary accompanying programs. Typically, commentary is provided by former players/coaches whose expertise derives from their
experience and some measure of fame in the sport. Accompanied by a seasoned
sports announcer, they offer listeners historical anecdotes and opinions on the
wisdom of decisions taken by coaches and athletes. Moreover, they frequently take
sides in the case of disputed penalty calls by officials, often making inferences as
to the intent of those involved. As we recognize, the intent to injure is often the
critical element in an official’s decision to award a major aggressive penalty rather
than let it slide or see it as a minor “accidental” infraction. One likely effect of
taking sides on contentious calls is to further inflame an indeterminate number of
listeners who themselves have doubts, and others openly questioning the call.
Announcers are fully conversant with the specialized language of the sport
they cover. Listeners are thereby kept abreast of the ever-changing vocabulary of
sport as well as yearly rule changes. The jargon of many major spectator sports
has undergone a shift in recent decades. In particular, many benign descriptive
terms have been supplanted by more strident, menacing, or warlike terms. A
half century ago, Tannenbaum and Noah (1959) observed the beginnings of this
trend: “No one wins a game today. Teams rock, sock, roll, romp, stagger, swamp,
rout, decision, down, drop, eke out, topple, top, scalp, and trounce opponents,
but no one wins a game” (p. 164). The writer notes with dismay that curling,
that most peaceable, sociable but nonetheless exciting sport, has embraced more
threatening terminology. The team losing on an end of play gains the advantage
of throwing last rock on the next end. That term no longer describes simply
having the last rock on the next end; instead, they now hold the hammer!
The commentary accompanying competitive play extends well beyond sport language, sport knowledge, and anecdotes in its effects on listeners. Much of the content of commentary serves to heighten listeners’ appreciation of the drama unfolding

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on the field of play. Violent incidents are central to that appreciation, particularly in
the case of men (e.g., Bryant, Comisky, & Zillmann, 1981; Sullivan, 1991). Many
are drawn to sport contests featuring violent clashes between opponents and seem
unperturbed by the sight of serious injuries to the combatants. Guided by commentary, viewers see conflicts interpreted as an expression of the athletes’ intense determination to dominate or win over their opponents. The risk of injuries only adds to
the experience. A central proposition arising from entertainment theory allows “that
competition and conflict are the heart and soul of drama” (Bryant, 1989, p. 281).
Certainly, the liking for sports violence is far from universal (see e.g., Bryant
et al., 1981; Russell, 1986). Starting in 1977, a series of studies examined the
relationship between sports violence in the media and the viewers’ enjoyment
of such fare. In the first investigation (Comisky, Bryant, & Zillmann, 1977),
segments of a professional hockey game were chosen to represent examples of
either rough or violent play or normal, nonviolent playmaking. In a fortuitous
turn of events, the sportscasters let the rough/violent segment speak for itself.
By contrast, the announcers commenting on the nonviolent segments chose, for
whatever reasons, to enliven their commentary, stressing the roughness of play
and even raising the threat of an impending, on-ice brawl. The design of the
study was such that two important questions stood to be answered. The first
was the effect of commentary on viewers’ perceptions of the roughness of play.
Second, did the levels of roughness affect the enjoyment of play?
In answer to the first question, the analysis revealed that commentary stressing the roughness of nonviolent segments led to considerably higher ratings of
perceived roughness than even the rough segments that were actually violent and
unaccompanied by commentary. Was the enjoyment of hockey action related to
the game’s roughness? Yes, although not in the way one might have predicted.
Enjoyment was directly related to viewers’ perceptions of how rough the play
appeared to be. That is, enjoyment was not the result of actual violence. Rather, it
was the sports commentary that enhanced perceptions of roughness and violence
that subsequently added to their enjoyment.
Further evidence attesting to the role of sports commentators in influencing
viewers of athletic competition has been provided by Bryant, Brown, Comisky,
and Zillmann (1982). Rather than commentary designed to enhance perceptions
of roughness in hockey play, the researchers shifted their focus to commentary
intended to establish the nature of pregame relationships between contending
athletes. The commentary accompanying a televised tennis match was carefully
altered to provide three versions of the personal relationship existing between the
two athletes. In one version, the players viewed each other in relatively neutral
terms. In a second version, the pair was described as the best of friends. However,
a third version characterized their relationship as that of bitter enemies.
Although all viewers watched the identical tennis match, those listening to
the bitter enemies’ commentary perceived the match in remarkably different
terms. In contrast to the neutral and best friends versions, they saw a highly
intense, hostile, and fiercely competitive match. Similarly, the bitter enemies’
script also led to much higher ratings of interest, excitement, and involvement
than the same program accompanied by the neutral or best friend’s versions.

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Thus, within limits, sports spectators derive enjoyment from watching interpersonal aggression, perhaps doubly so when the combatants are believed to have a
mutual hatred of each other.
The Televising of Sport
Vast worldwide audiences numbering in the millions watch major sporting events
on television. Whether seated before television sets in airport/hotel lounges, in
their favorite watering holes, or from the comfort of their homes, people are for
the most part gripped by the drama unfolding on the screen. While a World Cup
soccer final, a heavyweight title fight, a football Superbowl, or a Stanley Cup
hockey final is an intense and involving viewing experience for fans, other less
important events on the sports calendar can be equally involving. A state high
school basketball championship in Indiana generates almost as much emotion
in its fans as the world-class events just mentioned. If there are major consequences for the viewing public, I would suggest that regionally publicized events
can exert similarly intense effects, albeit on vastly smaller local audiences.
Moreover, unlike major national and international events, regional championships are covered by media outlets numbering only in the tens. Yet, their effects
on viewers may be nearly as strong as those on international audiences.
DOES VIOLENCE SELL?
Few would dispute the statement that sexually titillating themes have long been
a popular mainstay of commercial advertisements and television programming.
Assuming this assertion to be correct, does violent content similarly enhance the
appeal of media productions? Is violence, like sex, an important ingredient in a
successful entertainment package? Several studies have examined the question in
the context of both television programs (Diener & DeFour, 1978; Diener & Woody,
1981) and spectators’ attendance at hockey games (Jones, Ferguson, & Stewart,
1993; Russell, 1986). Television audiences have thus far not shown a preference for
violent programs. Using Nielsen television ratings as a measure of program popularity, there was no relationship with the levels of violence depicted in shows over a
3-month period (Diener & DeFour, 1978). Furthermore, with violent and nonviolent
shows equated on other dimensions, that is, humor, romance, or conflict, violent
shows were found to be less liked than peaceable shows (Diener & Woody, 1981).
The popularity of television programs with violent content was further examined by Diener and DeFour (1978). They had American college students watch
one of two episodes from the long-running adventure series “Police Woman.”
However, the researchers first had all violent content skillfully edited out to create a nonviolent version. A second version of the episode remained intact, uncut!
Not unexpectedly, the uncut episode was judged to be more violent. It was not,
however, liked more by the students.
The same question was examined in ice hockey using official records of the
Western Hockey League (WHL; Russell, 1986). The game statistics provided
attendance figures and a record of on-ice penalties for interpersonal player

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aggression. Attendance at the next home game following each team’s two most
violent games were compared to attendance following their two most peaceable
games over a full season of play. Analyses failed to yield differences in the
levels of game violence and the number of spectators pushing through the turnstiles. However, a subsequent investigation produced somewhat different results.
A measure of total aggressive penalty minutes was found to be positively related
to spectator attendance in the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise cities
in Canada and the United States (Jones et al., 1993). However, when penalties for only the most extreme acts of on-ice aggression were examined, that
is, misconduct and major penalties, the positive relationship held only for the
American cities. The leading explanation suggests that the expansion of the
NHL to numerous U.S. cities was achieved through a vigorous marketing of
the sport based on its violent content. Little effort was made to attract fans
through showcasing the skills and traditions of the game. American spectators
then were attracted to their arenas by the promise of fights and mayhem.
What relevance do these findings have for media coverage of combatant
sports? They probably have no relevance for professional wrestling and boxing.
The horses are already out of the barn. For combatant sports with a tradition of
competitive play and interpersonal aggression held in check by effective rules,
little is likely to be lost by a return to earlier times. Rather than training the
cameras on fights and brutal body checks, later to be featured during intermissions and in promotional footage, the cameras might instead highlight skillful
plays, the unfolding competition, and good sportsmanship. The evidence, thin
as it is but based on objective behavioral measures, that is, Nielsen ratings and
actual attendance figures, suggests that media interests would not as a result
suffer grievous financial losses. The sports themselves can stand alone without
the questionable benefits of added violence.
A question remains. What is the attraction, if not on-ice aggression? The
WHL records also allowed an examination of the possible effects of team success in the win/loss column (Russell, 1986). Attendance rose significantly following each team’s two longest winning streaks during the season. As most
would predict, success on the ice brings success at the box office. Let me hasten
to add that obviously some sports attract spectators precisely because they are
violent, for example, professional wrestling, boxing, and roller derby. Seats at a
fight card would be empty if the boxers were not allowed to hit each other. Even
with the fanciest of footwork and the fighters skillfully feigning punches, arenas
would quickly empty and television ratings plummet. Audiences for such sports
are largely comprised of individuals who are themselves aggressive (Black &
Bevan, 1992; Fenigstein, 1979; Russell, Arms, Loof, & Dwyer, 1996).

DOES TELEVISION VIOLENCE INCREASE
VIEWER AGGRESSION?
The question asked in this heading has been extensively researched by social scientists over the last five or so decades. Their efforts have yielded a wealth of data.

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While research on the central question is ongoing, other variables likely influencing the relationship between the observation of violence and viewer aggression are
being examined. For example, the role of viewer arousal in mediating the effects
of viewing violent media fare has been a topic of continuing interest to investigators. Otherwise, the question asked in the heading has generally been answered
in the affirmative by nearly all research scientists with expertise on the topic (e.g.,
Bushman & Anderson, 2001b; Geen 2001; Paik & Comstock, 1994). Simply put,
the observation of aggression serves to increase aggression in the viewer. But why
does this question continue to be argued so vigorously? Allow me to direct you
to the Bushman and Anderson (2001b) article cited as a suggested reading at the
end of this chapter. The authors have laid out the reasons in a clear-cut fashion in
assigning blame for the confusion to both parties to the debate.
The pages to follow highlight several important studies of media effects that
address the question raised above. I draw your attention to the fact that the studies chosen as examples represent quite different methodologies, that is, a field
experiment, a longitudinal study, and a laboratory experiment. Even so, they
converge on a common conclusion.
Several examples of studies examining the lead question are presented below.
The first is concerned with the effects on children of watching television violence (Josephson, 1987). Canadian second and third grade school boys (N = 396)
were shown either a nonviolent or violent, 14-min film clip. Before the start of
the experiment, the boys’ classroom teachers made ratings of each boy’s typical
level of aggression during the school day. Items on the rating scale included
“starts fights over nothing” and “says mean things.” With the boys separated
into high and low aggressive groups, they were shown either a violent or a
nonviolent film. Boys assigned to the nonviolent condition watched an exciting
competition or stunts featuring a “boy’s motocross bike racing team.” Those in
the violent film condition watched a film highlighting excessive police violence.
The partner of an officer slain by snipers joined an elite Special Weapons and
Tactics (SWAT) squad with a view to avenging the death of his fellow officer.
The team killed or knocked out all of the snipers in a manner portrayed as justified revenge and were subsequently socially rewarded. Just before the SWAT
team made their final assault, the snipers were seen talking to each other over
walkie-talkies (we will return to this point momentarily).
With the experiment ostensibly over, the boys were taken to the school gymnasium for what was described as a second, different study. New people, a male
referee and two judges, ran the experiment and, following rigorous procedures, were
“blind” to which film the boys had watched earlier. The boys were told they would
be playing a game of floor hockey. Before the start of play, the referee conducted
a short interview with each boy inasmuch as the observers needed a few bits of
personal information as they did a play-by-play, for example, name, class or favorite
position. Recall if you will that the snipers communicated with each other by means
of walkie-talkies. Walkie-talkies, through their earlier association with the snipers
were thought to represent a violence-related cue to the boys (e.g., Berkowitz, 1984).
During the games, the two observers recorded all acts of interpersonal aggression, for example, elbowing, tripping, name-calling, poking, pinching, hair pulling,

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and sitting on another boy. Boys rated as nonaggressive by their teachers did not
show changes in aggression as a result of watching the violent police clip. By
contrast, boys identified as high aggressives displayed increased aggression during
their floor hockey game, having earlier seen the same violent clip.
The walkie-talkie (rather than a microphone) used by the referee in interviewing the boys served effectively as a violence-related cue. High aggressives
assigned to a walkie-talkie condition in addition to having seen the violent film
were also more aggressive as a result during their floor hockey game. Thus,
boys seen by their teachers as aggressive on a day-to-day basis “behaved more
aggressively if they had been exposed to violent television plus violence-related
cues than if exposed to the violent content only” (Josephson, 1987, p. 888).
A second major study involving children as participants investigated effects
on young television consumers arising from watching violent programming. This
investigation has important implications for both parenting and the study of sex
differences in media influence. Long-term exposure to television portrayals of
violence by children leads to increased aggressive behavior in their day-to-day
activities. One subset of violent television fare is that involving contact sports, for
example, ice hockey, football, boxing, and wrestling. The question to be asked
is does a regular diet of watching these sports foster aggression in girls and
boys? A large-scale, longitudinal study spanning the third and thirteenth grades
examined relationships between children’s level of viewing sports and aggression
(Lefkowitz, Walder, Eron, & Huesmann, 1973). Aggression was measured first
at the third and later at the thirteenth grades by a peer-nomination technique and
self-reports. The analysis yielded several striking sex differences.
Not surprisingly, the boys spent considerably more time than girls watching
televised sports. However, none of the five aggression measures used was found
to be related to the amount of viewing time spent watching contact sports. Rather,
it was the girls whose television viewing time was related to their aggression as
seen by peers in grades three and later in grade thirteen. Self-report measures
of their aggression and antisocial behavior were similarly related to the level of
TV viewing. Furthermore, the girls who watched the greatest amount of contact
sports were also those who had witnessed the most violence by others in their
own lives. Finally, Lefkowitz et al. (1973) used Scales 4 plus 9 of the Minnesota
Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a measure of the children’s potential
for delinquency. Once again, lengthy exposure to contact sports was associated
with possible delinquency for girls but not so for boys. One might draw a tentative conclusion that girls are more vulnerable to the ill effects of exposure to the
violence contained in sports. Lefkowitz et al. speculate that the results found for
both girls and boys could be the result of different child-rearing and socialization practices.
From the field experiment above, we turn to a controlled lab experiment
where the intention to inflict harm is manipulated to assess the effects arising from watching violent sports action. An influential article by Berkowitz and
Alioto (1973) illustrates the importance of the viewer’s interpretation of what
they are watching. Angered men were shown either a 6-min film clip of boxing
or an American football game. Half in each condition were told the boxers and

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football quarterback wanted to hurt their opponent for insulting remarks made
earlier in the week. The remaining half of the participants heard a statement
emphasizing that the boxers and football players were playing to win and not to
injure their opponent. Thus, two interpretations of each film clip were created,
that is, realistic aggression and fictional aggression. Following the viewing of
the film, participants were individually paired with an experimental accomplice
who had angered them earlier. Provided with an opportunity to aggress, participants who watched clips with aggressive meaning delivered electric shocks
of longer duration to the accomplice than those watching clips of athletes motivated to win but not to inflict injuries.
A second study was conducted using a documentary film depicting the capture of a Japanese island by the U.S. Marines. Participants were given either of
two introductions to the film. They were informed that it was actual footage from
the battlefield (real condition) or a Hollywood reenactment of a World War II
engagement (fictional). We see in the results evidence of stronger effects arising
from depictions of violence that is perceived to be real. Participants informed the
warfare was authentic delivered shocks of greater duration to a confederate. The
leading explanation for the above results centered on the fictional version causing its viewers to dissociate themselves from the portrayal. The actors thereby
become less effective as a stimulus and “less able to elicit aggression-enhancing
reactions in the observers” (Berkowitz & Alioto, 1973, p. 206).
The concluding example of television influence presented in this short series
is a 2-year, longitudinal field experiment (Williams, 1986). The lead investigator, sociologist Tannis Macbeth Williams, became aware of a government
plan to introduce television in a small town, later given the code name Notel,
in southeastern British Columbia. The rugged mountain terrain had until then
blocked reception of a television signal to the remote valley. Williams and her
research team seized the moment and planned their groundbreaking study. Two
neighboring communities, Unitel and Multitel, were found to be equal in all
major socioeconomic aspects with Notel and were therefore chosen as comparison communities. Unitel was receiving the signal of the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation (CBC) while Multitel additionally received the major U.S. networks.
A substantial portion of CBC programming featured a variety of sport shows
including televised games of the Canadian Football League and NHL. Boys at
that time, as now, experience strong peer-mandated pressure to watch and be
knowledgeable about both football and hockey.
A battery of aggression measures was administered in the three communities
in Phase 1 just prior to Notel receiving a television signal and 2 years later in
Phase 2. Included among the measures were peer and teacher ratings as well as
ratings by teams of trained observers who recorded acts of verbal and physical aggression on school playgrounds. While the investigators examined other
aspects of community life and child development, for example, leisure activities, child cognition and reading fluency, the strongest effects were found in the
area of interpersonal aggression. In comparisons with the control communities,
children in Notel exhibited increases in physical aggression with the greatest
increases being found on verbal aggression following their exposure to 2 years

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of television. An equally telling result was a 50% drop in the number of sports
events in the community of Notel. To my mind, this landmark, one of a kind
field experiment provided perhaps the best and most convincing case for the
enhancement view, that is, the observation of aggression increases aggression
in the viewer.
I must hasten to add that the studies presented in this section were hand
picked to illustrate the diversity of investigative approaches used in examining
questions of media influence. Missing from the series were some studies that
showed no effects on aggression, and a handful that showed viewer aggression
was even reduced. The research literature on a topic such as the effects of watching violent programming is massive. Simply by chance alone, some studies will
yield nonsignificant results. Be assured that across all studies there is persuasive
evidence for a causal association between the observation of aggression and
increases in viewer aggression (e.g., Bushman & Anderson, 2001b; Geen, 2001;
Paik & Comstock, 1994).
In the section to follow, social scientists have turned their attention to a
slightly different question. Is there something akin to a ripple effect whereby
major sports events with violent content have aggressive consequences for people
in the region living well beyond the stadium?
The Long Reach of Sports Violence
From time to time, public health authorities and those in the helping professions raise concerns regarding the ill effects they see in their community being
“caused” by violent images of sports competition. Is it more than idle speculation? Can we attribute incidents of wife battering, child abuse, assault, and
even homicide to television coverage of major combatant sports? Thus far, the
research provides us with no clear answer.
The final whistle at Washington, DC, football games signals the end of gridiron violence. However, for others, the violence may only be starting. Emergency
ward records at DC area hospitals were examined for admissions prior to and
following home and away games of the Washington Redskins of the National
Football League (NFL). The examination showed an increase in the number of
women admitted after the games. However, the increase only followed Redskin
victories. The categories in which the women were admitted for treatment
included stabbings, gunshot wounds, assaults, and “accidental falls,” all indicative of domestic violence (White, Katz, & Scarborough, 1992).
The rise in interpersonal aggression following Redskins wins is attributed to
an increase in viewers’ power motivation. That is, football fans watching their
team triumph over the visiting team derive a strong sense of personal power
(Tesler & Alker, 1983). The surge in personal power seemingly finds violent
expression in personal relationships. Domestic disputes that might on other
occasions be resolved by compromise are instead settled by force.
Other investigations of an association between domestic violence and combatant sports events have yielded weak or nonsignificant results. For example, Drake
and Pandey (1996) examined records of the State of Missouri Division of Family

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Services Child Abuse and Neglect for the year 1992. The researchers found no
evidence of an association between regular league play of the St. Louis Blues of
the NHL and male-perpetrated child abuse in the region in relation to win/loss
and home/away game records. Moreover, on the day of national end-of-season
playoff games and the following day, there was no evidence of a change in levels
of child abuse.
Sachs and Chu (2000) tallied the number of times police cars were dispatched
in response to domestic violence calls. Records of the Los Angeles County
Sheriff Department provided the data for a 3-year period during which they
received 26,051 reports of domestic violence. The period covered two seasons of
professional football during which several intriguing increases in the frequency
of dispatching were observed. For example, during the 1993–1994 season, dispatches on football Sundays increased 100% from the previous Wednesday.
Playoff games saw a 147% increase in the number of dispatches. During the
following 1994–1995 season, there was instead a decrease in domestic violence
calls on these same occasions.
The investigators singled out Superbowl week for a separate analysis. They
report that police units were dispatched in record numbers in 1994, a 264%
increase! However, the 1995 Superbowl was associated with a small decrease
in domestic violence calls (Sachs & Chu, 2000). It should be noted that the
differences described above, many of which admittedly are impressive, are not
statistically significant. They cannot therefore be regarded as due to anything
other than chance. Taken in total, the foregoing studies do not allow a firm conclusion regarding the role of combatant sports in domestic violence. However,
if we expand the focus of the question to include homicides, we can answer in
the affirmative that “yes” there is a positive relationship between the staging of
violent events and lethal violence in the broader viewing/listening community.
A test of the prediction that regional homicide rates would increase following important major league football games was conducted by White (1989). His
analysis involved NFL playoff games including Superbowl games, from 1973 to
1979. Homicide rates in the metropolitan areas where the franchise teams were
based were tallied for the same time period. As predicted, homicides increased
significantly following the playoff games. However, the increase occurred 6 days
after the games and only in cities whose team had just been eliminated from
further competition.
White offered an intriguing explanation for the spike in homicide rates. Six
days after a playoff game takes us to the eve of the next round of competition.
Fans of last weekend’s winners will see their team play tomorrow; they are still
in the competition. By contrast, fans of last week’s losing teams cannot escape
the realization that their season is finished. There will be no game tomorrow,
only an emptiness. It seems plausible to suggest that for some fans having their
expectations so cruelly dashed, the loss represents but one more frustration in
a long line of frustrations. One result of their being severely thwarted so close
to their goal, that is, a Superbowl berth or title for their team, is interpersonal
aggression (Berkowitz, 1989). Alternatively, disputes arising from gambling
losses may also have led to lethal outcomes.

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A major media study was carried out by Phillips (1986) using data associated
with heavily televised heavyweight boxing title fights. He too predicted a rise
in homicide rates in the days immediately following the contests. Official death
certificates provided his measure of lethal aggression as well as several other
key pieces of information, that is, age, race, sex, and cause of death. Phillips
tracked homicide rates for 10 days following all title fights from 1973 to 1978.
His analysis showed that homicides rose and peaked 12.5% 3 days after the
fights and 6.6% after 4 days. Also, the most heavily televised title fights were
followed by the steepest rises.
Most interesting was the finding that the homicide victims strongly resembled
the loser of the championship bout. Fights in which a Black fighter defeated a
White opponent were followed by an increase in homicides of young, White
males. There was a corresponding increase in homicides of young Black males
following a title match in which a White boxer defeated his Black opponent.
The question unlikely to be answered is whether the perpetrators resembled the
winners thus creating a certain symmetry. However, there is a recent challenge
to the work of Phillips (1986); see Addendum at the end of this chapter.
By Their Own Hand
We saw in the preceding sections that televised coverage of violent sports events
is associated with harm to individuals in the immediate viewing audience. This
effect appears particularly strong when a major sports event is of intense interest
to a national audience, for example, a football game or a boxing match. It should
be noted that Phillips’ (1983, 1986) investigations of fatal effects arising from
media portrayals included suicides in addition to homicides and automobile
fatalities. For example, suicides of young women were found to increase following the (fictional) suicide of a popular soap opera heroine. A question for Curtis,
Loy, and Karnilowicz (1986) was whether U.S. national suicide rates would fluctuate around two major sporting events, namely the football Superbowl and the
last game of the World Series of baseball. Specifically, the researchers tested the
prediction that rates of suicide dip lower prior to and during Super Bowl Sunday
and on the last day of the World Series.
Basically, their analyses yielded modest support insofar as suicides were “comparatively low just before and during the ceremonial days and comparatively high
just after them” (Curtis et al., 1986, p. 1). Interestingly, they discount a gambling
hypothesis whereby the dip in suicides is the result of those wagering who simply
wait to see the outcome of the contest before committing suicide. Rather, public
ceremonial occasions such as these are presumed to increase social integration
within a national audience resulting in a reduction in the incidence of suicides.

A MATTER OF INFLUENCE
There is an almost universal fascination with sports. Whether witnessed firsthand
as a spectator or indirectly by means of radio or television, there is a strong

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need for access to information and commentary on competitions as they unfold.
The media, for example, print, radio, movies, television, and the Internet, have
stepped in to fill that need. With an ever-burgeoning technology available, the
media has increasingly been able to reach even the most remote regions of the
planet with detailed visual and audio accounts of major sporting events.
The influence of global media coverage of sports and other genre is considerable, some of it good, some not so good. For example, nations importing
televised sport programming may find their cultural values challenged, attitudes
shaped, and subtle pressures on their people to adopt new, foreign modes of
behavior. Accompanying the spread of media coverage and influence are some
of the concerns and issues already being debated in Western nations. In particular, the effects of violent programming on viewers have been, and continue to
be, a topic of deep concern. Even in the scientific community, opinions range
from violent programs exerting benign effects (Freedman, 1984) to violent content promoting new aggressive responses in the viewer (see Geen, 1990).

A METHODOLOGICAL EXCURSION
Sports differ widely with respect to their violent content. Golf, curling, and billiards anchor one end of a continuum of aggressive content with sports such as
ice hockey and professional boxing representing the other end point. Of course
a sport such as hockey can and has been played without aggression, that is,
with players rarely drawing penalties for aggressive rule infractions. However, a
sport such as boxing is pure aggression. Notwithstanding that the sport involves
superb physical conditioning, tactics, even displays of good sportsmanship; the
unabashed purpose remains to batter one’s opponent into a state of submission
or unconsciousness. For this reason, a film clip of a boxing match can readily
serve as a violent sport but scarcely as a nonviolent control condition. That is,
a film clip of a boxing match devoid of aggression would be neither interesting
nor a boxing match. By contrast, violent and nonviolent (control) versions of an
ice hockey game can be produced in studying the effects of exposure to violent
sports.
Sport footage containing aggressive cues have been used in examining their
role in eliciting aggression in a lengthy series of investigations (e.g., Berkowitz &
Geen, 1966). A film clip of a particularly gory scene from the movie Champion
was shown to participants in conditions where they had either been angered or
not angered by an experimental accomplice. Actor Kirk Douglas plays the part
of an aging fighter who is beaten to a bloody pulp by his youthful challenger
in the final scene. The confederate was introduced to participants as either Bob
Anderson or Kirk Anderson, the later introduction providing a link with the
Hollywood actor. A nonaggressive control film condition was created by means
of an equally arousing clip of a track race of the same 5-min length. Following
exposure to the boxing film, participants administered increases in aggression
(shock) to the confederate. The largest number of shocks was administered by
participants who initially had been angered by the confederate, saw the gory

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fight scenes, and were introduced to Kirk Anderson. The simple fact of the
confederate sharing the same first name with the lead actor in the film was sufficient to elicit a sharp increase in the aggression of participants.
A study using a same sport control condition in examining the effects of viewing sport violence leads off a series of investigations on the question (Russell
et al., 1988–1989). Two 14-min film versions of a game were created and shown
to small groups of male and female participants. One was carefully edited to
eliminate all acts of interpersonal player aggression (skill clip), whereas the
second version featured a series of player fights (fight clip) containing only brief
flashes of hockey skill. A control condition required the participants to work for
14 min on a partially completed 500-piece jigsaw puzzle depicting a peaceful
harbor scene.
The design allowed for a test of object cues versus event cues in eliciting
viewer aggression (cf. Berkowitz, 1974). The skill clip was rife with object cues,
for example, sticks, uniforms, and the presence of certain players (recruited as
enforcers by their team). The fight clip contained the same object cues but additionally included event cues, for example, several fights or brawls. Two measures
were used to assess the aggression of participants. The first was a self-report
measure of aggressive mood state, whereas the second was a measure of retaliatory aggression against a confederate whose earlier behavior was rude and
accusatory toward the participant. The latter measure assessed the participants’
willingness to later serve in a study by the confederate as part of his Spring
graduation requirements. Failure to complete his project would necessitate his
returning for the fall semester.
The analyses yielded several interesting findings. Both participants who were
angered by the obnoxious confederate and those treated in a neutral fashion
were higher on aggressive mood after having watched the fight film. No changes
were observed in the skill clip condition. With retaliatory aggression serving
as the dependent measure, it was the angered participants that exhibited a sharp
rise in aggression after seeing the fight clip. By contrast, participants who were
unprovoked by the confederate showed no change in retaliatory aggression following exposure to the skill and fight clips. Thus, sport film content that includes
event cues appears especially effective in eliciting audience aggression.

THE BADDEST OF THE BAD?
It may seem an odd question to raise. Of all the television programming produced as action entertainment, is there one that exceeds all others in violent content? Apparently, the dubious title is held by professional wrestling. The World
Wrestling Federation’s Raw and Smackdown have developed weekly viewer
followings numbering in the millions. Their audience covers the full age range
from seniors to toddlers (Tamborini et al., 2005).
Since the advent of television, viewers have been exposed to steadily increasing
levels and diversity of violence. Research investigating the effects of such exposure has closely paralleled those increases over the past half century. Literally,

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volumes of research reports have drawn stimulus material, for example, film clips
from violent movies, videos, and sports, virtually none have used professional
wrestling. Moreover, sports publicly singled out for criticism generally do not
include professional wrestling. Instead, critics have targeted boxing, ice hockey,
American football, and soccer, the latter mostly for the behavior of its fans.
Perhaps, the farcical nature of professional wrestling serves to deflect criticism.
A summary of the evidence supporting wrestling’s unofficial claim to the title
of “the baddest of the bad” follows in somewhat condensed form. The evidence
emerges from a comparison of results of the National Television Violence Study
(NTVS; Smith, Nathanson, & Wilson, 2002) and an in-depth analysis of wrestling content (Tamborini et al., 2005). The sample of findings initially highlights
the principal differences between professional wrestling and other media genre
in terms of the amount of violence they contain. Thereafter, perpetrator characteristics are compared along with the reasons for both mandated (required by
the rules) and nonmandated violence. Next, comparisons are made with respect
to the means by which violence is carried out, for example, using a gun or using
fists. Lastly, the overview provides a comparison of the presence of rewards for
violent behavior between NTVS and wrestling programming. On the other side
of the coin, similar comparisons were made between programming in which
punishments for violence were not meted out.
A look at the frequency of violent interactions in wrestling revealed 13.75
such incidents per hour, compared to 6.6 such incidents across all other media
genre, that is, drama, comedy, kids’ movies, videos, and reality. Moreover, 100%
of wrestling programs contain or are saturated with violence; the NTVS genre
scarcely approaches that seen in wrestling. Regarding extreme violence, professional wrestling exceeds by a wide margin that seen in each of the NTVS media
categories.
Characteristics of the perpetrator reveal a strong sex difference. Fully, 90%
of perpetrators in wrestling programming are male, whereas in the NTVS study
perpetrators were male in 73% of the categories. Regarding ethnicity, wrestling
perpetrators were unevenly distributed among White (72%), Black (3%), and
Hispanic (8%), essentially the same as the NTVS distribution.
The reasons for violence in the NTVS categories were primarily personal
gain (28%), protection of life (27%), and anger (27%). Among the wrestling fraternity, the principal reasons for their violence were judged to be accident (19%),
mandated (58%), that is, required by the rules of wrestling, and justified (69%).
Nonmandated violence was undertaken by NTVS perpetrators for reasons of
personal gain (28%), protection of life (27%), and anger (27%). Wrestlers committed violent acts for reasons of accident (44%), justification (27%), retaliation
(16%), and amusement/mental instability (10%).
The Tamborini et al. (2005) investigators further examined the use of weapons.
The overwhelming means of inflicting harm for wrestlers was by “natural” means,
for example, fists, body slams, and drop kicks (91%). Prime-time shows instead
depicted violent interactions by natural means only 35% of the time. Script writers
for prime-time television programs armed protagonists with firearms in 37% of
violent interactions.

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Judges’ ratings of the harm done to targets of aggression and the pain they
suffered in prime-time NTVS programming and wrestling yielded a surprising
result. Extreme harm was fairly common (23%) in the NTVS study; less so with
regard to the depiction of pain (13%). The ongoing mayhem in wrestling notwithstanding, extreme harm and pain are virtually unknown, that is, zero and
1%, respectively.
An especially important finding is that pertaining to whether violence was
rewarded or punished. Scenes of violence in prime-time programs did not differ in being rewarded (23%) from violence occurring in professional wrestling
(16%). However, a comparison of wrestling with all television genres revealed
a highly significant difference in punishments for perpetrators. Fully 94% of
wrestling scenes contained no evidence of punishments resulting from interpersonal violence.
The nature of aggression in professional wrestling is such that impressionable viewers are exposed to violence characterized by elements that maximize
influence. As the investigators conclude, “violence in wrestling is not only
unremitting but is more likely to be portrayed as justified, unpunished, and
lacking extreme harm” (Tamborini et al., 2005, p. 216). Wrestling violence
then is marked by characteristics that clearly set it apart from regular media
fare. This study opens the way for studies pursuing questions related to those
differences.
Children as Consumers of Professional Wrestling
Children in North America have ready access to aggressive sport erotica.
Violent sport fare is popular and accessible on a daily basis to television and
movie audiences that include children. The effects on children should not be
overlooked when questions are raised regarding exposure to this eroticized
material. Answers as to effects are far from simple being dependent on the age
and developmental stage of the children. Gentile and Sesma (2003) describe a
televised episode of professional wrestling (World Wrestling Federation, WWF)
featuring women’s mud wrestling (pp. 32–33). They carefully detail the potential
effects on young viewers at a number of developmental stages.
Toddlers may learn any number of foul words much to their parents’ dismay
during this important period of language acquisition. With the mud-wrestling
episode as a model, they may see disagreements as best resolved by aggression
rather than negotiation or compromise. Self-control and sex roles are learned in
early childhood. Self-control on anyone’s part is not in evidence in the segment.
Moreover, the woman is required to compete by a male wrestler and dutifully
complies with his demands. A stereotype that includes female submission to
male authority may develop or be strengthened at this stage of development.
Social norms assume considerable importance in the years of middle childhood. Gentile and Sesma (2003) suggest that behaviors such as those depicted
in the wrestling clip teach that aggression is an acceptable and effective means
of dealing with interpersonal disagreement. Finally, at a time when adolescents are struggling with issues surrounding personal relationships, they are

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again watching a stereotypical model. Not only are men wielding power over
submissive women but aggression is presented as an acceptable and a normal
means of social interaction.
Teen Date Fighting and Professional Wrestling
Date fighting among teenagers has emerged in recent years as a visible, albeit
small category of interpersonal aggression. Authors of a recent exploratory study
sought to establish relationships between the amount of viewing of televised
professional wrestling and the extent of physical aggression by both males and
females in dating situations (DuRant, Champion, & Wolfson, 2006). The study
was conducted in North Carolina and involved over 2,200 high school student
participants. The incidence of fighting during a date was considerably greater
among the girls, 9.4% of whom reported having started a date fight, while 8.5%
indicated their date hit them or started a fight in the past year. Among boys,
4.6% admitted to having started a fight with their date, while 6.3% were hit
themselves by their date during the previous year.
Overall, the highest frequency of watching televised wrestling was reported
by those students admitting to fighting on dates that involved alcohol or illegal
drugs. Furthermore, DuRant et al. in summarizing their findings note that high
levels of exposure to professional wrestling are further associated with fighting
outside of their dating relationships and carrying a weapon, for example, gun,
knife, or club. Overall, generally stronger relationships were found for females.
To recap, viewing of professional wrestling may adversely affect budding relationships in the short run, possibly even in the longer term. The seeds of conflict
once sown in a high school romance may negatively impact later relationships
down the line.
Effects on School Children
We turn now to the effects of professional wrestling on our children as seen
through the eyes of their schoolteachers (Bernthal, 2003). They, along with parents and peers, represent somewhat different perspectives from which to view
children’s behavior; each has its strengths, each has its weaknesses.
The basis for the assessment was a survey that sought teacher ratings of children’s behavior in four categories. An initial category asked teachers (n = 370)
to estimate the percentage of their current students who were fans of professional
wrestling. Elementary school teachers estimated 44% were regular viewers,
whereas middle school teachers provided significantly higher estimates (50%). A
surprising 81% of the teachers report having seen an increase in the number of
children who are professional wrestling fans. How favorable or unfavorable are
teachers’ attitudes toward professional wrestling? They regard it predominantly
as well above average in terms of its harmful influence on children. Indeed, a
full 9% of respondents indicated that no other form of entertainment or television
programming was more detrimental to children’s development than professional
wrestling.

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In what I would regard as a critical category with important implications,
Bernthal (2003) explored “preconceived notions” of teachers regarding children
known to be fans of professional wrestling. Fully 25% of teachers admitted to
prejudging these youngsters. Of those prejudging their students, 23% had expectations of rebellious and/or unruly behavior. Even more important, 14% held
expectations of poor academic school performance.
We all hold expectations regarding the success, performance, and behavior
of those with whom we interact. The powerful influence of expectancy effects
on behavior are well documented in the social science literature (see Chapter 7
for a description and example). Regarding academic success, teachers having
expectations of poor academic performances by children watching professional
wrestling may unwittingly bring about that very result.
A number of effects on the physical well-being of children who watch many
hours of wrestling were identified in a final set of questions. Asked whether they
had observed children using wrestling moves, 28% reported that they had seen
body slams, while 24% reported having witnessed kicking and hitting. In addition, 21% of the teacher-observers had seen children imitating dangerous moves
involving the neck, for example, choke holds, clotheslines, or pile driver. Not
surprisingly, injuries often follow these attempts at imitation. Of those reporting
having seen injuries (42%), the most common were cuts, scrapes, and bruises
(74% of the teachers). More serious injuries to the head and neck were witnessed
by 24%, sprains and strains (10%), and broken bones (6%).
A final set of questions tapped the extent to which teachers had observed
the use of obscene language and gestures prominent in professional wrestling.
As an example, the infamous raised middle finger, the trademark of a wrestling headliner, was mentioned by 28% of the teachers. Bernthal (2003) has
set and discussed his findings in the context of marketing ethics where clearly
those promoting professional wrestling are targeting a young, primarily male
audience. Equally clear, children are being dealt a total disservice by this
practice.
Effects on children arising from witnessing violent (sports) episodes in media
productions may occur in the short term or over an extended period of time.
The impact and form of influence depends on the age and particular level of
development reached by the children, that is, whether toddlers, middle childhood, or adolescent.

PRIMING
Can the media unknowingly play a role in creating conditions conducive to conflict? Are some individuals “made ready” for interpersonal aggression long before
they pass through the turnstiles at a combatant sport? To begin with, fans led by
pregame publicity to believe that an upcoming meeting between two rival teams
will be a bloody affair anticipate just such a match as they enter the stadium.
Their expectations may set in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby spectators and athletes alike act to confirm the prediction.

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Aggressively toned, pregame publicity may set the stage for disorderly crowd
behaviors. A cognitive process called priming effects has been shown to influence our judgments regarding the social situation we find ourselves in. Stored
memories or schemas are activated by the language of publicity such that we see
others in a positive or negative light. Consider a simple illustration of how mere
words having neutral versus aggressive associations can determine how we later
perceive a stranger.
Students are asked to make sentences from lists of scrambled words. List
1 included the names of several sports generally seen to be nonaggressive, for
example, billiards, bowling, or golf. List 2 is identical except that aggressive
sport names are substituted for the nonaggressive names, for example, boxing,
football, or ice hockey. Somewhat later all students are introduced to an individual named Cam after which they are asked to describe him. Their descriptions differ sharply.
Students who had previously made sentences from the list containing nonaggressive sports have a generally favorable impression of Cam. By contrast, Cam
is described in hostile and menacing terms by those who were earlier “primed”
in the aggressive sport condition. In the latter case, antisocial or negatively toned
schemas are presumed to be activated and used in forming an overall impression
of Cam. How long the effects last and how subsequent behavior is influenced
remains unclear.
The case for priming takes on particular significance when we recognize
that individuals typically act on the basis of their perceptions of other people
and events. Actions are often taken solely on one’s perception of another quite
apart from any objective facts. By all accounts, Cam is seen as a warmhearted,
friendly, and gentle person by all who know him. Yet, if a media has characterized him as hostile and threatening, those later meeting him for the first time
will frame their impressions in similar terms. It is not unreasonable to suggest
that some fans primed to see other spectators as threatening may as a result
become confrontational or openly aggressive (Carver, Gandellen, Froming, &
Chambers, 1983).
In 1951, when Quarterback John Bright took his unbeaten Drake University
football team to play Oklahoma A & M (now Oklahoma State), the Stillwater
newspaper greeted his arrival with the headline “Bright is a Marked Man.”
Being Black, he was not a welcome presence in the Oklahoma stadium. His jaw
was intentionally broken by a defensive player during the game. Elsewhere with
Chinese–Japanese tensions running high, a Chinese headline greeted a visiting
Japanese soccer team with “Its Going to be a War.” Riots followed (Curtin,
2004). When the Edmonton Eskimos meet the Calgary Stampeders in Canadian
Football League play advance publicity describes the game as “The Battle for
Alberta.” Such media characterizations abound in the experience of nearly all
of us and can unknowingly create a hostile climate in which some spectators
will tend to see others as threatening and possibly looking to start trouble.
Pregame hyperbole featuring aggressive/violent language can create a volatile
environment, one that occasionally can contribute to interpersonal aggression or
outbursts of crowd violence.

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THE LANGUAGE OF SPORTS
As studies of priming demonstrate, mere words have the capacity to influence
our perceptions of people and events. Words that have aggressive meaning or
associations can readily elicit behaviors that would not normally occur. More
specifically, Segrave (1997) has astutely observed that the language of sport is
largely “dominated by the language of violence, the language of sex, and the
language of the machine” (p. 212). Being mainly a creation of men, the language
of sport reflects in large measure a male view of the world.
Sport and war metaphors have similarly pervaded much of political discourse
in the United States (Howe, 1988). Drawing from American football, we see a
politician “blindsided” when attacked from an unexpected source. A somewhat
inept politician might be characterized as a “weak hitter,” an obvious reference
to baseball. Finally, a boxing metaphor is easily recognized when the media
reports that one of the candidates in a debate “scored a knockout.” Sport metaphors abound and are deeply entrenched in the American (male) culture. Their
use and meanings are well understood by the voters. Furthermore, one political
observer has advanced the proposition that politicians can readily impose their
“vision of politics onto the electorate” through their use (Howe, 1988, p. 103).
Sports as a source of metaphors aside, we turn now to examine the use of
aggressive and/or threatening descriptive terms within sports. In addressing the
question, we have the benefit of earlier research on verbs used to describe a win
in basketball. The label given the specialized jargon of sport and adopted by
writers, sportscasters, and fans alike is “Sportuguese” (Tannenbaum & Noah,
1959). The words used a half century ago to describe the margin of victory
included the likes of defeated, whipped, gouged, humiliated, and several from
the Cold War, for example, H-bombed and atomized (see also p. 105). Estimates
of the point spreads represented by 84 such verbs were more accurate in the case
of sports writers and readers of the sport pages and less accurate in the case of
those not reading the sports section of their local newspaper. The results of this
early study have currency today.
A replication and extension of the Tannenbaum and Noah (1959) investigation was undertaken using an updated set of 50 verbs used in reporting the
outcome of basketball games (Wann et al., 1997). Beyond confirming the results
found a half century earlier, that is, those reading the sports section had a better
understanding of Sportuguese, other relationships were also found to be important. Ratings of participants’ identification with a basketball team, self-reports
of how knowledgeable they are regarding sports, and how strongly they regard
themselves as sports fans were all significantly related to a superior understanding of sports terminology (Wann et al., 1997).
Tannenbaum and Noah (1959) provide suggestions of several research topics
worthy of future investigation. In addition to comparisons in verb choices
between sports, they suggest analyses “of other language classes.” That is, “an
investigation of the adjectives used in sports reporting might prove even more
interesting than that for verbs” (p. 170). In addition, the researchers note several
nuances in the descriptions by writers covering the outcomes of baseball games,

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that is, the special case of the home team having won or lost to their visiting
rivals. Thus, following a loss, “edged out” becomes a “squeaker.” Alternatively,
“losing” may be described as having “bowed” to the visitors, giving their readers the added appearance of graciousness.

PERSONAL OBSERVATION
From the Stands
Most of us have attended sporting contests that are basically violent in nature.
Whether two individuals are pitted against each other, for example, boxing or
professional wrestling, or teams do battle, for example, football or ice hockey,
interpersonal aggression is central to the sport. Certainly, violent sports have a
dedicated following. People are more than willing to part with large sums of
money to witness these events. Of course, people attend these sports for reasons
other than their violent content. Some welcome the opportunities to make new
friends and/or socialize with “regulars.” Others hope to learn new skills or simply
cheer for their team. In the case of ice hockey, a small percentage attends because
they like to watch player fights. Parenthetically, the latter attend for no other
reason (Russell, 1995; Russell & Arms, 1998). For the most part then, a crosssection of a sports crowd reveals a diverse set of motives for their attendance.
We turn now to the central question of whether the hostility of those watching
a violent sport from their seats in the audience increases or, perhaps, diminishes
as a result. Then again, they may be unaffected by viewing aggression between
the athletes. A cathartic view of aggression has historically enjoyed the support of a long list of intellectual luminaries, that is, philosophers or Freudians.
Historically, few have dissented from the position that the observation of aggression results in a venting or draining of aggressive urges. It is a widely held
view “shared by men and women alike with approximately two-thirds of North
Americans subscribing to some form of cathartic belief” (Russell, Arms, &
Bibby, 1995; Russell & Goldstein, in press). By contrast, the vast majority of
contemporary theorists and researchers has instead adopted the view that while
witnessing aggression may occasionally leave aggression levels unchanged by
far the more likely result is an increase in viewer aggression. The evidence is
just too strong to suggest otherwise.
These differing views were brought together in a classic field experiment by
Jeffrey Goldstein and Robert Arms (1971). The study was conducted on the
occasion of the annual Army–Navy football game in Philadelphia. Trained interviewers intercepted men on a random basis as they entered the stadium prior to
the kickoff. The men were asked to complete a short questionnaire that included
a measure of trait aggression. The interviewers followed the same procedure as
male fans left the stadium at the end of the game.
In order to determine if witnessing player violence was the cause of any
changes in spectators’ aggression, a comparison or control event lacking
violence was necessary. An equally competitive, intercollegiate gymnastics meet

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was chosen for this purpose. The procedure followed at the football game was
repeated at the gymnastics meet, that is, men were randomly selected to complete the questionnaire either before or at the conclusion of the competition.
Note how the design of the study pits the two views against each other. If
the football fans show a drop in their aggression and the gymnastics fans show
no change from before to after the game, then a cathartic view gains support.
Another possibility is the men will show an increase in aggression over the
course of the game, thereby providing support for an enhancement position. Of
course, no change would suggest that witnessing aggression has no effect on
spectators’ aggressive state.
The results were straightforward. Irrespective of which team they were rooting for, the men at Soldier Field showed a significant increase in aggression from
before to after the contest. No pre to postevent changes were observed at the
gymnastics competition. The researchers chose to interpret the overall increase
at Soldier Field to a general weakening of inhibitions against the expression of
aggression (Bandura, 1973). An additional factor contributing to the increase in
spectator hostility may have been heightened arousal arising from the excitement of the game.
Rarely is a theoretical question fully answered to everyone’s satisfaction
by a single study. Such is the case here. What we can say at this point is the
football study yielded results that have stood up quite well since the game was
played back in the 1970s. Shortly thereafter, a follow-up study was undertaken
to rule out several rival explanations for the Philadelphia results and to test the
generality of those results, for example, a different culture, females as well as
males, the presence of alcohol, and a younger population (Arms, Russell, &
Sandilands, 1979).
The study was modeled after the Philadelphia study and conducted in
Lethbridge, Alberta, using Canadian male and female university students as
participants. Students were randomly chosen and assigned to attend one of three
sporting events, a hockey game, a professional wrestling match, or a provincial swim meet. Half of those attending a sport were given the questionnaire
before the event, the other half, at the conclusion of the competition. Once again,
scores on the measures of aggression increased overall during the course of
the two sports with violent content. No changes were observed at the (control)
swim meet.
I alluded above to the role a replication can play in ruling out rival explanations for the original results. Two examples will suffice. Is it not entirely reasonable to suggest that many of the Philly fans consumed substantial amounts of
alcohol, the more so as the game wore on? By contrast, alcohol is seldom seen
at a gymnastics meet. Alcohol then could have been responsible for the increase
in fan hostility. However, the explanation becomes less plausible when one considers that alcoholic beverages were unavailable at the Lethbridge venues. The
students were essentially sober throughout the study.
Consider a second example. Is it not also reasonable to suggest that the
increased hostility among the football fans arose from their watching a dull, lopsided contest where the outcome was scarcely in doubt (Navy 22, Army 0)? This

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too quickly fades as an explanation insofar as the outcome of the final tag-team
match on the Lethbridge card was in serious doubt until the dying seconds when
the forces of good overcame the forces of evil.
Thus far we see the evidence in these field investigations and most of what
follows is gradually building a case for the enhancement view. But for the writer
a nagging question remained, that is, what path do audience levels of aggression
follow as they rise from before to after witnessing a violent event? To answer
these questions it was necessary to take more frequent measures of audience
aggression. To this end, hockey fans completed measures before and after a
violent game (a total of 184 min in aggressive penalties) and between periods.
Levels of spectator hostility rose steadily from before the national anthem was
played peaking at the end of the second period. A wild stick-swinging brawl
had erupted just before the end of the period. What we see in these results is a
close tracking of on-ice violence by levels of audience hostility (Russell, 1981b).
I should add that a companion measure of arousal was included in the questionnaire. It too faithfully followed the course of player violence. And “yes,” the
study included another same sport control or peaceable game for comparison.
Here the measures of spectator hostility and arousal were virtually flat over the
entire course of the game.
Bidirectional Influence
The foregoing sections have featured a number of prominent studies that illustrate a pattern of findings consistent with a voluminous literature on the effects
of media violence. With rare exceptions, realistic or fictional depictions of
violence lead to increases in viewer aggression. The same is true of violence
witnessed firsthand from the stands. As a flood of findings pointed to a causal
association between the observation of violence and viewer aggression some
investigators shifted their attention to a slightly different question. Are the causal
effects between observing aggression and aggressive behavior bidirectional? Is it
also the case that aggressive individuals are drawn to watch media violence? A
number of studies appear to support just such relationships.
Two early studies examined television and movie choices in separate communities at a time when one community was experiencing high rates of crime
(Doob & Macdonald, 1979), the other, a brutal murder (Boyanowsky, Newtson,
& Walster, 1974). People living in the community plagued by a high crime rate
watched more violent television programming than those people living nearby in
a low crime community. Boyanowsky et al. (1974) reported similar findings in the
community experiencing a murder. People coming to terms with the local murder
showed a marked increase in attendance at a violent movie whereas attendance at
a nonviolent film remained constant throughout. One plausible explanation would
suggest that the citizenry was preoccupied with aggressive thoughts and fantasies
and thereby were led to seek out media violence (Fenigstein, 1979).
Other evidence suggests that men with a strong preference for viewing violence
are themselves dispositionally more aggressive than others (e.g., Diener & DeFour,
1978). Ice hockey fans who report their reason for attending games is they “like

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to watch the fights” score higher on measures of anger, physical aggression,
and assaultiveness than others less interested in watching fights (Russell, 1995;
Russell & Arms, 1995).
A more formal test of the “aggression-preference for violence” hypothesis
was undertaken by Fenigstein (1979). Aggressive fantasies were first induced in
half of his participants by having them write a story that included a number of
aggressive words, for example, hurt, insult, and knife. The remaining group was
provided with nonaggressive words to use in writing their stories, for example,
help, praise, and pen. All participants were later asked to select ten film clips for
their later viewing. The list from which they made their viewing choices included
a mix of violent and nonviolent titles, for example, “a downhill ski race,” or
“a fist fight.” The results showed that the induction of aggressive fantasies in
males led to film choices with more violent content than males experiencing
nonaggressive fantasies. For women, however, the fantasy induction procedure
exerted negligible effects on their choice of films.
Fenigstein (1979) followed up on the first experiment in pursuit of an answer
to the question of whether engaging in physical aggression would cause people
(males) to choose to watch violent fare. The aggression took the form of loud
static noise delivered to an experimental confederate through earphones using
a version of the Buss (1961) aggression machine procedure. The fantasy and
film choice procedures were again followed. The results were clear. The experiment demonstrated “that aggressive behavior leads to the viewing of violence”
(p. 2314). In sum, audiences for combatant sports and violent entertainment in
general include in their midst an excess of aggressive individuals.

SPINOFFS: EXTREME VIOLENCE
Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of a variety of entertainment productions in a new genre I would choose to call violent spinoffs. These productions give the appearance of having developed as an unauthorized extension of
a recognized sport in which there is an exaggeration of the violent and/or sexual
aspects of the sport. The result is an oddball collection of commercial spectacles
staged for the entertainment of select audiences. Two strong themes dominate
the genre: extreme violence and sexual titillation. Athletic skill and/or artistry
play little or no role in the farce.
An early attempt to capitalize on the violent aspects in ice hockey took the
form of video tapes featuring nonstop fights pirated from telecasts of NHL games.
Public and government sources were quick to voice their opposition. Perhaps,
the most outspoken critic was Mr. Iain Angus, a member of the Canadian House
of Commons (Thunder Bay-Atikokan). In addressing the Minister responsible:
“Does the Minister not agree that such video tapes are detrimental to efforts
being made to clean up the violence in hockey, particularly at the junior level?
Will he tell us what measures he has taken to get this pornography off the
shelves?” (Commons Debates, March 13, 1986). As of this writing, they remain
available on the shelves of my neighborhood video store.

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The genesis of a new spinoff targeting 18–50-year-old males appeared during
the Spring of 2005. As with the videos mentioned above, the violent aspects of
hockey were being exploited for financial gain in isolation from playing skills.
What follows is a summary of the media event and its promotion compiled
through several news sources.
The World Wrestling Federation on Skates
The date is June 17, 2005. The city fathers of northern British Columbia’s Prince
George (population 80,000) have welcomed promoter Darryl Wolski and his show
“Hockey Enforcers” with open arms. The entertainment concept is simple. Two
former enforcers suit up, put on skates, and meet at center ice where they drop the
gloves and fight. The two-and-a-half-hour spectacle begins with 16 players in 30
fights as they advance through the playoffs to the final match where a winner is
declared and cash prizes awarded. It is hockey without the distraction of a game!
A five-judge panel decides the winner based on the number of punches
thrown and landed, showmanship, and crowd response. There are rules, that is,
no spitting, no hair pulling, and no hitting below the belt. Two doctors were in
attendance, although Mr. Wolski is quoted as saying he cannot perceive the guys
getting seriously hurt (Armstrong, 2005).
Earlier, Wolski took his idea to a hockey trade show in New Orleans and
discussed the concept with pay-per-view representatives. He says, “Their eyes lit
up like I had just discovered a cure for cancer” (Armstrong, 2005, p. S2). Mayor
Kinsley is also backing the show pointing to the popularity of the WWF and
ultimate fighting contests. He comments further “I think it’s good, especially if
they fill a bunch of hotels and seats” (p. S2).
Initially, a number of U.S. cities were unreceptive to the proposal. It was subsequently scheduled for a date in Winnipeg, Manitoba. However, pressure from
the police citing a likely violation of the Canadian Criminal Code prompted the
move to Prince George. However, strong opposition to the event was voiced by
Prince George residents, all of which caused the city council to initially vote
against giving their approval. Even stronger was the threat of a lawsuit brought
against the city by the promoter. Now, with the blessing of the Prince George
Athletic Commission and the City of Prince George, tickets went on sale at
Ticketmaster. Yes, the show was also shown on pay-per-view.
The date is August 29, 2005. Update! The Battle of the Hockey Enforcers
took place before 2,000 spectators each of whom paid between $35 and $200
to watch the spectacle while untold others bought pay-per-view. Spotlights followed the fighters as they skated through dry ice to center accompanied by loud
rock music. Each fighter was introduced to the crowd by what was described as
“an enthusiastic blonde woman in red leather” (Girard, 2005).
Spectators witnessed approximately two dozen fights over the 3 hr of the
program: 19 among the registered fighters and at least four more among drunken
fans in the stands. The latter were escorted from the facility by Royal Canadian
Mounted Police (RCMP) officers. Punches that landed were wildly cheered
while the sight of heads snapping back in slow motion on big screen replays

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brought forth a collective groan. On-ice injuries included a cut eye, several
bruised or broken hands, and a possible concussion. The winner earned a cheque
for $62,000 CDN; the second place finisher, $25,000.
Erotica and Aggression
Several major sports are staged with the accompaniment of a team of scantily
attired girls/women who exhort spectators to cheer and shout encouragement
to the athletes. Largely a 20th-century North American invention, cheerleaders
have become institutionalized as part of the “entertainment package” at football and basketball games. In addition to leading chants and shaking their pom
poms, cheerleaders also treat spectators to a variety of dance and gymnastics
routines. Seemingly, their purpose is to entertain and keep spectator interest in
the contest at a high level. However, their presence on the sidelines serves an
even more important function. But first, allow me to acquaint you with several
typical findings from the erotica–aggression literature.
The earliest studies were designed to assess the effects of explicit erotica
on male aggression. However, these investigations produced contradictory
results. For example, males who were previously annoyed by a confederate male
delivered stronger shocks to the source of their annoyance after viewing an
explicit erotic film clip than did males who saw a neutral film (Zillmann, 1984,
pp. 161–162). By contrast, studies by Baron (1974) and Frodi (1977) show just
the opposite, that is, a reduction in male aggression following exposure to erotic
material. What accounts for the difference in outcomes? It appears that the
erotic content of materials shown to participants is all-important in determining
their subsequent level of aggression, that is, either an increase or a decrease.
Highly arousing explicit material, for example, a couple making love, increases
aggression in the observer. Milder forms of erotica, for example, Playboy nudes
or scantily attired attractive women, tend instead to inhibit aggression.
The relationship between erotica and aggression is thus best described as
curvilinear and can be visualized as a U-shaped function. As we move from
neutral material, that is, from furniture (control) to mild erotica to attractive
nudes, there is a decrease in aggression. This decline bottoms out and begins to
rise with increasingly explicit erotic materials.
The leading explanation for the finding that mild sexual material tends to
inhibit aggressive inclinations involves the arousal of reactions incompatible
with aggression. Consider an imaginative field study intended to arouse three
emotional states in males, each of which was predicted to be incompatible with
the expression of aggression (Baron, 1976). The (dependent) measure of aggression was horn honking.
Male motorists at a controlled intersection found themselves stalled behind
a car for 15 s after the light turned green. Before the light changed to green,
the motorist was exposed to one of three conditions, empathy, humor, or sexual
arousal. A confederate pedestrian was not present in a control condition. An
attractive female confederate (a) hobbled across in front of the motorist on
crutches with a bandaged leg, (b) crossed wearing a funny clown mask, or

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(c) crossed wearing a brief revealing outfit. The design of the study also took
into account whether conditions for the motorists were comfortable (their car
was equipped with air-conditioning) or uncomfortable (no air-conditioning). In
contrast to motorists in the uncomfortable control condition, the latency of horn
honking when the light turned green was longer in the empathy, humor, and
sexual arousal conditions. In effect, all three emotional states aroused by the
female pedestrian had the predicted effect of reducing the motorists’ aggression.
With respect to sexual arousal, the men watching the scantily attired girl pass
in front of their car were subsequently less aggressive, that is, took longer to
honk their horn once the light turned green. A lab study (Baron & Bell, 1977)
confirmed the aggression-reducing effects of mild erotica and further confirmed
earlier findings that explicit highly arousing materials tended instead, to increase
male aggression.
To sum up these findings, support was found for the incompatible response
hypothesis. Mild, sexually titillating displays decrease aggression. Explicit
highly arousing displays, for example, heterosexual acts, tend to increase the
aggression of males (see review, Zillmann, 1984, pp. 127–134).
Getting back to our cheerleaders, it must be said that they are a positive influence in a stadium or arena performing in front of crowds that have all too often
turned hostile. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that women react to
mild sexual erotica, for example, beefcake pictures, in a similar fashion to men
(e.g., Baron, 1979).
Aggressive Erotica for Profit
Several traditionally violent sports, for example, boxing and wrestling, have been
eroticized to provide entertainment packages for predominantly male audiences.
Typically these events are staged before a live audience and, in the 20th century,
filmed for the lucrative television or video market. An early example saw the
recreational pastime of roller skating transformed into the spectacle of roller
derby. For a time mayhem ruled the track much to the delight of a huge television following. All-female teams and male teams battled in no-holds-barred
competition as they circled the track. However, the eroticism was somewhat
subdued.
North American promoters have periodically made concerted efforts to interest paying audiences in female boxing. From the 19th century to the present,
New York in particular has been at the center of attempts to generate enthusiasm (Guttmann, 1991; “In this corner,” 1989). Boxing and wrestling have roots
reaching far back to the earliest days of recorded history. Working-class women
boxed and wrestled in circuses and music halls in 19th-century France. Female
boxing was also popular in 18th-century London. One such fight was witnessed
by sports journalist Max Viterbo during a 1903 visit to a Rue Montmartre venue.
The spirit of the spectacle is captured in his firsthand account describing the
scene and the reactions of those at ringside.
The room was wild with impatience. The stale smell of sweat and foul air
assaulted our nostrils. In this overheated room, the spectators were flushed.

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Smoke seized us by the throat and quarrels broke out . . . a lubricious gleam came
to the eyes of old gentlemen when two furious women flung themselves at each
other like modern bacchantes—hair flying, breasts bared, indecent, and foaming at the mouth. Everyone screamed, applauded, and stamped his feet (cited in
Guttmann, 1991, p. 100).
What are the effects on those witnessing these erotically enriched quasisporting events? Do men and women differ emotionally and attitudinally in their
reactions to these spectacles? Given the limited amount of research on these
questions, the few answers available should be regarded as tentative.
An exploratory study of these and other questions exposed male participants
to film clips of women wrestlers in action (Russell, Horn, & Huddle, 1988). The
first was a clip of professional lady wrestlers taken from the 1981 MGM movie
All the Marbles. The second, equal-length clip featured ladies mud wrestling
(topless) edited from a 1983 MEGA film Daddy’s Little Girls. In contrast to men
assigned to a no-film control condition, those viewing All the Marbles and the
mud wrestling clips experienced negative changes in mood states. That is, they
underwent an increase in aggressive mood and a decrease in social affection.
However, exposure to the films failed to produce predicted increases on scales
measuring sexual callousness toward women, rape myth acceptance, and a lessening of support for issues of special interest to women, for example, provision
of nationwide day care facilities for children.
A further study investigated the effects on aggressive mood of observing
female boxers (Russell, 1992a). Participants were randomly assigned to view
one of three, 14-min film segments. They watched either a fast-paced, exciting
ski film White Winter Heat (control), Buxom Boxers (BB), or Battling Amazons
(BA). Attractive bikini-clad women in BB wore oversized gloves and protective
headgear. However, during the second round they inexplicably lost their tops.
Throughout the film the ring announcer offered sexually suggestive comments
intended to amuse the all-male audience. The second film (BA) was more serious. It featured equally attractive fighters using regulation gloves and no headgear. The rules, such as they were, allowed the women to kick their opponent.
Their costumes remained intact. This contest was especially brutal with one
fighter being knocked unconscious by a kick to the head.
Female participants watching BB and BA did not differ in their levels of
aggression. Both boxing films produced more aggressive mood than the control
film. Levels of aggressive mood for male participants remained constant across
the three film conditions. Yet in the foregoing Russell et al. (1988) study, exposure to ladies’ mud wrestling resulted in an increase in men’s aggressive mood
as well as a decrease in social affection.

SUMMARY
This chapter opened with an examination of several questions regarding the part
played by the media in possibly creating serious conflicts in ongoing marital
and romantic relationships. A discussion followed in which the violent elements

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131

of sport media presentations that serve to attract audiences or otherwise establish their popularity were identified. Next, it was shown that violent television
programming can have major social effects on viewers that extend far beyond the
stadium or field of play. The concluding half of the chapter highlighted the influence of professional wrestling with a focus on its potentially harmful effects on
children. The final section described and evaluated several sports, for example,
boxing and ice hockey, redesigned by profit-minded entrepreneurs to provide
male audiences with highly erotic or violent spectacles that are caricatures of the
original.

ADDENDUM
Joanne Savage at American University (Washington, DC) has recently conducted
a comprehensive methodological review of studies examining the effects of television violence on criminal aggression, for example, homicides. Not included in
the review are experimental investigations using electric shock in the teacher–
learner paradigm. While the paradigm may be physically harmful, its use does
not break the law.
Studies judged on methodological grounds to have medium to high relevance
to answering the question of media effects on criminal behavior were compared
on the basis of their findings, that is, positive, negative, or null relationship to
violent media portrayals. Within the set of 23 medium and highest relevant studies, seven report a positive effect, three of which apply only to girls. Four studies
in the summary set showed a negative effect, that is, with increasing media
violence, there is less violent behavior. A further nine studies report no effect.
The remaining three studies produced an “interaction” whereby a positive effect
was found but only for people high on trait aggression at the time the studies
were begun.
As will be apparent to the reader, Savage’s review is contrary to previous
reviews of the literature and the conclusions of a large majority of aggression
researchers. However, this is not to say that violent media depictions do not
impact violent criminality. Rather, “the body of published empirical evidence
on this topic does not establish that viewing violent portrayals causes crime”
(Savage, 2004, p. 99). Put another way, the methodological shortcomings identified in the review may simply have masked or rendered the designs insensitive
to true, positive relationship between violent media portrayals and violent criminality. That possibility remains.

Suggested Readings
Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A. (2001). Media violence and the American public:
Scientific facts versus media misinformation. American Psychologist, 56, 477–489.
As this article and a variety of other sources make clear, exposure to media portrayals of violence lead generally to an increase in aggression on the part of viewers.

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Yet, confusion on the question reigns in the public mind. On the one hand, we hear
from aggression researchers stressing that the negative effects on viewers as a result of
watching violent programming are well established. At the same time, those representing the entertainment industry dismiss or minimize suggestions of harmful effects to the
viewing public. This article effectively lays out the reasons for the discontinuity between
media reports and scientific knowledge on this critical question.
Goldstein, J. H. (Ed.). (1998). Why we watch: The attractions of violent entertainment.
New York: Oxford University Press.
The author has assembled a diverse set of eminent scholars, each expert addressing the question from the perspective of their respective disciplines. The fundamental
question of why we are drawn to violence is explored in a variety of settings that range
from children’s toys and literature to religion, media, and sports. It is the starting point
for those who ask why and those students of aggression who would seek to answer the
question.
Palmer, C. T. (2006). “Shit happens”: The selling of risk in extreme sport. The Australian
Journal of Anthropology, 13, 323–336.
This scholarly article is recommended for those even toying with the idea of buying
a media-promoted “adventure package” that involves any one of a number of extreme
sports, for example, mountain climbing, extreme skiing, white water rafting, paragliding,
or bungy jumping. Sports magazines, television promotions, and media advertising extol
the thrills and chills of extreme sporting adventures while all but ignoring mention of
the real presence of substantial risks, that is, injury or death. Ill-trained, inexperienced,
and often physically unfit individuals seek peak experiences for a hefty fee. The Everest
(1996) and Interlaken canyonning (1999) disasters serve to illustrate the dark underbelly
of this burgeoning industry.

5
Violent Sports Crowds

INTRODUCTION
Sporting events have seen rioting with disquieting regularity throughout history
and on six continents. Few sports have remained untouched. Whenever people
assemble to witness sports or, for that matter, attend other events, for example,
union meeting, rock concert, or beach party, there is an ever-present risk of a
physical disturbance. The consequences of sports riots can be costly exacting an
appalling toll of property damage, injuries, and, on singular occasions, deaths.
Other hidden costs can include those associated with policing events, “hooliganproofing” stadia, and declining attendance.
For me, news of a riot brings forth images not unlike a barroom brawl with
hard-bitten gunslingers swinging wildly at each other smashing furniture and
glassware, the sheriff and his deputy expected to arrive momentarily. Admittedly,
my view of riots has been shaped by countless Saturday afternoon Hollywood
westerns. To be sure, my childhood memories are a distortion of historical reality in terms of their frequency and destructiveness. For the most part, the good
citizens of small frontier towns had little cause for concern.
Today’s newspapers and other media outlets are quick to feature and give
extended coverage to riots, often pushing more important but less newsworthy topics to the back pages. An opening question in this chapter is whether
media audiences have developed a distorted impression of riots in regard to their
destructiveness and frequency of occurrence. Have our estimates of the frequency
of rioting at sports events been inflated much as was my childhood estimate of
barroom brawls? In short, is crowd violence in sports as “serious” a problem
as media coverage would seem to imply or is it overblown? The question will
be explored in the opening section with particular reference to crowd disorders
associated with football (soccer).
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A widely used means of classifying riots is highlighted along with descriptive
profiles of those involved. Rioters are treated as a group with particular characteristics that lend them to participation in disturbances. A final topic brings
together the available evidence on peacemakers, that is, those individuals in a
crowd who step forward to restrain or dissuade troublemakers. Specific topics include the number of peacemakers present in a crowd and a preliminary
composite personality profile along with defining characteristics. A short scale
developed to identify those likely to emerge as peacemakers is described. A final
section provides a number of proposals that have been put forward by various
writers intended to avert or minimize the effects of riots.
THE PROBLEM OF SPORT RIOTS: SEVERITY OF THE PROBLEM
A Moral Panic?
The thrust of this chapter is on spectator violence as a social problem, an
approach that attempts to identify the causes of fan violence. However, in assessing the severity of the problem we must first separate the public’s view from the
evidence provided by records of the phenomenon. The two are not necessarily
in agreement. In the case of riotous football behaviors, the public’s view of its
severity may be artificially high, that is, a moral panic. In a moral panic, fan
violence is seen in menacing terms, a phenomenon that threatens social values
and interests and about which a belief is fostered that something must be done.
As Ward (2002) notes, moral panics involve “rapid and intense emotional fervor
toward an issue that the media and other social control agents call to public
attention” (p. 464). Examples include school shootings (Burns & Crawford, 1999)
and child molestation (Goode, 2000). To be sure, there may in fact be a problem
of sorts but its seriousness and the threat it poses to the public is overblown by
hyperbole and media exaggeration (Cohen, 1973). The resulting hysteria prompts
an official reaction that is typically more Draconian than the facts warrant.
Moorhouse (1991) presents the case for hooligan violence in British football
qualifying as a moral panic.
The sober truth is that football violence is not a particularly large segment of
all recorded violence and that one theoretically puzzling issue is why, given a
high value on masculinity norms, heavy drinking, and preexisting social antagonisms in British society, football “hooligans” have not been a lot more violent.
Certainly, we have cause to wonder why policy makers, funding bodies, and
yes, academics and students are so interested in it because on figures alone it is
difficult to claim that it really is exceptional or even an important indicator of
the “well-being” of society (p. 493).
DEFINITIONS
A wide variety of definitions are to be found in the social science literature. Their
diversity can be seen in the following examples. McPhail (1994) defines a riot as

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135

“the judgment that one or more persons, part of a larger gathering, are engaged in
violence against person or property or threaten to so engage and are judged capable
of enacting that threat” (p. 2). Other definitions describe riots as “aimless behavior
involving disturbances or turmoil” (Darrow & Lowinger, 1968, p. 2) and “relatively
spontaneous group violence contrary to traditional norms” (Marx, 1972, p. 50).
Bohstedt (1994) specifies a requisite number of participants for a disorder to achieve
riot status as does Lewis (1982a) in establishing a minimum of five persons as necessary to “serious disorders.” Lewis later adopted 10 as the number necessary for
a violent incident to qualify as a riot. Bohstedt suggests a riot involves “crowd violence, hostile collective action by a group of about 50 or more people who physically
assault persons or property or coerce someone to perform an action” (Bohstedt,
1994, p. 259). Simmons and Taylor have developed a definition specifically in the
context of sports. They propose that sports riots represent “purposive destructive or
injurious behavior by partisan spectators of a sporting event that may be caused by
personal, social, economic or competitive factors” (Simons & Taylor, 1992, p. 213).
It is clear from the above that there is little approaching a consensus on the
matter of definition. The number of participants necessary for a riot is seen to
vary from 1 (McPhail, 1994) to 50 (Bohstedt, 1994). Some specify the causes of
riots (Simons & Taylor, 1992), others do not. It is the writer’s view that sports
riots do not constitute a special case with unique origins. The same underlying
causal factors are common to riots in the broader social context and in sport
settings. As noted elsewhere, “religious, social, ethnic and economic conflicts,
even competitive outcomes broadly defined, can be shown to have been at the
heart of riots in both settings” (Russell, 2004, p. 355).

INCIDENCE OF RIOTS
Table 5.1 is presented as background to this chapter. Several points deserve mention. As noted in the introduction, every major continent has seen riots associated with the world’s most popular sport, that is, football. The table suggests
an increase in the frequency of riots over the past 100 years. However, at this
point it would certainly be premature to draw a conclusion regarding trends.
A fair number of tragedies generally described as riots involved a major component of panic, for example, Heysel in 1985 (Dunand, 1986), Bradford in 1985
(Lewis & Veneman, 1987), and Hillsboro in 1989 (Wright, Binney, & Kunkler,
1994). Adding to the confusion, the descriptive labels “stampede” and “panic”
are often used interchangeably. All too often, distinctions between these phenomena are blurred in media reports of these tragedies. For example, the incidence
of riots in general is vastly underreported (Russell, 2004). It would further seem
likely that a considerably larger number of riots occurred in the first half of the
last century and went unreported or were reported only locally. This is in sharp
contrast to those reported by means of the instant and far-reaching communication capabilities available to news gathering organizations today. It seems to the
writer that the actual number of football riots occurring in the first half of the
20th century is woefully underestimated in the table as are the numbers overall.

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Table 5.1 Deaths and Injuries Associated With Football Disturbances
Year

Location

1902
1914
1946
1961
1961
1964
1967
1968
1971
1974
1975

Glasgow, United Kingdom
Hillsborough, United Kingdom
Bolton, United Kingdom
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Chile
Lima, Peru
Kayseri, Turkey
Buenos Aires
Glasgow, United Kingdom
Cairo, Egypt
Moscow, Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics
Algiers
Cali, Columbia
Brussels, Belgium
Bradford, United Kingdom
Mexico City
Tripoli
Katmandu, Nepal
Hillsboro, United Kingdom
Orkney, South Africa
Nairobi, Kenya
Bastia, Corsica
Lusaka, Zambia
Guatemala City
Alexandria, Egypt
Monrovia, Liberia
Harare, Zimbabwe
Brazil
Ellis Park, South Africa
Lubumbashi, Congo
Ghana, West Africa
Ivory Coast
Beijing, China
Tehran, Iran

1982
1982
1985
1985
1985
1987
1988
1989
1991
1991
1992
1996
1996
1999
2000
2000
2000
2000
2001
2001
2001
2004
2005

Death (Injuries)
25 (517)
– (75)
33 (>500)
3 (35)
5 (300)
350 (500)
48 (602)
72 (113)
66 (140)
49 (47)
20 (–)
8 (600)
24 (250)
39 (470)
57 (200)
10 (30)
20 (16)
93 (100)
96 (400)
40 (50)
1 (24)
17 (190)
9 (78)
83 (180)
11 (–)
3 (–)
13 (–)
– (200)
47 (200)
8 (–)
126 (–)
1 (39)
– (–)
5 (40)

Precise estimates of the frequency of riots are difficult to come by. Several factors are at play to produce estimates considerably below the actual figures. The table
lists only reports of major football riots that have found their way into Western print
media. For example, riotous behaviors judged by media staff to be “newsworthy” are
given coverage, whereas those with less reader appeal are passed over. Moreover, an
untold number of riots take place beyond the view of police and as a consequence do
not find their way into the public record (Roversi, 1991). For example, it is common
practice for police at Scottish football matches to eject rowdy spectators rather than
make arrests (Coalter, 1985). Overall, these practices effectively act as a filter resulting in “official” records of fan misconduct that understate the reality.
With the foregoing in mind plus the results of several studies, riots must be
regarded as common occurrences. A study of 306 football matches in Belgium

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137

revealed that 31% involved minor outbursts, while 9.5% involved serious crowd
disturbances (Van Limbergen, Colaers, & Walgrave, 1989). Elsewhere, 25 brawls
erupted during the Stuttgart Football Club’s 17 home games. The fighting involved
a total of 140 fans, 35 of whom suffered treatable injuries (Pilz et al., 1981, cited
in Smith, 1983, p. 135). Marsh, Fox, Carnibella, McCann, and Marsh (1996)
estimated that fan violence typically erupts at 10% of matches played in countries with a history of disorders, for example, Britain, Italy, and the Netherlands.
Crowd disturbances then, are far from a rarity.
A number of authors, the writer included, have described sports riots as rare
(e.g., Russell, 1993, p. 254), very rare (e.g., specifically at football matches, Stott
& Adang, 2004), relatively rare (e.g., Mann & Pearce, 1978, p. 191; Ward, 2002,
p. 457), or infrequent in the case of “genuine” riots (Smith 1983, p. 152). Lewis
(1975) voiced a dissenting opinion based on the results of his archival investigation of U.S. sports riots. Simply put, he concluded that “sports riots are not
[italics added] rare” (p. 2). The sample of definitions presented earlier show
little agreement particularly with regard to the requisite number of participants.
Clearly, a crowd disturbance can involve a single or several combatants, that is,
a scuffle, a fracas, or a brawl. Equally clear, our estimates of rarity depend on
where the line is drawn on a continuum of events ranging in size from perhaps
two individuals fighting to hundreds engaged in widespread violence over an
extended period of time. Thus, if we adopt a definition similar to that proposed
by McPhail (1994), that is, “one or more persons,” riots are commonplace. By
contrast, if an unruly crowd event is judged by Bohstedt’s (1994) definition,
that is, “50 or more people,” then riots are a relatively infrequent occurrence.
Moreover, the decision as to where to draw the line is made more problematic
by a tendency to take into account the number of injuries, deaths, and property
damage, when judging an event’s severity. Where death and destruction occur,
a disorder normally described as a brawl may instead be labeled a riot. In sum,
there is little by way of a consensus where that line should be drawn. One
theorist’s riot is another theorist’s scuffle.
Given the intense media coverage given to football in Europe and Latin America,
it is not surprising that there is an exceptionally strong association in the public’s
mind between riotous behaviors and the sport. Some years ago, the writer was
passing through British Customs at Gatwick Airport on his way to the meetings
of the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA). Members of the
society have research interests as varied as spousal violence, animal aggression,
pharmacological effects, and environmental and media influences. The customs
officer asked me the purpose of my visit. I said I was attending a conference in
Wales. He then asked what the conference was about. I said it was a conference
on aggression to which he immediately replied: “You’ve come about our football
then?” Without another word being spoken, he waved me through.
Riots Associated With Various Sports
The reality is that riots can occur whenever people come together. As noted earlier, whether on a picket line, the floor of a national assembly, a court hearing, or

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any one of a number of sports events, given the right circumstances and actors,
disorders can erupt. Certainly, European football has witnessed more than its
share of unwanted publicity. However, other sports have not escaped untarnished. There is evidence to suggest that fan violence can erupt at virtually any
spectator sport, even sports devoid of violent content. Three studies conducted
in the United States show a pattern of disorderly crowd behavior occurring at
levels comparable to those seen in European football.
Sociologist Jerry Lewis (1975) has tallied the number of riots occurring in the
United States at sports events. Seven major Eastern U.S. newspapers (e.g., New
York Times or Cleveland Plain Dealer) were examined for reports of sports riots
during the years 1960–1972. Stories of 245 riots (an average of 20 per year) were
of sufficient importance to be published in the papers. The sports that experienced
rioting were (in decreasing order): American football, 61; baseball, 58; basketball,
46; ice hockey, 29; boxing, 19; horse racing, 9; motorcycle/car racing, 7; soccer, 6;
golf, 3; air sports, 2; track, 2; wrestling, 1; tennis, 1, and polo, 1. Lewis (1982b)
expanded his earlier survey identifying more than 300 sports riots involving 10
or more people during the period 1962–1982. Baseball had surpassed football as
the sport experiencing the greatest number of violent incidents among fans. In a
third study, spectators attending football and basketball games were observed by
the investigators. Fighting broke out among fans at 9 of 24 basketball games and
9 of 14 football games (Bryan & Horton, 1976).
In light of the foregoing, describing riot frequency as “relatively rare” even
when holding to a conservative definition requiring a minimum of say 15–20
participants is lacking support. Describing the frequency of their occurrence
as “fairly commonplace” is more accurate, more consistent with the sports
literature.
Riot Severity
Several measures have been developed to assess the severity of a crowd
disturbance. They may be useful in helping researchers decide if a particular
disturbance has reached riot proportions. One such measure has been developed
by Eisinger (1973). Called the Riot Intensity Index, it assesses a disturbance
along three intuitively derived dimensions, that is, duration, number of sites,
and the number of participants. The rater(s) assign from 1 to 3 points on each of
the three dimensions. As examples, the duration of the disturbance is assigned
1 point if it was confined to 1 day; 2 points, 2 days, and 3 points, 3 or more
days. The number of different locations is assigned 1 point if it was confined to
a single location, 2 points, for two sites, and 3 points, for three or more sites.
Lastly, Eisinger would assign 1 point if the number of participants was 5–75, 2
points, 76–200, and 3 points if 201+ were involved. Note that Eisinger appears
to have set 5 as the minimum number of participants for a crowd disturbance to
qualify as a riot.
The Eisinger index represents a useful first step in the development of a riot
severity measure. Refinements might involve the use of factor analysis or multidimensional scaling procedures (e.g., Russell, 1972) to more fully map the dimensions

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underlying the domain of crowd disorders. Furthermore, it seems to the writer that
the toll of deaths, injuries, and property destruction is absolutely central to people’s
judgments of riot severity. With the dimensions empirically identified, ratings can
be combined to produce an overall weighted figure indicative of the severity of a
disorder. Finally, the term “participants” should be specifically defined. As we see
later in this chapter, a crowd disturbance is typically made up of individuals who
assume quite different roles. The percentage of people actually throwing punches
is quite small as is the number of others egging them on from the sidelines. Are
these not participants? Within the remaining large majority of crowd members,
many are attempting to restore order. Should they also be counted as participants?
The largest percentage of all are standing idly by watching events unfold while
still others choose to leave. Refinements along these lines would provide researchers with a valuable means of assessing unruly crowds, at the same time furthering
our understanding of violent collective behaviors.

THEORY
A Note on Causes
There is no shortage of theories, models, taxonomies, or explanations for crowd
violence in sport settings (see reviews by Smith, 1975; Stott, Hutchinson, &
Drury, 2001; Ward, 2002; ‘t Hart & Pijnenburg, 1988). What follows are several
viewpoints that I believe you will find interesting and perhaps offer a fresh way
of looking at sports riots. On a further note, full-scale riots are exceedingly
complex social events. In addition to taking a variety of forms, riots differ in
their scale, are geographically scattered, and are largely unpredictable. Adding
to the difficulty of understanding the origin of riots is that they are typically
caused by multiple factors. Moreover, the factors necessary to a riot must be
present and unfold in a particular sequence. In consequence, answers regarding
the cause of a riot(s) are tentative at best.
A Need for Excitement
Despicable actions that outrage the general population frequently leave people
dumbfounded and unable to explain the motives of those involved. What on earth
could possibly explain these “mindless” acts whether they be a swarming, a rape,
vandalism, or, for present purposes, a riot? Quite simply, for some individuals
these acts are pleasurable!
Michael Apter (1982, 1992) has developed an empirically based model of
excitement based on his role reversal theory. To begin with, consider that modern
societies have seen high levels of unemployment, a greater life expectancy, and
increased leisure time. This, coupled with shrinking opportunities to undertake
challenging risks, leads to utter boredom for many. The result for some is a
search for activities that carry serious personal risks. Their involvement in risky
activities serves to offset the thoroughly unpleasant state of boredom. Belgian

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researchers (Van Limbergen et al., 1989) seeking to explain the motives of their
homegrown hooligans reached a similar conclusion. That is, “To interrupt their
monotonous lives, they look for the excitement of a war game, which they find
around the terraces” (p. 10). Excitement initially builds as hooligans reminisce
about earlier exploits and plan their next engagement. “The excitement reaches
its peak during violent actions and hooliganism, when the siders feel stronger,
faster and more clever in relation to other sides and the police” (p. 9).
To the rioter’s mind, the odds of being injured or apprehended in a disorderly
crowd are slight. Despite feeling safe, there is always the possibility that the
individual bent on trouble has misjudged his situation. That is, he may stray too
close to what Apter calls “the dangerous edge.” One misstep and he falls into
the “trauma zone” where he is apt to suffer grievous consequences, for example,
injuries or arrest. To be sure, individuals occasionally miscalculate their margin
of safety. Unaware of nearby surveillance cameras, a rioter is surprised a few
days later when the police come calling at his door.
The next few pages provide little more than a thumbnail sketch of reversal
theory. A more detailed and extended description of the theory, including its
application to sports, is available in Kerr (2005a). In addition, two case studies
provide explanations using reversal theory in accounting for the motives underlying separate incidents in which a player suddenly attacks a rival. The first is
the notorious Zidane–Matarazzi head butt at the 2006 Football World Cup Final
(Kerr, 2007). Equally shocking to the ice hockey world was the savage attack on
Steve Moore (Colorado Avalanche) who was blind-sided by power forward Todd
Bertuzzi of the NHL Vancouver Canucks (Kerr, 2006).
Reversal theory includes the concepts of paratelic protective frames and
parapathic emotions. These protective frames are dependent on the individual’s
assessment and interpretation of his circumstances. Positive paratelic emotions
can be enjoyed to the fullest within a protective frame. In addition, normally
negative telic emotions, for example, anger, uncharacteristically are experienced as pleasant in the paratelic state, that is, as parapathic emotions. Within
a protective frame, the troublemaker feels relatively secure and unlikely to be
injured or taken into custody by police. Still, violence must continue to be a
regular occurrence along with injuries, often serious, if a sense of danger is to
be maintained.
Reversal theory highlights the complexity and inconsistency of an individual’s
behavior. The interpretation and structure of an individual’s motives are facilitated
by means of four sets of paired mental states, that is, telic–paratelic, negativistic–
conformist, sympathy–mastery, and autic–alloic. Collectively, they are referred
to as metamotivational states. Reversals are regarded as involuntary. However, a
reversal can be brought about by personal or environmental change, frustration, or
satiation. Frustration arising from one pair of states not meeting the individual’s
needs is a condition likely to trigger a change. Similarly, a reversal is increasingly
likely to occur the longer a person stays in one metamotivation state.
The behavior of an individual in the telic state is one of seriousness accompanied by low levels of arousal. By contrast, behavior in the paratelic state is
characterized as spontaneous, playful, and exhibiting a preference for highly

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arousing situations. The dangers inherent in hooligan activities, for example,
riotous behavior, provide an avenue of escape from the boredom of a telic state
by reversing to a paratelic state in which they instead experience spontaneity
and high arousal.
An individual in the conformist state is generally compliant with requirements imposed by external forces or authority. In the negative state they feel a
need to challenge the existing order. As Kerr and de Kock (2002) note, negativism is an “ingredient in most hooligan activities, enhancing high arousal and
adding to excitement” (p. 7).
The mastery state is one in which the individual wants to dominate another
person or group. This state is evidenced by rival groups of hooligans who, for
example, attempt to put their opponents to flight in the streets following a match.
Largely incompatible feelings of caring and sensitivity characterize the sympathy state. The fourth paired mental state is autic–alloic. The autic state reflects
an individual’s concern with what happens to him personally. Otherwise, what
befalls other people or objects is the greater concern for people in the alloic
state.
We glimpse the centrality and strength of excitement needs in an interview
with a 26-year-old Welsh lorry driver.
I go to a match for one reason only: the aggro. It’s an obsession. I can’t give it up.
I get so much pleasure when I’m having aggro that I nearly wet my pants—it’s
true. I go all over the’ country looking for it. I couldn’t sleep all last night, I got so
worked up looking forward to this match. My mother hid my shoes this morning.

He continues.
Every night during the week we go round town looking for trouble. Before a
match we go round looking respectable . . . then if we see someone who looks like
the enemy, we ask him the time. If he answers in a foreign accent, we do him over,
and if he’s got any money on him we roll him as well (Harrison, 1974, p. 604).

The Anatomy of a Riot
Kerr and de Kock (2002) have applied role reversal theory to a violent confrontation between rival elements in Dutch football. The following is a capsule summary of the events occurring in a car park near the tiny village of Beverwijk.
The prearranged confrontation took place on neutral ground in March of
1997 between several hundred FC Feijenoord and approximately 150 FC Ajax
hooligans. A 35-year-old man, married with two children, was stabbed to death
while others suffered serious injuries. Answers to a number of questions were
sought within the framework of role reversal theory. Several explanations for
hooligan motivations on key questions will serve to illustrate findings from
this case study. What sparked the confrontation? Shortly before the battle, a
Feijenoord hooligan was interviewed on Dutch television regarding a minor
altercation involving Ajax hooligans 2 weeks earlier. He took the occasion to
refer to Ajax hooligans as “mietjes” (homosexual wimps). This did not sit well
with Ajax hooligans and called for a strong response.

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Why did the confrontation not take place in the stadium? In recent years,
police in the Netherlands (and England) have developed a variety of control
measures to restrict the occurrence and scale of hooligan behavior in football
stadia. For example, tactics include a heavy police presence, segregated areas
for rival fans, undercover agents, and police escorts to and from transportation
terminals all of which serve to encourage hooligans to conduct their activities
elsewhere. The overall effect has been to change the nature of the “game.”
Now the game has become one of outflanking police tactics. Within a need for
excitement framework, Kerr and de Kock (2002) note that “outwitting the police
provides extra challenge, excitement and fun” (p. 6). In consequence, the new
challenge was met with careful planning and preparation for confrontation at a
time and location of their choosing. Cell phone technology allowed the battle
plans to be easily drawn up and last minute details arranged in secrecy.
Did the death of a veteran leader diminish subsequent hooligan activities.
Seemingly the fatal stabbing and severe injuries that occurred in the car park at
Beverwijk would dampen the enthusiasm for future violence. This did not happen.
Rather there was continued violence involving Feijenoord hooligans when their club
played Manchester United in the Fall. At an earlier time, the dreadful disasters at
Heysel, Belgium (1985), and Hillsboro, England (1989), were also followed by hooligan violence at subsequent matches. To echo the conclusion of Kerr and de Kock
(2002) “knowledge of the death and injuries would have been likely to enhance the
challenge, danger and excitement associated with hooligan fighting” (p. 8).
I trust the foregoing has allowed the reader to glimpse something of the
complexity and social dynamics often involved in riots. In the next section we
turn to an example of a system that provides for the classification of sports riots
according to their presumed origins. Brief accounts of real-life riots representing each category are introduced.
The FORCE Typology
An especially useful means of classifying riots has been the typology provided
by Leon Mann (1989). Sports riots can generally be identified as falling into one
of five categories, that is, Frustration, Outlawry, Remonstrance, Confrontation,
and Expressive, the first letters of which form the handy mnemonic FORCE.
Mann makes a distinction in the frustration category between fans who were
frustrated by deprivation and frustration caused by a perceived injustice. Consider
the following. Fans waiting hours for tickets to an important match see the “Sold
Out” sign go up. Their hopes of getting tickets suddenly evaporate. The response
to severe frustration in these circumstances may be one of violence.
A violent protest may also follow on the heels of a sports official’s decision to
discipline an athlete with a punishment seen to be excessively harsh or unjust. Just
such a riot was sparked when NHL Commissioner Clarence Campbell benched
Maurice “The Rocket” Richard for the balance of the season before an important
game against Detroit. Unwisely, the Commissioner chose to attend the game
further enraging Montreal fans. Rioting erupted in the arena, while some 10,000
people outside besieged the Forum hurling bricks and other missiles. Stores in

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the Forum were damaged and looted, as were 50 businesses along an adjacent
street in a riot that lasted until 3:00 a.m. the next morning (Lang & Lang, 1961).
Outlawry riots involve antagonistic elements that clash at or near the sporting
venue. The event merely provides a site where the rival groups can do battle.
Groups of predominantly young men can often be found in the vicinity of European
football matches eager to do battle before, during, or after the match. Media
attention is guaranteed for these hooligans as is the presence of rival supporters.
Dutch psychologist, Jeffrey Goldstein provides a firsthand, inside account of
an outlawry riot in which he and his wife found themselves engulfed by rioters
during a visit to Cannes in the summer of 2004.
Gerda and I were in France in July and got caught in the middle, well, on the
fringe of football violence. We were in a cafe in Cannes, of all places, and noticed
several groups of young men. We just received our drinks when a group of guys
walking toward the cafe began throwing chairs and fighting. Everyone retreated
into the cafe, but so did the football fans, destroying the place. We got out through
a side exit and from what we hoped was a safe distance watched the 30 or 40 guys
charge and retreat in waves. Gerda found an opening and ran into the cafe to pay
for our drinks!
A tip was out of the question. It took 5 minutes before the police came. We
later found out it was a game between Paris St. Germain and a team from Lyons
played on neutral ground. Our reaction to witnessing this real violence was of a
totally different order (and not just magnitude) than seeing mock violence in films
or video games. It felt like a flight or fight response with a long recovery time
(J. H. Goldstein, personal communication, September 20, 2004).

Another riot in Sweden:
An outlawry riot broke out in a downtown Stockholm pub when 60 soccer hooligans from two rival clubs clashed. Supporters of Djurgarden and Hammarby clubs
smashed furniture and windows in a brawl that left six hooligans injured and two
police officers with cuts and bruises. The police made 25 arrests charging the
supporters with the offenses of rioting, vandalism, assault and resisting arrest.
The police were caught off guard because the Swedish soccer season had not even
started (March 27, 2005).

Long-standing ideological conflicts are at the heart of remonstrance riots.
Groups eager to advance their social or political agenda stage their protest in
conjunction with the sports event thereby capturing much of the media attention
normally focused on the event. During the decade of the 1970s, touring South
African sports teams were shadowed by organized protests. Demonstrations
were carefully planned and orchestrated to gain worldwide publicity for the
antiapartheid cause. Although intended to be peaceful, such demonstrations on
occasion erupt in violence.
A long and bitter history of conflict rooted in religious, class, racial, or economic
injustices underlies riots in the confrontation category. In such instances, fans
have aligned themselves with teams that in some way represent their cause.
A case in point is the football rivalry between the Glasgow Rangers and Celtics.
The largely Protestant Ranger following has historically clashed with Catholic

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Celtic supporters in a rivalry that has its roots in the political and economic
history of Northern Ireland (Moorhouse, 1984).
A recent confrontation riot occurred in the aftermath of Japan’s 3–1 defeat of
China in the final match of the Asia Cup. Violence erupted outside of Beijing’s
soccer stadium as Chinese supporters surrounded the Japanese team bus. Despite
the presence of 6,000 riot police and security personnel, fans burnt the Japanese
flag, hurled bottles, and shouted obscenities at the Japanese contingent. The
riot provides a good illustration of how long-standing grievances can emerge in
violent actions after laying dormant for decades.
Tensions were heightened by Chinese protesters who by their actions brought
bygone, sensitive issues to the fore. Banners carried by protesters during earlier
matches in the competition created a politically charged environment. One read
“Look at history and apologize to the people of China,” a reference to Japan’s
invasion and occupation of Chinese territory from 1931 to 1945 when tens of
millions died. Another banner read “Return the Diaoyutai Islands,” a potentially
oil-rich chain of islands at the heart of a sovereignty dispute between the two
nations. Tensions were further raised as a leader of the protest shouted to his
followers “Kill the Japanese.” In a similar vein, the stage was set for violence
when a television station further inflamed emotions declaring “It is going to be
a war” (see Priming Effects, Chapter 4). To their credit, politicians at the highest
levels of both governments had pleaded for calm in the days leading up to the
match. Obviously, to no avail (Curtin, 2004).
Expressive riots are described as occurring in the aftermath of an event. These
postevent riots originate with highly aroused fans whose team has just triumphed or,
equally, with fans who have just witnessed their team suffer an agonizing defeat.
At this point, I should sound a note of caution. The cause of a riot is not
always what it seems. For example, the widespread rioting that erupted following the Chicago Bulls’ 1992 National Basketball Association championship
victory had the appearance of an expressive riot. Whereas many celebrated the
achievement, others took to the streets for entirely different reasons. Rosenfeld
(1997) makes a convincing case in attributing the cause to massive welfare cuts
and intense media coverage of the earlier Los Angeles (LA) riots. The LA riots
followed the jury decision to acquit police officers charged with beating Rodney
King. Both events had occurred 6 and 8 weeks earlier, respectively. The Chicago
riot nicely illustrates the folly of a rush to judgment in attributing the source of
a disorder to a single cause. People caught up in a riot are not necessarily of one
mind. Their motives for joining in may differ and/or reflect different agendum.
Social Systems Analysis
A brief sketch of the 1985 Heysel stadium tragedy in Brussels, Belgium, will
serve as a case study for developing an account of events using Social Systems
Analysis (‘t Hart & Pijnenburg, 1988). The occasion was the final match for
the European Cup when England’s Liverpool side met the Italian champions,
Juventus. Both football clubs were followed by large numbers of their supporters
who took their place in segregated sections at the end of the stadium. Minutes

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before the match was to begin, Liverpool fans broke through the steel fencing
that separated them from the Italian supporters. These ritualized charges into
areas set aside for rival fans is known as “the taking of the ends” (e.g., Marsh,
Rosser, & Harré, 1978). The result was panic among the Italians who were
routed and sent scurrying for safety. Many were pushed up against a 6-foot-high
retaining wall. The wall collapsed. Thirty-nine spectators were crushed to death
and a further 470 were injured (Dunand, 1986). Television production crews
recorded the horrific disaster for millions of viewers worldwide.
Parenthetically, officials typically look to psychological and/or sociological
explanations in the aftermath of such disasters. However, in the Heysel case we
might ask if an engineering variable, that is, shoddy construction, was not in
large part responsible for the tragedy. Had the wall not given way, the incident
likely would have been reported as another example of English hooligans on yet
another rampage. The incident would scarcely be worth a headline.
Those charged with responsibility for determining the cause of riots generally
seek answers at an individual or situational level. Thus, an athlete may attack
a fan, excessive drinking, a series of “bad” calls by an official any or all may
be seen by investigators as the cause of a particular disorder. A third theoretical approach to understanding the dynamics of riots draws heavily on Normal
Accidents Theory (NAT) proposed by Perrow (1984) to explain various manmade
disasters, for example, Bhopal (India), Tsjernobyl (USSR), and Challenger explosion (Florida). ‘t Hart and Pijnenburg (1988) have drawn directly from Perrow’s
work in applying a systems analysis to explain the Heysel stadium tragedy.
NAT recognizes that some technological systems are so complex and
tightly coupled or compressed in time that accidents are almost unavoidable.
Consequently, they should be regarded as normal occurrences. In addition, most
high-risk situations contain toxic or explosive dangers that add to the certainty
of accidents. In any of these technological systems, be it a nuclear power plant,
a supertanker, or a biological laboratory, two or more failures may occur within
the excessively large array of components. The failures interact in ways not
anticipated at the time of the system’s design, and hence, provisions were not
made for their correction.
Consider a technological example that illustrates Perrow’s term interactive
complexity. Not in anyone’s wildest dreams could it happen but it did. Two
unexpected system failures occurred. The first started a fire, whereas the second
failure shut down the fire alarm. In retrospect, installing a backup alarm and
adding a second sprinkler system might have been a wise precaution. However,
in Perrow’s view, this might lead to other unanticipated interactions among
future failures. This interactive complexity of a technological system is not a
feature of the operator but a characteristic of the system itself.
With quick action following a system failure, the situation might yet be saved.
However, there is tight coupling in many high-risk systems. That is, there is
insufficient time to stop the process nor is there time to isolate the failed components. The situation rapidly worsens and cannot be stopped. What otherwise
would have been an incident becomes an accident or catastrophe. While system
accidents are rare, they are nonetheless inevitable.

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The extension of NAT to account for accidents in social systems, for example,
a Cup final, highlights the work of ‘t Hart and Pijnenburg (1988). From their
perspective, the Heysel disaster resulted from a faulty organizational structure
and policy decisions. Included among the organizational failings before the Cup
final were the following.
• Responsibility for maintaining public order and safety at Heysel was
unclear as were the lines of authority. The roles of various state and
municipal leaders were vague. That is, the local and state police, the
minister of internal affairs, the governor, and the burgomaster were
unclear on the matter of their responsibilities. Finally, the match organizers along with the international and Belgian football unions lacked a
clear understanding of their responsibilities.
• The regulations covering safety and order in preparing for the Cup
final were often overlapping and noncommittal. Indeed, they frequently
contained omissions and contradictions.
• Key organizations, for example, fire brigade and health services, were
not invited to the planning sessions in advance of the event. Important
decisions were never taken regarding renovations to the dilapidated
stadium, the availability of alcohol, and how to manage drunken fans.
• Some of the organizational elements were inefficient in their operations.
For example, the Belgian football union lacked control in the selling of
tickets to the match. As a result, supporters of Juventus and Liverpool
were not totally separated from each other. At the same time, the
organizational resources of the state police were stretched in having to
prepare for a Papal visit that coincided with the Cup final.
No single one of the organizational weaknesses was sufficient to cause the
tragedy. As noted above, any error inducing system is marked by the combination of interactive complexity and tight coupling. Errors occur and contribute
to other errors in a causal chain leading to the eventual disaster. The following
illustrates one such series of flawed developments.
1. The sale of tickets by the Belgian football union resulted in the Juventus
and Liverpool supporters being in close proximity to each other.
2. Only a small number of state policemen were stationed in the passageway separating the two groups.
3. These officers had inadequate instruction and did not know how to
respond.
4. The police commanders were outside the stadium effectively leaving their officers without leaders. Finally, faulty communications
prevented them from calling in reinforcements. As one observer put it,
“Out of this confluence of errors, the Heizel drama was born” (Rabbie,
1989, p. 55).
The foregoing gives us a glimpse of the internal dynamics of a developing riot.
Moreover, it provides us with another means of explanation in addition to personalized accounts, that is, human error.

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Conditions Favoring Crowd Violence
Two major theories have been advanced to account for aggression in ad hoc crowds
comprised of individuals who are relatively unknown to one another. The term
“deindividuation” was originally coined by Festinger, Pepitone, and Newcomb
(1952) to describe conditions in which group members feel inconspicuous and
less able to see other members on an individual basis. Zimbardo (1969) expanded
this view in identifying additional factors contributing to a state of deindividuation. In addition to a strong emphasis on anonymity, he proposed that a diffusion
of responsibility and arousal stemming from noise, cheering, and fatigue further
contribute to deindividuation. A more recent view (e.g., Diener, 1980) proposed
that crowd members tend to focus their attention on the group rather than one
another, the result of which is a reduction in individual self-awareness. In addition, the group setting may afford a degree of anonymity with a corresponding
lessening of individual accountability for individual actions. The combination of
such factors allows individuals to give freer reign to their otherwise inhibited
aggressive inclinations.
Turner and Killian (1972) see crowd violence as arising from social influence processes when crowds are confronted with unclear, possibly threatening
situations. A shared norm regarding the appropriate response emerges from
intracrowd communications, for example, rumors or nonverbal communications.
Specifically, aggression is predicted when a norm favoring aggression develops
among crowd members who are known to each other. By contrast, deindividuation theory sees anonymity as favoring crowd violence.
Mann, Newton, and Innes (1982) evaluated the two theories in a comprehensive experimental design. Subjects who were anonymous behaved more
aggressively than those who were identifiable to each other. Thus, support was
not forthcoming for emergent norm theory. As the researchers concluded “our
findings suggest that deindividuation theory offers a more compelling explanation than emergent norm theory for the conduct of participants in aggressive
crowd actions” (p. 271). Our focus now shifts from types and theories of crowd
violence to rioters themselves.

THE RIOTERS
A Small Minority?
How many in a crowd of predominantly male spectators are poised to do battle
or perhaps incite others to violence? They are typically described as a “small
minority” of troublemakers in the aftermath of a disturbance. Figure 5.1 suggests
that they are indeed a small percentage of those in attendance. Among Finnish
(Russell & Mustonen, 1998) and Canadian (Russell & Arms, 1998) ice hockey
fans, 2.4% and 2.7%, respectively, would join a crowd disturbance that erupted
nearby. In a sample of American university students, 4.0% expressed a willingness to enter the fray. Small percentages “yes” but in absolute terms, quite large

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100
Finland (N = 129)
United States (N = 448)

80
Percentage responses

Canada (N = 73)
60

40

20

0

Watch

Intervene

Fight

Incite

Leave

Responses

Figure 5.1 Males’ Responses to a Fight Erupting Nearby.

numbers. By this reckoning, a crowd of 10,000 includes approximately 240–400
males who stand ready to fight given favorable circumstances.
A second, intriguing category of spectator reaction includes those who would
applaud and otherwise incite the combatants with verbal encouragement. While
they vociferously egg on the principals, they seemingly do not themselves relish
actual combat. Predictably, their efforts generally meet with success. Bystanders
calling for aggressive actions on the part of others have been shown to be effective in instigating overt aggression (e.g., Gaebelein, 1973). The percentages of
instigators jump to 4.7% and 9.6%, respectively, among Finnish and Canadian
males and to 8.0% among American students. I will leave the reader to crunch
the figures but their absolute numbers in our crowd of 10,000 are impressive.
If we collapse the figures for those who would join in with those who would
incite and encourage the combatants we create a category of “troublemakers.”
An estimate of 800 men in the stands who favor physical violence, either personally or vicariously, would not be far off the mark! Admittedly, the above
paints a worst-case scenario. Crowd control measures, physical limitations, the
presence of peacemakers, and the sheer physical distance from the disturbance
itself mitigates the likelihood of widespread crowd involvement.
Who Riots?
What is known about this most basic of questions? That is, who among a crowd
of spectators are likely to initiate or involve themselves in a disturbance? What
personal characteristics or traits predispose some elements in a crowd to resort to

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physical aggression where a considerable majority of others does not? As shown
in earlier chapters, the social forces at play are numerous and diverse and include
individual traits/attitudes, group dynamics, media influences, environmental
factors, and cognitive processes. The pages to follow will instead highlight
personality traits and other characteristics found to be associated specifically with
riotous behaviors as well as several group-related phenomena that are similarly
predictive of crowd disorders.
Hooligans
How much do we know about those individuals in a sports crowd or its environs
who are likely to involve themselves in a disturbance? Nearly a half century
of research by European sociologists attempting to understand the behavior of
football hooligans has given us a good start. A combination of observational,
questionnaire, and interview techniques enabled them to develop a social profile
of those causing disturbances in and around football grounds. First, however, I
want to be specific about the type of violence that occurs in conjunction with
a football match. There is a spontaneous form of violence that originates with
incidents occurring in the highly charged atmosphere of on-field competition,
for example, a bad call by the referee. The second type of violence is premeditated and organized. It typically has little or nothing to do with the contest itself
(Van Limbergen et al., 1989). It is primarily in the latter type of violence that
hooligans involve themselves.
Traditionally, there has been fairly good agreement among European
researchers that hooligans in general are young, single males who are irregularly
employed at low paying jobs. They were further seen to be socially marginalized and disaffected. That is, in many ways they have been shunted to the
sidelines and find themselves dissociated from their culture’s traditional interests
and norms of behavior (e.g., Roversi, 1991; Van Limbergen et al., 1989).
Regarding the matter of employment and social status, the traditional picture
of the hooligan is further reinforced by the findings of Trivizas’ (1980) archival
investigation of those charged with offenses committed in conjunction with football crowd events. Fully, 68% of those arrested were employed at semiskilled
jobs (apprentices), whereas a further 12% were unemployed. Lastly, schoolboys
accounted for 10% of those with a date in court. Until recently, there have been
only a few challenges to this stereotypical profile of European hooligans, for
example, “Most of the hooligans are neither poor, socially marginalized nor
unemployed. It rather seems that they are people like all others” (Salvini, 1988,
as cited in Zani & Kirchler, 1991).
There is little disagreement among researchers that youngsters were a prominent force, and continue to be so, within hooligan ranks. As examples, Trivizas
(1980) reports the median age of British fans arrested for offenses was 18 with
the youngest being 10 years of age and the oldest, 55. Among Italian fans, 65%
of those admitting to acts of hooliganism were less than 21 years of age (Roversi,
1991). Furthermore, a comparison of supporters clubs from Bologna, that is,
“moderates” and the more extreme “fanatics” showed sharp age differences. The

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mean age of the moderates was 36.2 years, whereas that of the violence-prone
fanatics was 20.6 years (Zani & Kirchler, 1991). Especially troubling is the
involvement of young children in football-related violence.
Consider the disturbing case of a child charged with violent disorder. The
10-year-old boy was caught throwing stones at police in violence that erupted
after a soccer match. The youngster was barely tall enough to see the district
judge over the clerk’s desk at Portsmouth Magistrates Court. He attended the
derby match between Portsmouth and Southampton with a friend, a 14-year-old
girl. Asked by the judge why he had taken part in the violence, the boy replied
“I was egged on by older people.” The boy was sentenced to a 9-month referral
order and banned from attending any matches in the United Kingdom for 3
years. Among others charged with violent disorder were three 17-year olds and
one aged 16 who were given 8 months detention and banned from attending
matches for 6 years. Two others aged 16 and 18 were jailed. The match was
followed by a major riot involving more than 300 fans. Police made more than
30 arrests and were expecting to arrest a further 80 individuals. Damage was
considerable. Police were pelted with bricks and stones, cars were damaged,
and shops looted. The judge observed that the area looked like a battlefield with
rubble, damaged vehicles, broken windows, and extensive looting (“Boy, 10,”
2004).
Superhooligans
The figures provided by Trivizas (1980), Roversi (1991), and Zani and Kirchler
(1991) show evidence of a group of aging hooligans who have not chosen the
“retirement” option. The result has been the emergence of growing numbers of
affluent, well-educated, middle-class, semiskilled workers and others employed
in professional occupations (Kerr, 2005b).
The early 1980s witnessed the emergence of the British superhooligan, an
upscale version of the traditional hooligan, that has captured European headlines for over four decades (Williams, Dunning, & Murphy, 1986). This new
breed of hooligan adopted names such as the “Inter City Firm” (ICF), “Gooners
of Arsenal,” “Bushwackers of Millwall,” and the “Headhunters of Chelsea.” For
the most part, their memberships numbered in the 150–200 range. A distinctive
feature of the superhooligan groups is their ability to avoid being noticed or
apprehended by the police. For example, gangs such as the ICF were among
the first to adopt the tactic of using British Rail’s “Inter City” service in traveling first class to matches rather than “football special” trains. Their attire
was stylish but casual with no displays of club colors. The fashion conscious
Chelsea Headhunters carried the trend a bit further wearing Armani pullovers
and designer clothes. The gangs spent substantial sums of money on trips to the
continent to attend important games. For example, ICF members stayed at a
5-star hotel in Bologna during the 1990 World Cup Finals (Haley, 2001).
A journalist for The Guardian newspaper offers a short profile of the superhooligan. Typically in their late twenties and involved in hooliganism since their teen
years, superhooligans frequently have a lengthy record of conviction for violence.

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Moreover, they are frequently family men with mortgages, whereas some hold
professional jobs or attend university. They further appear to have superior organizational and planning skills. Most interesting, they rarely consume alcohol
before a game, recognizing the need to be in full command of their faculties
when fighting. Oddly, a few members keep a diary or scrapbook of their exploits
(Keating, 1982, as cited in Haley, 2001). While this brief sketch describes the
major actors involved in football violence, it leaves unanswered questions of the
psychological makeup of those engaged in confrontations occurring in sports
generally.
Personality
Perhaps the first question to ask is if sport fans differ from the general public.
Are those who follow sports more volatile, more likely to become verbally or
physically aggressive in their day-to-day activities? Such evidence as we have
suggests the answer is inconclusive.
Measures of physical assault and antisocial tendencies were administered to a
select sample of Dutchmen with virtually no interest in sports and male supporters of FC Utrecht. While there were no differences in assault, the club supporters
scored higher on antisocial tendencies. Their behavior is marked by impulsivity,
weak behavioral controls, and excitement seeking. It may be that the last trait
in the syndrome draws them to matches where spirited and sometimes overly
aggressive competition can be witnessed in a volatile environment (Russell &
Goldstein, 1995). However, if we look within the followers of a sport, we find
sharp differences between the small minority of people involved in disturbances
and those who stay clear of any involvement.
A set of personality measures was administered to convicted hooligans and
a sample of other football supporters. No differences were in evidence (WalsheBrennan, 1975). By contrast, other studies reveal important differences among
spectators who typically attend sports events. A study by Miller (1976) showed
that American football fans described as “dedicated” were more assaultive and
verbally aggressive than men with somewhat less dedication to the sport. By
contrast, women identified as avid fans scored higher than other women on a
scale measuring sensation-seeking needs.
A more recent series of Canadian studies sought answers from men found
in attendance at ice hockey games (Arms & Russell, 1997; Russell & Arms,
1995). Trained interviewers went into the stands and approached adult men
following a random procedure and asked them to complete a short questionnaire. The key question asked of the men was their estimate of the likelihood
they would join in a fight or other disturbance were one to erupt nearby in
the stands. Because of the rather limited time available between periods the
battery of personality and other measures was administered piecemeal over the
course of approximately 10 studies. In each case there was reason to believe
that the men’s scores on the personality measures would be associated with
their expressed willingness to escalate a crowd disturbance. For the most part,
this proved to be the case.

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Foremost among the list of personality traits indicative of men likely to widen
the scope of a disturbance is anger and physical assault. That angry men and
those with assaultive tendencies are among those most eager to do battle hardly
comes as a surprise. What is more enlightening are the additional findings that
those with an antisocial personality, a tendency to be impulsive, or sensation
seeking in nature also appear more than willing to jump into a fight. Sample
items from these last three scales will hopefully give you a feel for the trait
being measured. The following will serve as examples: “I often do things just
for the hell of it” (psychopath scale), “Do you look for excitement?” (impulsivity), “I would (not) like to try surf board riding” (sensation seeking).
When researchers dug into the background of the men, they found several
additional factors that set rioters apart from other members of a sports audience.
Would-be rioters not only had a history of fighting in the past year but also had
fought quite recently. Further, they state that their only reason for attending
hockey games is they like to watch the fights. A final distinguishing characteristic of rioters is they run in packs, that is, they strongly prefer to attend sporting
events in the company of others.
Two features of the series should be noted. First, the personality scales used
were generally significantly interrelated, for example, subjects scoring high on
anger tended also to be physically aggressive. Although all measures were related
to the expressed willingness to join a disturbance, there was particular interest in
knowing which measure(s) bore the strongest relationship. One study (Arms &
Russell, 1997) will serve to illustrate the important role of personality in the series.
Following the interview protocol described above, males attending a hockey game
completed a measure of impulsivity along with their history of fighting, age, their
enjoyment of watching player brawls, and the number of friends with whom they
attend games. Impulsivity emerged as the single best predictor.
Impulsive individuals tend to act rather suddenly without giving due thought
to their circumstances or the consequences of their actions. Moreover, they
appear unable to exert control over their thoughts and actions, displaying a hairtrigger temperament (Bettencourt et al., 2006). For present purposes one feature
of their makeup stands out, that is, the ease with which they are influenced by
peers to aggress (Wheeler & Caggiula, 1966). Standing in a crowd with friends
when a disturbance erupts and a mate says “Let’s have a go!”; little wonder
impulsives become embroiled.
In an overarching lab study (Russell & Arms, 1998), two biographical factors
emerged as the strongest predictors of involvement in a crowd disorder. These
were the amount of elapsed time since the respondents’ last serious fight with
another man and the extent to which they rated “I like to watch the fights” as a
reason for their attendance at a hockey match. While the remaining personality and biographical measures, for example, age, number of fights, and so on,
were significantly related to escalating a disturbance, they were overshadowed
or subsumed in importance by the recency of a respondent’s last fight and his
enjoyment of witnessing player brawls.
The second point to note is that the battery of personality measures had generally stronger associations with the likelihood of involvement measure than

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is commonly found in personality-aggression studies (Baron & Richardson,
1994). Such studies typically yield weak or nonsignificant associations, a result
attributed to the powerful effect of situational factors. Seemingly, these factors
mask the effect of personality on interpersonal aggression. Why then were personality factors found to have stronger than expected correlations with involvement in a disturbance? Situational influences were minimized in the present
case when the spectators/participants expressed a completely free choice in
their likelihood ratings (Blass, 1991). Under such conditions, personality traits
are seen to exert much stronger effects on behavior. In short, those who would
escalate a crowd disturbance exhibit a personality profile that is markedly different than others who remain on the sidelines during an altercation.

Groups in Crowds
the strength of the wolf is in the pack
Old adage

Group Size
The crowd attending a sports event is largely comprised of social groups, for
example, family members, friends, supporter club members, or youth gangs.
Among self-styled hockey fans, only one participant reported attending games
alone (Russell & Arms, 1998). However, other studies suggest that sporting
events have a considerably less sociable following. Aveni (1977) interviewed
204 students celebrating an Ohio State University victory over the University
of Michigan. Fully 26% were alone. Elsewhere, spectators attending Australian
Football League games in Adelaide were interviewed, with approximately 20%
found to be alone at the games (Mann, 1977). Group members influence one
another and, in turn, those of other groups. Sometimes that influence is for the
better, other times, for the worse.
It has become clear that crowd disturbances are typically caused by young
men who run in packs (see Mustonen, Arms, & Russell, 1996 for an exception).
An official report into football hooliganism concluded that “most misbehaviour
at soccer matches involves small or large groups; rarely does it involve a single
spectator” (Harrington, 1968, as cited in Mann & Pearce, 1978, p. 182). This
view is echoed by Mann and Pearce (1978) in noting that “exhibitionism and
displays of bravado will be found virtually only among those who are part of
a group, and not among solitary spectators” (p. 182). Whether we look to lab
findings (e.g., Mathes & Kahn, 1975; Russell & Arms, 1998), archival studies
(Mullen, 1986), or field investigations involving sport spectators (Arms & Russell,
1997; Mann, 1977; Zani & Kirchler, 1991), a strong relationship emerges. With
increases in the number and size of groups, there is a corresponding increase in
the likelihood of interpersonal aggression.
Consider the following. Mullen (1986) examined records of 60 lynchings in
the United States for the period 1899–1946. His analysis yielded results consistent with a group size–violence relationship. Whether due to deindividuation

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and/or a loss of self-awareness, as the size of mobs increased so too did the extent
of atrocities committed on the victim, for example, lacerating or dismembering.
Personality of Group Participants
Men who attend in larger groups exhibit a different profile of personality traits
than those attending an event alone or in smaller groups. Overall, larger groups
are more angry, physically aggressive, impulsive, and sensation seeking. This
pattern is consistent with the additional finding that men in larger groups express
a greater willingness to escalate a crowd disturbance. Finally, they contain an
increased presence of younger men who have themselves fought regularly and
recently. These same men state they attend ice hockey games because they enjoy
watching player brawls (Russell & Arms, 1998). Thus, with increasing numbers
and size of groups, the threat to public order rises.
To conclude, there is always a potential for hostile outbursts when people
congregate. Personality traits (e.g., Kerr, 1994) and personal history are only part
of the equation. The situation is all-important in determining whether or not an
outburst occurs. The reason for people having come together, for example, a picnic versus a protest, what they are observing, for example, a badminton match
versus a hockey game, and environmental factors, for example, pleasant versus
oppressive temperatures, all can play a role in determining the course of events.
There is a host of factors that act to facilitate aggression and at least an equal
number working against outbursts of violence. For example, an irate fan may be
goaded by peers to join a disturbance. At the same time, a police presence may
act to restrain his tendencies to get involved. So, while some people may express
even a strong willingness to escalate a riot, their words are not necessarily going
to be matched by deeds.
An Attributional Perspective on Riots
An attributional perspective has direct implications for understanding sports
riots (Russell, 1993). Within this cognitive framework, a distinction is made
regarding the cause of an event we witness, that is, a distinction between internal and external causes. Thus, following a contest, players, coaches, sportscasters, and fans alike put forward their explanations for the outcome. The reasons
offered can be classified as either internal or external, regardless of whether the
team (or player) won or lost. A team suffering a loss may be seen to be lacking preparation or effort (internal attributions) or perhaps they faced a superior
opponent (external). Having won, the team triumphed because of superior skills
(internal) or because of strong fan support (external).
Sore Loser Reactions
Leon Mann (1974, 1989) has extended attribution theory to the question of
spectator violence in a study of Australian Rules football. Interviews with fans
following two matches identified what he calls sore loser reactions. Consistent

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with the foregoing, those cheering for the winning side saw the outcome as
due to good play (internal attribution), whereas fans supporting the losing team
attributed the loss to bad luck and poor officiating (external). Importantly, supporters of the losing side also saw dirtier play by their opponents. They also
felt the winning side was helped by penalties and poor officiating. Their bitter
reactions may be a forerunner of hostile outbursts occurring in Mann’s (1989)
expressive riots category.
A similar finding is seen in Italian football. The more young Italian fans
attributed their disorderly conduct to external factors, that is, violence in society
and political turmoil, the greater the likelihood they had participated in disturbances (Zani & Kirchler, 1991). From their perspective, violence is seen as a
legitimate and understandable response to external forces that are largely beyond
their ability to control. Consequently, they see themselves as having little choice
but to behave as they do.
The Bedouin Syndrome
A cultural phenomenon with application to sport riots is the Bedouin syndrome. This perceptual organization may in some instances underlie the conflict
between fans of rival sport clubs. The syndrome allows that the friend of a
friend is a friend, the friend of an enemy is an enemy, the enemy of a friend is
an enemy and the enemy of an enemy is a friend. These ad hoc alignments are
often temporary and subject to change as the level of competition changes. In
describing the tribal culture of Welsh fans, Harrison (1974) notes in reference
to the syndrome “your friend of one moment can become your enemy of the
next—so while Barry and Cardiff fans unite against the English, they’ll be at
each others’ throats when they play each other” (p. 604).
Roversi (1991) documents the operation of this principle in Italian football
in noting that “this principle often lies at the basis of clashes between groups
of supporters who would otherwise have no reason for enmity” (p. 321). There
is however better news on the flip side of the coin. This same syndrome also
has the potential to cultivate friendly relations between groups, for example, the
friend of a friend, the enemy of an enemy, and so on.

THE PEACEMAKERS
Introduction
Fights among spectators or between factions typically break out suddenly, often
with little warning. The attention of spectators turns from the field of play to the disturbance. Those in the vicinity of the disorder can be seen to assume various roles,
from mere observers to baiting/encouraging the protagonists to leaving the facility;
still others join in the fray. However, there is a fifth category, that is, peacemakers.
Particularly in film footage, these individuals can often be seen stepping forward
attempting to verbally and/or physically dissuade those engaged in combat.

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How Plentiful Are Peacemakers?
Outside of sporting circles, we see that an impressive number of bystanders
would intervene and attempt to stop violence against individuals. An early study
(Meier, Mennenga, & Stoltz, 1941) suggests that as many as 29% of adult bystanders would attempt to deter a lynch mob, whereas 26% would intervene on behalf
of a child being physically abused in public (Christy & Voigt, 1994). Finally,
30% of Finnish girls would go to the aid of a victim of bullying (Salmivalli,
Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, Österman, & Kaukiainen, 1996).
People interviewed within sport settings also indicate a willingness to intervene although their numbers are slightly less impressive. Finnish men found in
attendance at an ice hockey game provided data in an exploratory study. Their
response to a fight erupting nearby in the stands was as follows: 26% would
act as peacemakers, 61% would simply observe the incident, 6% would head for
the exits, 5% would cheer and encourage the combatants, and 2% would join
in. Elsewhere, 15% of American university students would attempt to quell the
disturbance (Wann Hunter, Ryan, & Wright, 2001) whereas 18% of a Canadian
student sample report they would intervene (Russell, Arms, & Mustonen, 1999).
Self-reports of people’s intentions to intervene may or may not be taken at
face value. Without doubt, the circumstances present at the time will for many
self-proclaimed peacemakers determine if they actually follow through on their
expressed intentions. Faced with the most dire and dangerous of circumstances
would any peacemakers step forward?
In 1968, a full-scale riot involving approximately 800 inmates broke out at
the Federal Reformatory in El Reno, Oklahoma, a maximum security institution
for male federal offenders between the ages of 18 and 26. Numerous officers
sustained serious injuries and property damage was extensive as rioters attacked
using baseball bats, golf clubs, and horseshoes. Statements made by officers and
inmates in the aftermath of the riot made clear the fact “that the intent of a
small number of rioters was to inflict severe physical injury on staff members”
(Skelton, 1969, p. 359). Authorities credited seven inmates who interposed themselves between the seventeen attackers and the defenseless officers with saving
their lives.
What can be taken from this real-life case study is evidence suggesting that
at least some peacemakers will intervene even in the worst of circumstances.
While the overall percentage of self-reported peacemakers may shrink with
increasingly dangerous situations, it remains a valid measure for an indeterminately smaller core of individuals. Self-reports of peacemaking vary inversely
with the degree of personal risk confronting the individual.
The role of peacemakers in controlling unruly sport crowds has a long history.
In earlier times, free admission to British soccer grounds was given to soldiers
and sailors in uniform. The expectation was they could be called upon to assist
police in restoring order, should the need arise (Vamplew, 1980).
It should be noted that peacemakers have several advantages over security
personnel that make them potentially more effective in many situations. Being
part of the crowd, they likely know something of the events and actors leading up

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to the disorder. Moreover, being in close proximity, they are often in a position to
snuff out a disturbance in its earliest stages. Indeed, peacemakers can sometimes
be observed working behind the scenes in volatile crowds to head off trouble
before it starts. In the words of a Scottish football fan “We’ve also got very good
at self-policing over the years. There’s more older guys who go, and they can take
the young boys aside and have a wee word to quieten them down” (Giulianotti,
1995, p. 195).
The actions of peacemakers, while commendable, unfortunately can have
serious personal consequences, both physical and legal. Those who intervene
to assist others and/or quell a disorder can suffer minor or severe injuries and
on rare occasions, death (Skelton, 1969). Furthermore, they are often exposed to
legal repercussions. Lacking any official status or designation as control agents,
they face the possibility of arrest for their involvement. Police and security
personnel called upon to restore order are virtually unable to distinguish the
motives and status of those embroiled in a riot (Stott & Reicher, 1998). Any
behavioral differences that might exist between peacemakers and those bent on
violence cannot be observed during the confusion and fast pace of events in a
riot. Sadly for peacemakers, many are apt to find themselves standing alongside
rioters facing an unsympathetic judge.
Characteristics of Peacemakers
It was noted earlier that those who involve themselves in riotous behaviors can
readily be predicted on the bases of personality, biographical, and demographical
factors. Several studies have sought to achieve a similar objective with respect
to peacemaking behaviors. In an initial field study (Russell & Mustonen, 1998),
129 male spectators attending a Finnish hockey game were intercepted in the
stands and asked to complete a short questionnaire. The key, forced-choice item
asked them to check off their response to a fight breaking out nearby in the
stands. Choices included “watch,” “join in,” “applaud and encourage others to
join in,” “intervene and attempt to stop the fight,” and “leave the arena.” Only
the first four categories were involved in the analysis with “join in” and “applaud
and encourage others to join in” combined in a “troublemakers” category.
In a comparison of categories, peacemakers were found to be less physically
aggressive, less angry, and less impulsive than troublemakers. Moreover, peacemakers were also less aggressive than those choosing to stand by and watch.
Perhaps understandably, peacemakers were of greater stature being taller than
those joining in or inciting others. Lastly, a question asking spectators how long
it had been since they were last involved in a fight failed to discriminate between
peacemakers and troublemakers.
A second correlational study involved Canadian university males, self-described
as avid sport spectators (Russell et al., 1999). Rather than a comparison of
categories, the aim was to identify the variables predicting the subjects’ selfreported likelihood of intervening to stop a crowd disturbance. Foremost among
five major factors were attitudes toward law and order, the false consensus effect
(Ross, Greene, & House, 1977), and body mass. Thus, spectators who are large

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in stature and hold favorable attitudes toward the police are among those most
likely to step forward to quell a disturbance. In addition, those indicating a
strong likelihood of entering the fray as peacemakers scored lower on a measure
of sensation seeking and expressed more anger than others.
A third investigation was a systematic replication intended to build on the
earlier Russell et al. (1999) study. University men again provided the data with
analyses yielding three strong predictors: previous experience as a peacemaker,
the false consensus effect, and attitudes toward law and order (Russell & Arms,
2001). In the two studies described above, the Law and Order scale (LOS) was
strongly related to peacemaking. Recent data make clear that the scale is also
strongly related (negatively) to joining in or inciting others to riot, r(89) = –.47,
p < .005 (Russell, Wann, & Russell, 2007). Two aspects of “previous experience” should be noted. Both how recent the experience was and the perceived
success of the respondents’ interventions in crowd disorders strongly predicted
peacemaking actions. Furthermore, the false consensus effect (Ross et al., 1977)
has proven robust being a strong predictor of those who would riot (e.g., Russell
& Arms, 1998) as well as others likely to intervene as peacemakers (Russell et
al., 1999). Parenthetically, unlike rioters whom I have earlier characterized as running in packs, the same does not appear to be true of peacemakers. There was no
evidence to suggest they attend events in larger groups (Russell & Arms, 2001).
It is something of a truism to suggest that what people will do in the future
can be largely determined by what they have done in the past. Regarding
peacemakers, there may be some truth in the statement. Men who report having been involved in recent and/or what they see as “successful” interventions
in an altercation are considerably more likely to step forward as peacemakers.
In addition, the false consensus effect has been shown to predict peacemaking
behavior (Russell & Arms, 2001). Applied to peacemaking, the false consensus
effect involves the tendency for peacemakers to judge that a disproportionately
larger number of others in the crowd are similarly poised to intervene to quell a
hostile outburst than those not inclined to intervene.
Finally, an attitudinal measure assessing one’s belief in the sanctity of law
and order is similarly predictive of peacemaking activities (Russell & Arms,
2001; Russell et al., 1999). The 11-item LOS (Russell et al., 2007) is presented
in Table 5.2.
Items are grouped in the scale and represent three dimensions underlying
attitudes toward law and order. The major factor reflects Citizen Responsibility
and the behaviors expected of exemplary citizens. A second factor has been
labeled Regard for Police. This aspect of one’s attitude involves respect and
regard for officers and the system in which they perform their duties. The third
dimension is Career Path representing a respondent’s personal endorsement of
police work as a career choice. While the scale is a good predictor of peacemaking activities, it may also be suited to the investigation of other forms of
interpersonal aggression. Recent evidence suggests the scale may also be related
to honesty and in predicting those who intervene to assist victims of bullying
(Russell et al., 2007). Returning a lost wallet to its rightful owner and assisting a bullied victim were positively related to LOS scores, r(89) = .364 and

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Table 5.2 The Law and Order Scalea
Item #
I. Citizen responsibilities
4. I get angry when I see people deliberately breaking the law.
1. People should obey the law regardless of the circumstances.
2. The police need all the help they can get from the public.
8. Private citizens should report crimes they see being committed and not leave it to
someone else.
7. The public should assist police in their investigations whenever possible.
II. Regard for police
3. There never seems to be a cop around when you need one.b
6. The police deserve our respect.
5. Our legal system is one of the best in the world.
11. Police deserve the full support and respect of the communities they serve.
III. Career path
10. As a young child, I thought I would like to be a police officer when I grew up.
9. I would advise young people to consider a career in law enforcement.
a

Six point rating scales [0–5] underlie each of the items and are anchored by “Strongly Disagree” and “Strongly
Agree.”
b
Reversed scoring.

r(89) = .216, respectively. Lastly, a measure of social desirability response bias
was unrelated to LOS scores (Russell & Arms, 2001). This measurement artifact
is the tendency for participants to provide answers that place them in the best,
socially responsible light rather than give truthful answers. That is, they seek to
gain a positive evaluation from others (see Chapter 7). The LOS, then, is free
from this source of measurement bias.
A brief summary would seem timely. The past history of individual spectators, a
cognitive phenomenon, that is, the false consensus effect and one’s attitude toward
the issue of law and order, thus far represents the best means of identifying those
most likely to inject themselves into a crowd disturbance as peacemakers. Whereas
attempts to identify personality traits related to peacemaking have thus far yielded
mixed results, other individual differences factors may yet prove successful as predictors. Promising candidates in this regard are altruism and, perhaps, empathy.
The concluding section of this chapter has an “applied” theme. It contains a
set of proposals that have been advanced by various writers to avert or minimize
the devastation associated with riots.

RIOTS: PREVENTIVE AND MITIGATING MEASURES
Violence suppressed is invisible, violence manifest provides dramatic data
Milgram & Toch, 1969, p. 507

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Introduction
I have brought together a small set of suggestions that appear in the writings of
investigators who have researched the topic of riots. Their recommendations are
made with reference to preemptive or mitigating tactics that stand to reduce the
incidence or scale of crowd violence. For the most part there are substantial research
findings that underlie their suggestions, whereas others may be fairly speculative.
Still other recommendations may be entirely self-evident, for example, barring
spectators from witnessing an event that has been plagued by crowd violence.
The historical record has shown riots to be an all-too-frequent and unwelcome accompaniment to sporting and other events. Books and innumerable
scientific and nonscientific articles have been written covering riots in a variety
of political, entertainment, and social settings. The focus of these investigations
has ranged from attempts to identify the fundamental “causes” to factors that
facilitate their occurrence, to the rioters themselves, that is, their demographics, motivations, and personality. An underlying assumption of these endeavors
was that from research on riots and rioters would come understanding and with
understanding the prospect of finding solutions.
Attempts to avert or control riotous behaviors have thus far relied heavily
on force or the threat of force and legislative initiatives. Some countries have
enacted measures to prevent their homegrown troublemakers from traveling
abroad by temporarily suspending their passports for the duration of major international football tournaments. Other approaches to reducing crowd disorders
have involved stepped up security and surveillance, restrictions on the availability of alcohol, and media programs to “educate” the public. Noticeably few in
numbers are tactics based on findings from the social science literature, tactics
that can potentially limit the incidence and/or scale of spectator violence.
It is important to note that in drawing upon the social–experimental literature,
one is for the most part identifying more immediate, facilitative factors, some
of which lend themselves to real world applications. Broad accompanying social
factors such as unemployment and racial discrimination (Guttmann, 1983) are
related to group conflicts in sports. However, they along with a goodly number
of immediate factors, for example, temperature, the false consensus effect, sex,
and age, do not easily lend themselves to real world applications.

Crowd Composition
Peacemakers
A generally unrecognized and untapped force for crowd control is that provided
by peacemakers, that is, individuals who step forward and attempt to dissuade
or restrain those bent on violence. Their numbers in a crowd are impressive.
A survey of Detroit area residents (N = 393) in the aftermath of rioting reveals
that approximately 16% were active as “counter rioters” (Report of the National
Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968). As mentioned previously,
impressive numbers of spectators attending ice hockey games in Finland (26%)

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and Canada (18%) would intervene to quell a disturbance as would U.S. college
males (15%; Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001, pp. 145–147).
Peacemakers enjoy a tactical advantage over external security forces when
trouble erupts. They are already on the scene, often know the instigators, and
are likely knowledgeable about the events leading up to the disturbance. Thus,
peacemakers are often ideally positioned to dampen or even snuff out a disturbance before it escalates. Moreover, preemptive efforts to head off trouble before
it starts can also be seen in volatile crowds. As noted earlier, these behind the
scene activities often take place in Scottish football whereby older men exert a
calming effect on the young boys all too eager to do battle (Giulianotti, 1995).
Other personal attributes lend support to their being accorded a more official role in controlling crowds. For example, they hold strong, positive attitudes
toward law and order. These attitudes reflect citizen responsibilities to support
police agencies and express a high regard for police personnel (Russell & Arms,
2001; Russell et al., 1999; Russell et al., 2006). Lastly, peacemakers have intervened in conflict situations on previous occasions and generally reported their
interventions to have been “successful” (Russell & Arms, 2001).
Peacemakers seemingly have the best of intentions. However, at present when
they attempt to do the “right thing” they expose themselves to significant physical and legal risks, a result arising from their ambiguous status within a crowd.
In the dangerous and highly charged atmosphere surrounding a riot, even highly
trained officers perceive crowd members as homogeneous. Seemingly, police do
not distinguish the various actors and the roles they play in a disturbance. From
the officers’ perspectives “it is impossible to distinguish crowd members from
each other behaviourally or physically” (Stott & Reicher, 1998, p. 522).
Parenthetically, police perceptions are subject to change. Turner and Killian
(1972) credited a preparatory program with playing a major role in averting crowd
violence. In describing preparations for a biker rally, they note that “one of the
most significant preparations for the weekend was the ‘education’ of the police to
view the anticipated crowd as a heterogeneous collection of human beings, with
the rights of citizens, rather than as an undifferentiated mob of outlaws” (p. 167).
Some level of official recognition and means of identifying the role of peacemakers in a disturbance would seem a necessary first step in implementing
this tactic. During the riot-torn decade of the sixties peacemakers, or counterrioters, were sanctioned in varying degrees. For example, police in Cincinnati
expressed total opposition to counterrioters, whereas officials in Detroit and
Dayton engaged in close cooperation. In other cities counterrioters were simply
condoned. Elsewhere, distinctive insignia were issued, for example, white helmets in Tampa and Dayton and armbands in Elizabeth and Newark (Report of
the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968).
Composition of Control Forces
Personality
A number of studies have investigated the personality traits of men who would
instigate or escalate a crowd disturbance (Arms & Russell, 1997; Russell, 1995;

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Russell & Arms, 1998). Foremost among the traits predictive of spectators’ involvement in crowd disorders are impulsivity, sensation-seeking, physical aggression,
anger, and antisocial tendencies. The trait of impulsivity has an especially strong
association with the likelihood of spectators joining in a disturbance (Arms &
Russell, 1997). Consequently, it will serve to illustrate the potential role of traits
in minimizing the frequency of outbursts of crowd violence.
As noted earlier, impulsive individuals tend to act suddenly without giving
thought to the consequences of their behavior. They can be further characterized as more aggressive than low-impulsive individuals under conditions where
they see aggressive models. They also have weaker inhibitions against violating
social norms, the result of which makes them susceptible to influence by peers
to act on any deviant impulses (Wheeler & Caggiula, 1966).
The presence of impulsive individuals in the front line of a control force necessarily creates a lower response threshold potentially leading to an indeterminate number of disturbances that otherwise might not have occurred. Selection
procedures for police, military, and other control agencies typically involve an
extended period of assessment of candidates. Included among the procedures
is a battery of clinical/psychological tests. A measure of impulsivity or other
relevant personality traits would allow impulsives to be deployed other than in
a front line capacity.
To be clear at the outset, the composition of a crowd of demonstrators is a
given and generally not subject to change. By contrast, those in the vanguard of
a control force have previously been “selected” and trained for their role. It is
the selection criteria used for deploying members specifically to the front line
that may determine whether a confrontation erupts in violence or passes relatively uneventfully. For example, consider a cordon of police facing a group of
angry demonstrators. In this hypothetical scenario the demonstrators hurl insults
and/or physically incite the officers. The overall command urges restraint by
officers in response to the provocations of demonstrators. Yet a flash point may
be prematurely reached at which a violent police response is triggered. Thus,
the intensity of demonstrator provocations ebb and flow yet may fall short of the
threshold at which an aggressive police response is clearly indicated. Indeed,
the intensity of crowd actions may eventually diminish with the purposes of the
demonstrators having been served. The threshold for police action is subjectively determined by the on-scene commander. However, precipitous actions by
even one impulsive officer may trigger an early response by the entire cordon, a
response that may not have otherwise occurred.

Cognitive Influences
Hostile Attributional Bias
Changes in the composition of front line control personnel might also be made
with regard to individuals exhibiting a hostile attributional bias. This cognitive
phenomenon involves individuals who tend “to perceive hostile intent on the part
of others even when it is really lacking” (Baron & Richardson, 1994, p. 210).

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Several features of this perceptual bias have direct relevance for the choice of
front line control personnel. First, the bias is particularly in evidence in ambiguous social situations, for example, when a control force first confronts protesters
in the initial stage of a potential disturbance. Second, those subject to the bias
tend to react strongly to even mild provocations. Finally, the mere perception
of hostile intentions in others can result in as much if not more aggression than
actual attacks (Greenwell & Dengerink, 1973). Thus, personnel exhibiting a hostile attributional bias are seemingly more likely than others to react prematurely
to protesters and to react with greater force. Once a member(s) of the control
force responds with violence there is often no turning back. Others follow the
lead and a riot is underway. There is a fine line between taking action and
standing firm. As with impulsive individuals, those with a hostile attributional
bias would better serve the interests of a peaceful resolution in a rear guard
capacity.
Priming
Threat affecting those witnessing an event can arise from a variety of sources.
For example, media characterizations of an upcoming contest often invoke
aggressive, warlike imagery, for example, battle, clash, with similar aggressively
toned language reserved for the visiting team. This has the effect of evoking
aggressive imagery or schema among spectators through a process of priming
(Wann & Branscombe, 1990; see discussion and example in Chapter 4). One
effect of priming is that spectators come to see others as more hostile and
threatening than those exposed to neutral characterizations. Not surprisingly,
threat itself is a powerful factor that can lead to more aggression than might
otherwise have occurred (Greenwell & Dengerink, 1973). A responsible media
is in a position to play a role by toning down violent rhetoric, especially in
advance of high-risk sporting events.
Alcohol
Alcohol is frequently a part of the entertainment package at many sports events.
On those occasions when violence erupts among the spectators, those seeking
explanations are quick to blame alcohol. Their singling out of alcohol as the likely
culprit has a better-than-average probability of being correct. Its role in increasing the likelihood of interpersonal aggression is well established (Bushman &
Cooper, 1990; Hoaken & Stewart, 2003). However, several alcohol-related factors should be noted for present purposes, that is, means of minimizing crowd
disorders.
At least two factors mediate the threat to public order brought about by the
consumption of alcohol. As noted in Chapter 4, distilled beverages, for example,
bourbon, vodka, or whiskey, produce more aggression than equivalent amounts
of brewed beverages, for example, beer or wine (Gustafson, 1999). Further,
interpersonal aggression increases as the intoxicated individual feels increasingly threatened (Taylor et al., 1976). Managers of sport facilities and sport

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officials may, in particular circumstances, reduce the likelihood of spectator
disorders by either banning or limiting the availability of distilled beverages.
Other steps might be taken to minimize the levels of threat in a facility, perhaps,
by fostering a family oriented atmosphere.
Incompatible Responses
The findings of researchers investigating the role of incompatible responses in
reducing interpersonal aggression holds promise as a control tactic. As a field
experiment by Baron (1976) illustrates, the induction of mild sexual arousal
can effectively reduce the aggression of individuals. That is, sexually titillating
themes are incompatible with a state of heightened anger.
There are diverse means by which mild sexual arousal can be introduced
to a setting, for example, cheerleaders, gymnastic displays, or electronic board
images. In some instances sexual themes may be regularized as part of an entertainment package or, alternatively, introduced only at high-risk events. Taylor
Field, home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League,
is the site of a further example. An oversized hot tub is positioned on the sidelines at field level. Weather permitting, a bevy of bikini-clad women frolic in the
water during part of each home game.
Parenthetically, humor devoid of hostile or aggressive content can similarly
be induced to achieve a reduction in aggression (Baron, 1978; Coates, 1972).
Humor should be used sparingly, perhaps being reserved for those occasions
when the risk of conflict is high. To be sure, the choice of a humorous event/
incident requires forethought and consideration of crowd composition. Cultural
differences, age, male/female ratio, and class differences may be critical in
determining the success of an event designed to induce humor.
A novel means of introducing mild humor arousal is described by Ward
(2002). Spectators attending basketball games are apparently “captivated” by
dance routines performed at half time by sport officials. They “portray themselves not as clowns or buffoons, but as sharing in the fun with fans” (p. 467).
Used judiciously, it is a low-cost and promising suggestion. Again, the introduction of humor should be carefully thought through well in advance.

Organizational Factors
Postgame Events
Comparatively little attention has been paid to the postevent phase of sports
events. It is a period during which highly aroused spectators leave en masse
with jubilant supporters of the winning team in close proximity to other,
not-so-happy fans. It would be preferable to provide postgame concerts or other
forms of entertainment that would have the effect of stringing out the departure
of spectators (Goldstein, 1989, p. 295). However, the content of postgame events
should include elements that have sufficient appeal to hold large numbers of

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spectators in their seats and at the same time not further heighten any residual
hostilities.
In some countries, it is traditional to play the national anthem before play
gets underway. Played instead at the conclusion, the effect would be to delay
or stagger an emptying of the stadium. In addition, there is recent evidence to
suggest that prominently displaying the national flag during the anthem may
contribute to a lessening of hostility toward outgroups (Butz, Plant, & Doerr,
2007). This effect would be especially pronounced for individuals who are
highly nationalistic. Butz et al. reasoned that included among numerous concepts
associated with the U.S. flag are the strong American values of equality and
justice. Consequently, subliminal exposure to the flag was predicted to activate
numerous egalitarian concepts. These in turn would reduce negative attitudes
held by highly nationalistic participants toward outgroups, in this case Arabs
and Muslims. Their prediction was confirmed.
To be effective, any implementation of the suggestion requires careful planning regarding the choice of country, its flag, and the outgroup present. For
example, the Italian flag is associated with matters of character, that is, hope,
charity, and faith. The response of Italians to their flag may be somewhat different, for example, a greater expressed willingness to help others.
Increasing Respect
A. P. Goldstein (1996) suggests that leagues plagued by player violence take
steps to encourage more respect and positive interactions between teams. As an
example, he proposes that opposing players should shake hands after the game
ends. Done in full view of the spectators may have the further effect of signaling
to rival fans that there is less animosity between the teams than appearances and
the media might suggest.
Training of Officials
Disruptive behavior by fans and athletes can often be traced back to the actions of
game officials. There is an ever-present danger that contentious calls by umpires
or referees can spark outrage among fans, coaches, or athletes. On relatively
rare occasions that outrage can turn to violence. Additional training to increase
skilled officiating can serve to minimize the frequency of disputed calls.
Coaches are ideally positioned to influence upcoming events on the field of
play. Their locker room rhetoric has the capacity to inspire athletes to a superior
performance. Just as readily, their words can further inflame existing animosities. Training programs for the certification of coaches should include a scientifically based component on athletic motivation.
Removing Spectators From the Equation
In June of 2006, following a series of violent clashes among fans, the Israel
Football Association (IFA) imposed a four-game ban on crowds attending Bnei

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Sakhnin matches. The IFA further fined the club and deducted two league points.
On other occasions, the risk of spectator violence has been such that games have
been televised without a live audience in the stadium (A. P. Goldstein, 1996,
pp. 96–97).
It was just 6 months after the Israeli experience that a full-scale riot broke
out on the Italian island of Sicily. A match between Catania and a visiting team
from Palermo was temporarily suspended during the second half when Catania
fans “ambushed” Palermo supporters and police. The police suffered the greatest number of casualties with one death and 61 of the 70 people injured being
police officers.
In the aftermath of the violence, the Italian Soccer Federation banned
Catania’s home ground for the rest of the season. Future matches would have
to be played on neutral ground behind closed doors. The Italian government’s
response to the riot was a demand that stadiums comply with a 2005 security law introduced as part of a crackdown on hooliganism. The requirements
include the installation of video surveillance and lighting to help in spotting
troublemakers, barriers with which stewards and police can establish security
cordons, and turnstiles with electronic ticket checks. Further government action
stiffened penalties for hooliganism, banned the sale of tickets in blocks to visiting fans, and disallowed evening kickoffs.
Design and Engineering
Mann’s (1974) early work on “sore-loser” reactions brings to light the strong
tendency of some highly identified fans to see the fouls committed by rival
teams at the same time overlooking those committed by their own team. For a
minority of spectators, distortions and misperceptions of details follow a hardfought game in a losing cause. For example, the umpires/referees were biased
in their calls or the opposing team “played dirty” or had luck on their side.
Such misperceptions and distortions accumulate and can elicit hostile beliefs
that in turn, may fuel antisocial behaviors. Mann (1989) proposes that the actual
cumulative statistics of penalties be displayed on the scoreboard alongside the
time and goals. The change in scoreboard design would presumably minimize
the dangers arising from the misperceptions of sore losers (p. 322).
Seating Versus Standing
In the view of Coalter (1985), the provision of seating at British football matches
can reduce crowd disorders in a number of ways. In addition to reducing what he
calls the collective cohesion of a crowd, seating prevents spectators from making
sudden mass movements. The anonymity individuals enjoy in standing areas, for
example, the terraces, is also reduced by seating, making the identification and
arrest of those bent on trouble easier for police.
Mann (1989) similarly proposed that those standing on the terraces are more
likely than seated patrons to initiate a disturbance. He further suggests that the
relatively low levels of crowd disorders at North American sports events can,

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in part, be attributed to the almost universal availability of seating. Standing
crowds tend to be active, milling about, and shifting from foot to foot in contrast
to those seated who appear more passive and orderly. The unavoidable invasions
of personal space on the crowded terraces can further spark altercations especially by those who are dispositionally high on trait aggression (Russell, Huddle, &
Corson, 1988). Lastly, the crowded circumstances in the standing areas afford
opportunities to throw objects, for example, bottles or missiles. Mann’s proposal
is entirely testable as a formal hypothesis, the results of which would make
a major applied and theoretical contribution to collective behavior. However,
there are dissenting voices on the other side of the issue. Williams et al. (1986)
observed that increasingly, “violent rivalries between opposing groups inside
stadia are acted out, not on the terraces but in the seats” (p. 376).
Separation of Opposing Fans
Preventing fans from having physical access to fans of their rival team has
been a standard tactic at many stadia. Steel fencing can effectively discourage
major attacks into enemy territory as it can invasions of the soccer pitch. In
other circumstances the players and officials have been protected from fans by a
water-filled moat surrounding the playing field.
Coalter (1985) makes an important point regarding an unintended consequence of segregating rival fans as a means of minimizing crowd disturbances.
Forcefully creating large groups of coherent fans and later requiring they leave
as cohesive groups after the match may inadvertently set the stage for trouble
outside the stadium (see also, Dunning, Murphy, & Williams, 1986). The point
to note is that what is acceptable or tolerated group conduct inside the stadium
may quickly become unacceptable as they exit en masse into the community.
Admission Charges
The introduction of higher ticket prices at Lords cricket matches in the 1970s
was a seemingly successful attempt to exclude those from the lower classes who
were blamed for earlier unruly behavior (Sandiford, 1982). Similar motives were
behind the introduction of admission charges at football matches from 1890
onwards (Hutchinson, 1975, as cited in Murphy, Williams, & Dunning, 1990).
A further exclusionary practice has been that of barring or ejecting known
troublemakers from the sports facility. The practice was commonplace in earlier
eras. However, with an alert media and today’s well-informed public the result
is likely to be more rather than less unruly behavior. Exclusionary practices do
not sit well with those shut out.
Planning for an Uneventful Day
This concluding section highlights what I regard as an approach having the
strongest potential for averting or minimizing outbreaks of crowd violence.
The principals are those decision makers who ultimately determine the type of

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response to set in place for fans attending an upcoming event where disorderly
behavior is a possibility. Their task is one of deploying sufficient police officers
and resources to match their assessment of the risk of violence. Those planning for the event generally have the benefit of previous experience and advance
knowledge of the composition of the crowd likely to attend. They also have
the benefit of an on-going research program that examines the planning for the
possibility of crowd violence in the context of European football (e.g., Stott &
Adang, 2004; Stott, Adang, Livingstone, & Schreiber, 2007).
Risk Assessment
The chief method of data collection has been by means of field observations
at numerous matches and structured interviews both inside stadia and beyond
in the surrounding community (Adang & Cuvelier, as cited in Stott & Adang,
2004). The investigators first incorporated two traditional factors in their fivefactor classification of risk. The first considers the history of the fan group.
Previous clashes with the local or host police, while an important consideration,
unfortunately tends to result in the fan group being judged as “high risk” irrespective of the actual risk they pose. The second traditional means of assessing
the level of risk involves categorizing individuals throughout the wider fan base,
that is, as A, B, or C. Its validity is also reduced insofar as the categorization is
occasionally applied differently by different forces creating confusion over the
deployment of control personnel.
Stott and Adang have identified three additional factors that more fully map
the dimensions underlying the risk of violence. The first additional factor of
culture reflects the extent to which operational resources have been expended
in an effort to understand the culture and norms of visiting fans. The second
additional factor is called the perceived appropriateness of police deployments
in light of the risk seen to exist. Also to be taken into account in this regard are
the fans’ perceptions of risk levels and whether the police deployments are an
appropriate response to that risk. Lastly, any heightened risk arising from the
policing of foreign nationals may be offset by international police cooperation.
For example, a contingent of police officers from the country of the visiting
team may be effective in reducing risk in the host community.
The authors caution that their use of the concept “risk” is not meant to imply
a static state. Rather, risk levels can rise or decline during an event (Adang &
Stott, 2004; Adang & Cuvelier, as cited in Stott and Adang, 2004). As examples, self-policing among fans and the hospitality shown by host fans can effect
changes in the overall level of risk.
Deployment and Policing Style
The researchers identified two distinct styles of policing, that is, high versus low
profiles. A high profile style of policing involves a greatly increased police presence coupled with low quality interactions between police officers and football

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fans. In contrast, a low profile style of policing involves a minimum show of
force and high quality friendly interactions with the general public. These interactions are described as “friendly but firm” at the same time making clear the
limits of what will be tolerated.
An especially important finding notes that at matches played in cities judged
to be at high risk for crowd violence, the levels of disorderly behavior by fans
did not differ between high and low profile styles of policing. However, in cities judged to be low risk for disorders a low profile policing style was more
effective than the more heavy-handed, high profile strategy. In summarizing
the evidence on the question of preparedness, Stott and Adang (2004) conclude “throwing ‘riot’ police officers at the problem of ‘hooliganism’ is at best
ineffectual and at worst counterproductive” (p. 319). The body of evidence
amassed thus far suggests that “low profile, information-led policing, where
officers interact with fans in a friendly manner and on the basis of fans’ actual
behaviour rather than their reputation, is the most effective at minimising ‘hooliganism’ ” (p. 319).
The foregoing program of field research represents a major advance in the
development of an effective response to challenges from those bent on disruptive crowd behaviors. In general, the model is based on major football matches
wherein the outcomes were hotly contested by supporters of the respective sides.
Furthermore, the model appears readily adaptable to other spectator sports and
suited to a variety of events.
Punitive Measures: A Footnote
Punitive measures are often imposed on players whose violent actions during
play exceed what is covered by the rulebook. League officials can levy heavy
fines or impose suspensions of varying degrees. Beyond that, the courts may
hear extreme cases that violate the law of the land.
Punitive measures are frequently suggested as a deterrent to crowd violence
in and around football grounds, as elsewhere. A community shocked by a major
outburst of crowd violence will quickly hear cries for an increased police presence and more vigorous enforcement of existing laws. However, in the view
of Young (1986) it may not be the effective strategy envisioned by its advocates. His examination of hooligan behavior for the period 1965–1986 shows
“the incidence of hooliganism does not decrease as Draconian policies are more
frequently levied” (p. 258).
As noted elsewhere (e.g., Baron & Richardson, 1994), punishment in various
forms is generally not an effective means of reducing aggression. To be effective
as a deterrent requires the presence of several conditions. It must be swift in its
application, relatively severe, and certain to follow on the heels of misdeeds by
the aggressor. It is also important that the punishment is seen to fit the crime.
Most proposed forms of punishment fall well short of meeting these criteria.
Consequently, strong punishments may not be among the most effective means
of heading off or dealing with riotous behavior.

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SUMMARY
Not for a moment should one minimize the complexity and diversity of settings
in which riots occur. This complexity necessarily precludes a general application
of tactics and preventive measures. Rather, any implementation of a measure
should be preceded by the most careful consideration of the setting, culture, and
persons for whom it is intended. For the most part, the effects of steps taken
to curb riotous behavior will not be easily assessed. Certainly, the riot that did
not happen may not have happened in the absence of the preventive steps being
implemented.
As most readers are undoubtedly aware, there are other crowd phenomena
that can bring death and injury to those involved. While the foregoing has
focused on riots, a far less common but equally deadly phenomenon is panic. As
we will see in the next chapter, anecdotal accounts are plentiful but controlled
investigations of the topic are few. However, such investigations as exist will be
examined along with a number of theories, definitions and several case studies. An “applied” section will again conclude the chapter and involve proposals
developed by researchers and others to avert or minimize the tragic outcomes
arising from panics.

Suggested Readings
Russell, G. W. (2004). Sport riots: A social-psychological review. Aggression and Violent
Behavior, 9, 353–378.
An overview of the social–psychological literature on sports riots is presented. A
range of factors associated with spectator violence is emphasized in addition to personality variables associated with rioters themselves, for example situational, environmental,
social, and cognitive variables. A preliminary profile of those who would intervene to
quell a disturbance, that is, peacemakers, was also developed. In addition, a variety of
largely untested tactics introduced to control sports crowds was also briefly described.
Ward, R. E., Jr. (2002). Fan violence: Social problem or moral panic? Aggression and
Violent Behavior, 7, 453–475.
This thoughtful, well-written article outlines a three-part theoretical framework within
which social scientists investigate spectator violence as a social problem. Explanations
of sport violence are based on theories focused on individual fan characteristics, crowd
behavior, and economic/political theories underlying the broader society. The author similarly details the stages by which acts of fan violence are translated into a moral panic by
the media and community authorities.

6
Panics

INTRODUCTION
Panics are a universal phenomenon that occur on an irregular basis. Death and
injury are an all-too-frequent accompaniment to their occurrence. A distinguishing feature of panics is the relative ease with which investigators can determine
their cause. Retrospective analyses of these events nearly always reveal they
could have been prevented with advanced planning and decisions taken with an
eye to the possibility of their occurrence. Still, unlike riots, panics remain a rare
event. Indeed, Johnson (1987b) observed in reference to panics of acquisition and
escape that “documented cases of either form of panic are surprisingly scarce in
the literature” concluding that “panic occurs very infrequently” (p. 371).
It is further to be noted that panic behavior is sometimes embedded within or
can arise within a larger event. As mentioned earlier, such was the case during
the 1985 European Cup final in Belgium’s Heysel Stadium, an event that left
39 fans dead and 470 injured (Dunand, 1986). The Italian Juventus supporters
were sent scurrying for cover when England’s Liverpool fans broke through
steel fencing and charged their rivals. The flight of the Italians was impeded
by a concrete wall that gave way under their weight. What began as a riot was
suddenly transformed into a panic situation.
Several limitations of the present chapter should be noted. In confining myself to
panics at sport and entertainment sites, I am excluding coverage of other collective
phenomena that often contain elements of panic, for example, bank runs, natural
disasters, fires, or airplane/boat disasters (Russell, 1972). Furthermore, the topic of
panic in organized groups, for example, a military unit, will only be touched upon.
While some athletic teams may meet the definition of organized groups, I am hard
pressed to think of even a single example of panic in this context. Rather, panics
occurring in sports have almost invariably involved large assemblages of fans
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and/or the general public. Inasmuch as the aim of the present chapter is to examine
panics against the background of sports, the focus will necessarily be on the vast
audiences that pass through the turnstiles to witness sporting events.
Definitions
A variety of definitions appear in the social science literature. One of the earliest
attempts to formally define the concept of panic was that of Park and Burgess
(1924) in their introductory textbook. Succinctly put, “panic is the crowd in
dissolution” (p. 876). As examples, two early theorists (Cantril, 1943; Janis,
1951) place a heavy emphasis on the internal emotional state of individuals in
their conception of panic. That is, such persons are described as terror stricken
and experiencing an intense state of fear. Moreover, this position makes no
requirement that the extreme emotional state be followed by flight behavior. In
incorporating the element of flight, Smelser (1963) defines a panic as “collective
flight based on a hysterical belief” (p. 131). Quarantelli (1954) expands on this
view in proposing that panic is “an acute fear reaction marked by a loss of selfcontrol which is followed by nonsocial and non rational flight behavior” (p. 272).
Goldenson (1984) offers a summary of these early views in characterizing panics as including a “reaction involving terror, confusion and irrational behavior,
precipitated by a threatening situation” (as cited in Johnson, 1987a).
In extending his definition to organized groups, Schultz (1964b) further
stipulated that “flight behavior must lead to the destruction of the group, as a
psychological group” and further “the flight behavior must be nonadaptive for
the physical survival of the group members” (p. 6). Both conditions imply a total
disregard for the well-being of others in the group.
It is timely at this juncture to clarify a common misunderstanding regarding
the nature of panic. Many mid-20th century theorists have characterized panic as
terror stricken, irrational, flight behavior where the rule is “every man for himself.” La Pierre (1938) captured the spirit of this view in describing the behavior of
a theater audience on seeing the first signs of fire. A previously passive audience
is suddenly transformed “into a shrieking, milling mass which clogs the aisles and
jams the exits” (p. 437). The general public holds to a strong and pervasive belief
that irrational flight is at the heart of panic behavior. However, actual events in
which people have fled from danger in a helter-skelter fashion are extremely rare.
In point of fact, leading researchers in this field rejected the irrational-flight version of panic several decades ago (Keating, 1982; Mintz, 1951; Sime, 1980).
Experimental Investigations
Writing in 1964, Schultz observed “in the entire literature relating to the nonadaptive behavior of panic, there have been only two empirical investigations of
the problem: French (1944) and Mintz (1951). Other aspects of social psychology
have generated an ever-increasing body of experimental research but the problem
of panic has been virtually avoided” (p. 4; see also, French, 1941). Writing in the
first decade of the 21st century, I would say the picture is only somewhat improved.
By my tally, investigations in the empirical tradition mentioned by Schultz now

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number in the region of 10. These investigations will be traced forward from the
earliest study and described in sufficient detail to illuminate the obvious methodological challenges faced by these researchers and the means by which those
challenges were addressed. The studies share a common experimental paradigm
in which the investigator can determine the type of threat, for example, electric
shock, introduce varying degrees of threat, limit the time necessary to effect an
escape, or set the penalties for participants who fail to escape. It should be noted
that some investigators chose to focus on only a part of the overall paradigm, for
example, the time taken to summon help. We begin with an account of French’s
(1944) experiment. I have pieced together an outline of his design and results
from several sources, principally Brown (1965) and Schultz (1964a).
Where There Is Smoke There Is Fire
French (1944) was interested in the effects of intense fear on the behavior of
organized and unorganized groups. His design provided for two groups, the
first of which was comprised of students who were previously unknown to each
other. The second “organized” group included Harvard University athletic teams
and members of local neighborhood clubs.
The procedures required the experimental group to first spend an hour solving
intellectual and motor skill problems. At this point, participants were given a
questionnaire to complete. The experimenter then left the room. As he exited,
the door automatically locked behind him and could only be opened from the
outside. Shortly thereafter, a smoke machine was activated and smoke began to
slowly seep under the door into the experimental room. As the smoke thickened,
a fire siren sounded from another part of the building.
The experiment was hardly a success. The attempt to create fear among the
students raised at best, only mild concern. One student was heard to say that he
smelled smoke and asked his group if there was a fire. Another replied to the
effect that the researchers likely wanted to test their psychological reactions.
In another group a student pushed on the door at the first sign of smoke. It
swung open easily knocking over the smoke apparatus. Unless we are willing
to concede that Harvard athletes and other Boston men of the day were a calm
and unflappable lot, it would seem the experimenter’s creative efforts to induce
fear failed dismally. In the remaining experiments in this series, we will see the
efforts of other researchers to overcome the problem of creating a convincing,
high stress or fear-producing situation.
The responses of individuals to signs of personal danger are varied and open
to influence by the social circumstances in which they occur. Moreover, that
influence need not be overt. The mere presence of another person(s) when an
alarm or threat is raised is sufficient to dramatically influence the action people
take. Latané and Darley (1968) extended the earlier French (1944) study in adding a condition in which the participant was alone rather than with others as
smoke gradually filled the room. Men at Columbia University were set the task of
completing a questionnaire in a room either alone or with two confederate strangers who were instructed to remain uncommunicative. An emergency was created

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by slowly injecting smoke into the room through a wall vent. Students working
alone were quick to notice the smoke, usually within 5 s. Students working with
the two passive confederates paid less attention to their circumstances and took
approximately 20 s just to notice the smoke.
The time taken to respond appropriately by going to the door to report the
emergency followed a similar pattern. Students who worked alone were quickest
to respond; 75% went to the door to report the smoke. Of those in the company
of the passive confederates, only 10% went to the door to report the problem.
Lastly, in another condition in which a group of three naive subjects was set the
questionnaire task, 38% attempted to report the incident to someone in charge.
Of particular interest are the behaviors of those remaining in the room as the
6-min experimental trials drew to a close. Observed through a one-way mirror,
the men were seen to be rubbing their eyes, coughing, and straining to see through
the dense smoke. Despite their obvious distress, the number of participants in
groups who took the action of reporting the emergency could be counted on one
hand. Equally intriguing is the subjects’ interpretations or explanations for the
cause or source of the smoke. Students offered a wide range of interpretations
for the patently ambiguous situation in which they found themselves. Among a
lengthy list of interpretations were “steampipes,” “chemistry labs,” “a leak in the
air conditioning,” and “truth gas.” Not a single participant said “fire!”
What can account for the inaction of those students set the task of working with
the confederates in a group situation? Latané and Darley (1968) chose to interpret
their findings as best representing social influence processes. It could be argued that
responsibility for the inaction of those in groups lies with the presence of strangers. Consider the plight of a participant finding himself in a room with two other
students dutifully filling out a questionnaire while smoke is seeping into the room.
The ambiguity in the situation calls out for an interpretation for which he looks to
the reactions of two confederate strangers. Seeing that they are unresponsive to an
apparent danger prompts an interpretation that there is no cause for concern. Action
on his part is not required. Thus, in emergency situations that are ambiguous there
is reason to suggest that groups of people will be slow to notice a threat and even
slower to implement a course of action to possibly ensure their safety.
The definition of panic offered by Mintz (1951) represents a sharp departure
from the prevailing views of the day in characterizing panics as largely arising
from the perceived reward structure present in a social situation. He assigned
minimal importance to the role of “violent emotional excitement,” that is terror
or fear (p. 150). Indeed, he all but discounts the importance of intense emotional
excitement as requisite for nonadaptive group behavior. Mintz observes its presence among spectators witnessing sports events and among athletes just before
competition. Yet, he notes there is little evidence of nonadaptive crowd behavior
developing as a result.
The following will illustrate the view of Mintz. Should a fire break out under
the stands at a British football match, the response of spectators would be one
of extreme emotional arousal. Individuals taking stock of their situation and the
dangers they face, slowly come to decide their next step, a decision often based
on what others are doing. If others around you are moving in an orderly manner

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to a nearby exit then your safety is all but guaranteed. Others close to the site of
the fire may not be as fortunate. Should the spectators behind you push forward
some may be trampled. At this point, your best chance, though slim, is to also
press forward (one hopes the exits are not blocked). That is, nonadaptive behavior originates with a breakdown in cooperation at which point flight is seen to be
adaptive from the perspective of individuals. In Mintz’s view, the extreme fear
and threat posed by the encroaching flames are not a necessary condition for
panic. Rather, it is the unstable reward structure in a situation that is essential
in order for panic to occur.
Simulations
For obvious practical and ethical reasons, early researchers adopted simulations
as their means of investigating questions associated with panics. First, I would
like to say a word about simulations. Simulations have been with us for a long
time. Chess is an early representation of warfare between kingdoms, representing as it does some of the key elements of battle. In other contexts, pilots can be
trained or studied in flight simulators, for example, link trainers, that include the
major components necessary for flying an aircraft. Even the exceedingly complex relationships among nations have been investigated by means of internation
simulations. The point to note is that the success of a simulation is dependent
upon the designer having made valid representations of just those underlying
elements or factors that account for the dynamics of the phenomenon being
investigated. Incidentally, any readers interested in developing a panic simulation along the lines pioneered by Mintz (1951) will find an article by Gilmour
(1988) to be a valuable starting point. We turn now to a description of Mintz’s
laboratory representation of panic.
The Mintz Study
Mintz (1951) developed a laboratory simulation that allowed him to test his ideas
or model of panic in a controlled setting. The centerpiece in the lab was a foot
high glass jar with a narrow neck opening. Metal cones attached to strings could
be raised or lowered by participants although the narrow neck prevented the
passage of more than one cone at a time. Attempts to remove more than a single
cone at a time caused a traffic jam.
In one of several experiments, water was slowly introduced into the jar by
turning a valve near the bottom. The participants were told they would each be
paid a small sum if they removed their cones dry. Otherwise small fines would
be imposed. Of course, the rising water represents the threat, for example, an
encroaching fire. The narrow neck is the single exit available to people escaping
while cones represent the people themselves. Under these circumstances, Mintz
found jamming in the bottle’s neck was commonplace.
Several additional questions were examined as part of Mintz’s investigation of
panic. For example, in other groups people were allowed to discuss and plan a
cooperative strategy beforehand. It did little to reduce traffic jams in the neck of

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the bottle. However, in another condition of the experiment the matter of rewards,
fines, and rising water were not mentioned. The participants were simply told
to draw their cones from the bottle. They did so with no major jams, even
though several participants were asked to make noise and create a panic-like
atmosphere.
A Series of Three Studies
Starting in 1965, a team of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
researchers conducted a series of experiments on group panic using the prospect
of electric shock as the threatening circumstance facing volunteer participants
(Kelley, Condry, Dahlke, & Hill, 1965). Three experiments were carried out
within this initial investigation. In the first of these, participants were seated
separately in booths and were unable to communicate with each other during
the experiments. Group members could escape from an impending danger—
signaled through a system of lights—but only one individual at a time could
escape through a single exit. The threatened penalty for failing to escape was
painful electric shock (never actually delivered).
The major findings included a sex difference inasmuch as females were less
successful than males in escaping. Also, as the threatened penalty increased
there was a corresponding decrease in successful escapes. Finally, there was
overall a significant decrease in escapes with increasingly larger groups. Escape
percentages varied from four person groups (77% escape rate), five persons
(57%), and six persons (31%) to seven person groups from which 49% escaped.
The results from the three experiments are briefly summarized and provide
an outline of major findings. The sex difference noted in experiments 1 and 2
showing men to be more adept at escaping was not replicated in experiment 3.
Still, the weight of evidence overall offers support for a hypothesis of male–
female differences in regard to escaping from perceived danger. A basic finding
in the series is the negative relationship found between the perceived penalty
for failing and the percentage of people escaping. That is, as the penalty (shock)
rises in severity, the percentage of successful escapes declines. In addition, as
the size of the group increases, there is a corresponding decrease in the percentage of people escaping; overall, this is a solid finding.
A further finding from experiment 3 that potentially offers a means of preparing people to more effectively deal with panic situations concerns their optimism
and tendency to act in concert with one another. The results are suggestive at
best. However, when in the early stages of a possible panic and group optimism
is low, the interests of the group may be better served if individual members
make their decision independent of each other. On the other hand, when group
optimism is high, greater success in achieving escapes are likely to be realized
when group members are more interdependent and responsive to one another in
their decision making.
Following the lead of Kelley et al. (1965), Arie Kruglanski (1969) conducted
a further investigation of panic or “group incoordination” using a similar design.
Female undergraduates (N = 275) at UCLA served as participants in a design

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assessing the effects on two variables representing panic behavior. The two
dependent variables of interest were (a) the percentage of successful escapes
occurring in the allotted time and (b) the degree of jamming occurring during
escapes. Two experimental conditions were created: the first of which involved
a high monetary reward being given to participants who avoided jamming the
exit versus a low reward condition in which a paltry sum was offered for letting
others escape ahead. The second experimental condition involved creating a
high versus low threat situation. With electrodes attached to her fingers, each
participant was told that failure to escape would be penalized by a series of
electric shocks described as “somewhat intense and unpleasant” (p. 458). A mild
shock was administered as a sample. For participants assigned to the low threat
condition, no mention was made of shock nor were electrodes introduced.
The experiment produced a number of important findings. Whether measured
by jamming or percentage of escapes, panics decreased under high threat when
substantial monetary incentives were offered to participants for delaying their
escape. In addition, low incentives to delay combined with increased threat
resulted in an increase in panic behavior thus replicating the finding of Kelley
et al. (1965).
To provide the reader with a sense of the influence of reward and especially
threat, I can offer a few figures starting with the mean number of “jam sessions.”
Under high-reward high-threat conditions 4.19 jams occurred across all trials,
whereas under low-reward high-threat conditions 9.39 jams occurred. Panic
viewed as the mean percentage of successful escapes produced a similar pattern.
Under high-reward high-threat conditions, 46.6 successful escapes were made,
while under low-reward high-threat conditions, only 16.3 escapes were effected.
Another study following this line of research sought to determine the merits
of two plausible explanations for panic or incoordination phenomena (Gross,
Kelley, Kruglanski, & Patch, 1972). In the first of two experiments, UCLA
female undergraduates served as participants following procedures similar to
those outlined above. In the first experiment participants were informed that
the aforementioned “intense and unpleasant” electric shock would be administered as a penalty for not escaping (contingent condition). Those assigned to a
noncontingent condition were told their success in escaping had nothing to do
with whether or not they were shocked. It had already been randomly determined who was to get a shock. In a control condition no mention was made of
shock. The experimental conditions involved 10 groups of 5 randomly assigned
to each of the three conditions, that is contingent, noncontingent, and control.
A principal finding was that jamming steadily increased from the control to
noncontingent to contingent conditions.
Regarding the rational evaluation and emotional arousal hypotheses suggested
as explanations for incoordination, the results showed neither emerged as the
sole, dominant explanation. Support was forthcoming for the rational evaluation
hypothesis by which panic behavior can result from a rational perception of
the interdependence which in particular circumstances calls for individualistic
behavior. Support was also forthcoming for an emotional arousal hypothesis.
Here incoordination is seen to be the result of response interference from

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arousal created by the anticipation of task outcome. With respect to the relative
importance of the two hypotheses, the researchers conclude that “the obtained
pattern of results suggests that the increase in incoordination with possible future
outcomes of increasing importance is jointly determined by the participants’
rational evaluations and by their emotional arousal” (Gross et al., 1972, p. 376).
The Kelley et al. (1965) experiment established that the greater the degree
of physical danger facing a crowd, the greater the likelihood that their response
to the danger will be unorganized or chaotic. Guten and Allen (1972) extended
these findings in an experiment that further examined the likelihood of successfully escaping from a dangerous situation and the intensity with which crowd
members made efforts to reach safety. In addition, they represented the degree
of danger or threat in the design of their experiment.
Whereas there were no differences in the intensity of participants’ efforts
to escape across the three levels of danger or threat, there were significant differences in relation to the likelihood of successfully escaping the danger. The
result was a curvilinear relationship between the two factors. That is, under both
high and low likelihood of escape, the intensity of participants’ efforts to escape
was low. However, their efforts intensified dramatically when the likelihood
of effecting a successful escape to safety was in the middle range. Guten and
Allen drew a parallel between their results and well-known accounts of miners
trapped underground. Under the most extreme conditions where danger is high,
for example, mine gas or rock falls, and with little hope of being reached by
rescue teams, panic does not occur (Quarantelli, 1954, 2001).
Leadership and Panics
Over a decade elapsed following the Kelley et al. (1965) experiments until that
of Andrew Klein was published in 1976. The Klein study represented both
an important refinement of Mintz’s (1951) methodology and clarification of
the “threat” factor in the Kelley et al. investigation. Equally important, Klein
introduced questions related to the effectiveness of leadership under panic
conditions.
It is generally recognized that in most panics there is a complete absence of
leadership. In other panics someone emerges from the crowd and assumes the
mantle of leadership. We all know well the theater tradition whereby a senior
cast member takes center stage and calmly gives assurances and direction to
the terrified members of the audience. To be effective as an emergent leader
requires they be a focal point for the audience and that they are positioned to
communicate with the crowd.
Klein selected two attributes of leadership to examine in relation to panic behavior. The first distinction was that drawn between leaders who were elected to office
by those they seek to lead, for example, the president of a college alumni association, and leaders who assume office by appointment, for example, the American
football coach hired by the team owner. As in the business world, sports leaders
are as a rule selected by owners or executive boards rather than by those they are
expected to lead. Inasmuch as leadership in the latter case involves unidirectional

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influence from the leader to followers and is not necessarily accepted, a more
precise term is “headship” (Russell, 1993).
A second factor relates to the leader’s style of leadership, a distinction Klein
identifies as either a “me-first” or a “me-last” style. In the first instance, the leader
intends to lead his followers out of harm’s way. By contrast, the “me-last” leader
is more of a martyr who if necessary volunteers to “go down with the ship.” In
adopting the latter style of leadership he obviously assumes a greater risk of
being unable to safely exit the building or stadium. Two additional factors were
included in the design of his experiment. These were the level of stress present
in the situation (e.g., level of shock versus the loss of money) and whether the
group was ultimately successful in reaching safety or met with failure.
A panic simulator was developed to represent the key features present in a reallife panic situation. Its design was similar to the apparatus constructed by Mintz
(1951) with several modifications. While participants were still required to pull
their cones one at a time through a narrow opening, the modified design allowed
for an additional penalty for group failure, ostensibly a painful shock as well as the
loss of a small sum of money. The rising water that visually informed participants
of the time remaining to remove their cones was replaced by an experimentercontrolled buzzer that would sound when the escape time had elapsed. Participants
were given no indication of the length of their escape time. This feature allowed the
experimenter to control the success or failure of the participant’s efforts to escape
from danger. A number of important findings emerged from this investigation.
Criticisms of the early Mintz methodology have tended to focus on the experimental representation of “threat” in his simulation (e.g., Kelley et al., 1965).
Levels of stress were imposed on participants by the promise of small monetary
rewards, for example, 10¢–25¢, for successfully escaping the rising water. Failure
to do so brought fines of 1¢–10¢. The point of the criticism was that the pitifully
small monetary loss for failure bears little resemblance to a threatened real world
loss of life or limb. The factor of stress represented in the panic simulator by
shock was shown to produce panic-like behavior whereas a monetary reward
structure was shown to be of a totally different order. Klein (1976) comments
further, recommending future investigations of panic behavior “use as high a
level of perceived threat as ethically possible” (p. 1153). The reader will recall the
almost indifferent responses by students to smoke seeping into the room.
As noted earlier, the investigation also examined the effects of leaders on the
success of groups in achieving a safe exit from danger. Klein’s use of the panic
simulator demonstrates first and foremost that as stress increases so too does
panic-like behavior, a finding also reported by Kelley et al. (1965). The presence
of a leader in these circumstances was found to be effective in reducing the
levels of panic within the crowd. Their apparent effectiveness arises from the
finding that leaders are seen as increasingly competent as stress levels rise.
The competence of elected leaders was seen to be greater than that ascribed
to appointed leaders. Also, they were credited with more responsibility for the
outcome. However, this result was only found under low levels of stress. With
increasingly higher levels the difference shrinks and actually reverses. Curiously,
despite the fact that the “me-first” leader uses his authority to ultimately improve

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his own safety, he was regarded more positively in all respects than the martyrstyle leader.
These are but a few highlights from Klein’s experiment. He has set the
groundwork for future investigations and identified several key factors at play in
a panic. It is an important beginning but unfortunately his lead has not been followed in the decades since. This study and the series of experiments before represent a high point of investigations of panic through the second half of this last
century. Ethical concerns associated with Milgram’s (1974) obedience research
has largely curtailed experimental investigations of panic requiring researchers to turn to other paradigms often having somewhat less external validity.
However, more recently some researchers have turned to computer simulations
thereby bypassing the need for human subjects and the associated ethical concerns in pursuing questions of panic behavior.
Sources of Data
Those investigating panics have historically relied heavily on archival sources.
Anecdotal accounts, media and investigative interviews with survivors, film/
video footage, and reports of official government inquiries have provided
researchers and students of collective behavior with basic data for developing
models and identifying causal factors. Organized emergency drills (e.g., fire,
explosion, gas) conducted in the field can also provide data and insights into
people’s likely behaviors during the early stages of an actual emergency (Proulx,
2002). Following from a suggestion in the previous chapter on riots, the creation
of a comprehensive international data bank of panic and near panic events would
similarly allow the testing of innumerable hypotheses.
As a source of tactics or action to avoid a repetition of panics, government
reports and official inquiries often contain recommendations that are self-evident
and scarcely require testing, for example, avoid overcrowding and keeping exits
unlocked. Yet, as simple as these precautions are to implement, the lessons of
previous panics are all but ignored. All too frequently, crowds are allowed to
exceed a stadium’s capacity and emergency exits are locked. Other less obvious
measures to avoid similar tragedies remain largely untested and they too often
suffer the same fate.
A further distinction should be noted at this juncture, that between escape
and entry panics (Mann, 1979). Escape or exit panics occur with considerably
greater frequency than entry panics. They also appear more deadly. They typically occur within an enclosed facility when a major threat arises, for example a
fire or an explosion. Exits are narrow or too few in numbers to accommodate a
hurried evacuation. At the same time, people ignore a universal norm of taking
turns, and in a frantic attempt to exit people stumble further clogging the exits.
Escape Panics
Some 15 years ago the writer was contacted by a Louisiana law firm and
asked to serve as an expert witness. The firm was representing Ms. Dolores del

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Lucas who had sustained a serious neck injury while attending a professional
wrestling match in St. Bernard county, Louisiana. The featured match on the
card involved two heavyweight villains who used a scaled-down version of a
flame thrower in their act. Yes, a flame thrower. Their thinly veiled strategy was
to shoot jets of flaming napalm at their opponents at critical points in the match.
A wild melee erupted as Ms. del Lucas sat several rows from ringside. Missiles,
including chairs and benches were hurled at the tag team as they left the arena
to escape the wrath of their opponents and the crowd. As the pair made their
way to the dressing rooms, they directed a number of flaming jets at the crowd.
A panic ensued with fans scrambling and falling over benches to avoid the
flames. During the pandemonium, Ms. del Lucas was struck on the neck by an
airborne chair.
Negligence on the part of the wrestling commission was charged in the suit.
Among other failings, chairs and benches were not secured to the arena floor
allowing them to be used as weapons. Also, two off-duty police officers hired as
security personnel were outside the arena proper guarding a nearby coffee counter. There is a happy ending of sorts to this story. An out-of-court settlement was
reached between the parties with Ms. del Lucas receiving a generous settlement.
At last report, she had opened a small boutique. However, you may be shaking
your head in disbelief, as I did, when I later learned the tag team continued to
use the flame thrower in its matches.
It is hard to know what adjective(s) to use in describing the actions of officials in Louisiana, that is “unthinking,” “irresponsible,” or “uncaring.” We see
a further example of a similar decision taken by someone in authority half way
around the globe. In this example, the scale of the tragedy far exceeded that
which occurred in Belgium’s Heysel stadium panic.
The football stadium in Katmandu, Nepal was the scene of a horrific exit panic.
Ninety-three fans were killed and over a hundred were injured as they attempted
to flee from the stadium when a hailstorm was seen to be fast approaching. The
30,000 spectators streamed toward a single exit; the remaining seven exit gates
had been locked by stadium officials (“Nepalese look,” 1988).
Entry Panics
Entry panics typically occur when fans find themselves competing for access to a
prized commodity or goal, for example entry to the sports facility or ticket wicket.
A few in the crowd become impatient and abandon the queue principle of taking
turns. Feeling they might miss out, some fans may push forward or try to jump the
queue. Matters may be further compounded by the stadium design. Too few or too
narrow entrances cannot accommodate other than an orderly flow of spectators
arriving in a timely fashion. In addition, the number of fans streaming into the
stadium may come to exceed its capacity. With the buildup of large crowds, the forward crush of people results in those at the turnstiles or entrances being trampled.
Accounts of individuals stepping forward to calm the fears of audiences are
relatively common. Mann (1989) was on-scene at a narrowly averted panic in
Boston and offers this account.

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I too was witness to a near panic at Boston Garden in 1969 when tickets for the
National Hockey League playoffs went on sale. Because of an absence of barriers,
the crowd surged around the ticket windows, and there was no way for people
who had obtained their tickets to work their way free. The Boston police with true
initiative plunged into the crowd and formed a human chain, picking up customers
as they received their tickets and passing them bodily overhead from policeman to
policeman until they were safely ejected out of the crowd (p. 312).

While the bravery of the quick-thinking Boston policemen can be credited
with saving many from death or injury, there is no guarantee that their like
will be found in future crowds facing similar circumstances. Certainly, on other
occasions entry panics have developed and run their tragic course without the
benefit of a minor miracle.
The event was an eagerly awaited celebrity basketball game at the City
College of New York in 1991. An overflowing crowd had gathered outside the
gymnasium shortly before game time. The crowd was then “funneled down a
flight of stairs to a single entrance” (“Six at City College,” 1991). Only one
door was open, the remaining doors were locked from inside the gymnasium.
The crowd surge ultimately resulted in the death of nine young people (Mollen,
1992, as cited in Sime, 1995).
A number of failures were later identified in an official report to the mayor
of New York. In addition to vastly underestimating the numbers likely to attend,
there was poor communication among the parties responsible for staging the
event. That is, coordination of responsibilities between the police, a private security firm, and the college and student representatives was lacking. The irony in
the tragedy is that the doors designed for people to safely escape a danger instead
acted as a trap for those seeking to gain entry to the gymnasium (Sime, 1995).
What follows is a prime example of an entry panic that apparently resulted
from the extremely bad judgment of event officials. Cairo stadium was the site of
a 1974 match between the Zamalek soccer club and a visiting Czechoslovakian
team. Organizers had earlier sold 100,000 tickets. Shortly before the game was
to begin, it was decided to switch the match to Zamalek stadium. While it was
closer to the city center, it had a capacity of only 45,000. An hour before game
time, 80,000 fans had squeezed into the stadium. Also on game day, Egyptian
officials decided not to televise the match. As a result, thousands more Zamalek
supporters hurried to the stadium looking for tickets. Minutes before the game
was to begin, thousands broke through the iron stadium gates and streamed into
the stadium. The stampede resulted in the death of 49 fans and injuries to an
additional 47. The tragedy at Zamalek stadium might not have happened had
officials not switched venues. The decision to not provide television coverage
of the game undoubtedly contributed further to the carnage. Once again it is
difficult to fathom the thinking of organizers staging the match.
Panic Dynamics
The following section is the first in a series of three attempts to first itemize the basic features that are essential in a situation for an escape panic to

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occur. The second summary highlights the researchers’ view of the prominent
characteristics common to escape panics. Lastly, a three-stage model summarizing crowd behavior in emergency situations is presented. Although the latter
model is illustrated with reference to the Bradford stadium fire, it is intended
to be a fair representation of the stages in all emergencies thus far reported.
We begin with an article that incorporates a number of international viewpoints
with regard to panics.
Early Views
An early review of the literature on the causal factors underlying panics was
published by Anselm Strauss in 1944 (see also, Quarantelli, 2001). It provides
the views of 17 international scholars both with regard to causal factors and
“prophylactic” methods, that is stopping or preventing panics.
The first factor cited by experts of the day pertains to the physical and mental
state of individuals. People who are fatigued, intoxicated, in bad health, or physically depressed, that is conditions that physically weaken men, are especially
susceptible to panic. A second, important factor frequently mentioned is a condition labeled lessened mental ability. This factor includes confusion, doubt and
uncertainty, noise and distraction, and a lack of critical ability. Their effect is to
impair people’s capacity to engage in rational mental activity. Strauss identified
a third factor that he called high emotional tension and heightened imagination.
Underlying this category are the concepts of anxiety, emotional tension, sharpened imagination, and hallucination. These are described as central causative
factors that play a crucial role in creating the conditions for panic (p. 318). For
example, the latter factor is described as facilitating impulsive behavior at the
expense of rationality. Writers at the time made only vague references to the
specific processes by which these factors work to weaken people’s ability to
engage in rational mental activity. The foregoing predispositional factors are
not directly related to panic in a causal sense but rather render individuals and
ultimately the group more susceptible to panic.
Additional external sets of social factors emerged as important causative
influences in the Strauss review. These serve as precipitating mechanisms that
prompt panic behavior on the part of those who in a sense were made highly
suggestible in sets one through three. The fourth set of mechanisms that trigger
actual flight include suggestion, collective imitation, and rapid mental contagion.
It was believed to be the highly suggestible elements in a crowd that acted indiscriminately to suggestions or were quick to imitate the actions of others nearby.
Strauss has also identified a breakdown of faith in the leader as an important
causative theme running through the writings of early panic scholars. A lack
of confidence in a leader of organized groups was thought to make individuals
more suggestible and open to influence from others. The sixth and final factor
is a recognition by individuals that they are in extreme danger of losing life or
limb. The Strauss review (1944) marked an important point in the investigation
of panic behavior. It was in the same year that formal laboratory studies of panic
were undertaken first by French (1944) and shortly thereafter by Mintz (1951).

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Panic in Organized Groups
It was not until 20 years after the Schauss (1944) report that the topic of panic
theories was again reviewed (Schultz, 1964a, 1965). Schultz, however, introduced
an important classificatory refinement, that of distinguishing between panics
occurring in organized groups and those occurring in unorganized groups. A
military unit is most frequently cited as the clearest example of an organized
group. Following from McDougall (1960), organized groups are characterized
by a continuity of existence, an awareness of membership, and interaction with
other organizations. Furthermore, they have a body of tradition and differentiation of functions (as cited in Schultz, 1964a). Unorganized groups lack these
features in representing more of an assemblage or gathering of people. There
may however, be a common purpose to their coming together, for example, to
watch a basketball game or attend a college pep rally.
In his review Schultz (1965) identified five factors or variables, one or more
of which is common to all theories of panic. First and foremost, those assembled
must perceive they are in a crisis situation. Whether it involves enemy fire, a
bomb threat, or toxic spill, they are faced with an extremely dangerous situation. Secondly, the people are gripped by a sense of intense fear. Parenthetically,
Schultz notes that these two factors are common to the writings of all theorists.
Next, antecedent or background factors that render individuals “panic prone” are
mentioned with some regularity. A fourth factor identified by Schultz gave recognition to emotional facilitation within the crowd as well as behavioral contagion.
In a sense the terror experienced by individuals is quickly spread to those nearby.
Lastly, when flight behavior results, any mutual cooperation that might exist under
normal circumstances, vanishes. There is a complete breakdown in social order.
An Example
In describing what he calls “action crowds,” Young (1946) distinguishes between
an attack–rage and fear–flight types. Given that the organized group has a common focus of attention, the actions that follow involve the release of deep-seated,
underlying attitudes and emotions, for example, rage, aggression, or fear. He
chose to illustrate a fear–flight reaction by citing a military action during the
battle at Adowa, Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), in 1896.
A relatively small Italian force of 15,000 well-equipped troops faced an estimated 100,000 native Abyssinians. The Italian unit was advancing up a narrow,
steep-sided mountain pass when they were suddenly attacked by a small force
of native troops. “almost at the first brush the Italians turned tail and fled in
disorder” (p. 390).
Young singled out rumors of the natives’ violence and cruelty to prisoners
as the major cause of the panic. Wild rumors had been circulating among the
Italian troops in the weeks before the action. Their fears were sharply intensified
by terrifying stories of how the natives castrated and tortured their captives.
Their emotional state at the time of the attack was such that their officers were
unable to check the chaotic flight that followed.

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The Anatomy of a Panic
A half century has passed since the U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration
published a bulletin entitled “The Problem of Panic” (reprinted in Turner &
Killian, 1972, pp. 83–84). Its release was at a time when Cold war tensions
were running high and a thermonuclear attack on the United States was not
inconceivable. Notwithstanding the horrific devastation created by such an
attack, there was a further concern that widespread disorganization, paralysis,
and/or panic would grip the country. The authors of the report note the rarity
of mass panics during the previous 50 years even among civilian populations
under enemy attack. They state further that panic states are short lived and any
irrational behavior is generally stopped by providing realistic information. The
importance of conveying accurate information to people will be an underlying
theme throughout the remainder of this chapter.
The authors laid the groundwork for their views in providing readers with an
initial description of the four features that characterize a panic-producing situation. First, the number of escape routes is very limited, often only one. Second, a
real and/or imagined threat dominates the situation. Whether a physical or psychological threat, its presence is so imminent that there is only time for an attempt at
escape. Third, the escape route may not accommodate the flow of people seeking
safe egress. That is, it becomes jammed or blocked off, for example, gates are
locked. In addition, a readily available escape route may simply be overlooked.
Fourth, those in the front ranks of the crowd are unable to communicate with
those in the rear. Accurate information about the state of the exit is never conveyed
to those at the back. The result is that those at the back continue to push forward
while those at the front are being trampled or crushed against a locked exit.
Helbing, Farkas, and Vicsek (2000) have developed a computer simulation of
the crowd dynamics present in an escape panic. As part of that development, the
researchers provided a summary of the major features characteristic of escape
panics. It is noteworthy that the list includes a mix of social and nonsocial (engineering) features. To paraphrase the summary: (a) The movement of people is
at a much faster pace than normal while at the same time. (b) Physical jostling
and pushing occurs within the crowd. (c) Uncoordinated behavior is evident as
the flow of people passes through a bottleneck. (d) “Arching” and “clogging” are
observed at exits as jams build up (cf. Mintz, 1951). Tremendous pressures can
develop within the jammed crowd. By one estimate, up to 4,450 N/m can result
(Elliott & Smith, 1993), a force sufficient to bend steel barriers and collapse brick
walls. Evidence of such force was seen in the aftermath of the Hillsboro football
disaster when fans attempting to flee to the safety of the pitch were crushed
against steel fencing (Johnes, 2004). (e) There is always the potential for an individual to stumble or fall creating an obstacle to an orderly flow. Of course others
may fall over the fallen. (f) Finally, there is a tendency for people to do what they
see others doing. Various terms have been suggested to explain the behavior, for
example mimicry (La Pierre, 1938) or social influence (Latané & Darley, 1968).
Perhaps as a result, people make inefficient use of available exits in escape panics, for example alternative exits are frequently not used.

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A number of intriguing findings has recently been brought to light by
investigators examining the behaviors of people caught up in dangerous situations. Their efforts to escape are often marked by behavior that many would
consider counterintuitive. In one such study experimental participants chose to
leave by an exit in daily use even though it was at a distance double that of a
nearby emergency exit. The only exception to this pattern occurred when the
nearby door was left open and participants could see daylight streaming in from
outside (Benthorn & Frantzich, 1999). In a related inquiry McClintock, Shields,
Rtland, and Leslie (1999–2000) direct attention to our attraction to the familiar,
in the present context a familiar exit or escape route. People come to use a
preferred route over the course of a daily routine. Its use takes on an “automatic” quality requiring little thought and at the same time it provides a route
that minimizes inconvenience. Herein lies the danger. Those leaving by the
least inconvenient route often overlook nearby emergency routes. The authors
propose programs whereby, for example, the habitual use of a preferred route
can be lessened such that all emergency routes are rendered equally familiar
(McClintock et al., 1999–2000).
Panics are virtually unpredictable and occur infrequently with little or no
warning. Moreover, records of the event are typically piecemeal having been
compiled from eye witnesses, survivors, and community leaders, and such physical evidence as is available to investigators, for example fire marshals, police
officials, and medical examiners. With so much of the evidence being based on
the testimony of eye witnesses, the official account of the event will in all likelihood be filled with omissions, distortions, and embellishments. Eye witness
testimony is notoriously unreliable. Unfortunately, reliance on observers with
professional training and on-the-job experience may not be the answer. There
is good evidence to suggest that eye witness accounts provided even by experienced police officers is not any more accurate than that provided by untrained
civilians (Yarmey, 1990, pp. 324–325).
Through the Lens
A burgeoning surveillance industry employing increasingly sophisticated camera technology has already provided us with a running and fairly reliable record
of several recent panics. For example, a camcorder captured the sequence of
events during a 2003 concert in a Rhode Island night club. A pyrotechnic display intended as a backdrop to the heavy metal band Great White ignited the
set in the club. Tragically, 96 people were killed in the sudden inferno. The film
record provided a timeline of events and has since been used in the successful
prosecution of the club owners.
The importance of crowd surveillance cameras, camcorders, and cell phones
in the hands of spectators is in providing investigators and researchers with an
objective account of events as they unfold. The new age of international terrorism has prompted the installation of multiple camera locations at major public
facilities in many countries. With sports venues having become prime targets,

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security personnel are taking advantage of the latest surveillance technology,
particularly when they are scheduled to host major events.
Panics have occurred at sports events from time to time and will almost
certainly occur in the future. Where and when, we do not know. Given the
ubiquitous presence of cameras, the event will likely be caught on film. A
record of such a panic was available in the aftermath of the 1985 panic at the
Bradford City football stadium. The sequence of events from the early stages to
its conclusion was filmed by Yorkshire television and broadcast to millions of
viewers in Europe and beyond. The grounds were packed with 10,000 jubilant
spectators eager to see their team presented with the championship trophy and
promoted to the second division of the English Professional soccer league for
the first time in 37 years. Shortly before half time a small fire started under
the West Stand, a wooden structure holding approximately 2,000 spectators.
Seven minutes later the stand was fully engulfed in flames. Fifty-seven people
were dead and 200 injured (Canter, Comber, & Uzzell, 1989; Lewis & Veneman,
1987; Taylor, 1987).
Studies of people’s behavior in panics are few in number. As noted earlier, it
is evident that the media-inspired image we have of people fleeing en masse in
a frantic, self-serving fashion is inconsistent with what actually takes place (see
Johnson, 1987a, 1987b). The importance of this point lies with the recognition
that there are instead, distinct stages in people’s behavior as a panic runs its
course. Furthermore, an identification and understanding of these stages opens
the door to regulatory and preemptive strategies based on empirical data rather
than a popular fiction (Canter et al., 1989).
A minute by minute chronology of events at Bradford has been reported by
Canter et al. (1989) and Lewis and Veneman (1987). Their accounts are similar.
I think it is instructive to examine the timeline and highlight the stages of the
Bradford tragedy insofar as they appear to be present in many other panics. An
abbreviated, combined account follows:
3:40 The smell of burning is detected and smoke is sighted. “Two men noticed
that their feet and legs were getting warm” (Canter et al., 1989, p. 99).
3:41 Years of accumulated rubbish was alight.
3:42 Fire had spread to the wooden floor beams.
3:43 Flames were seen rising above the floor. The fire brigade was called.
Many fans moved onto the playing field (Lewis & Veneman, 1987).
3:44 Flames rising meters above the floor. Fans at the back of the stands
were trapped by closed exits.
3:45 Flames lapping at the underside of the roof.
3:46 Fire brigade arrives. Roof is engulfed in flames.
3:47 Entire stand totally involved in flames.
A Three-Stage Model
As evident above, there appear to be distinct stages in the behavior of those
responding to an impending threat to their well-being. Canter et al. (1989)

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suggest three stages can be identified in the case of the Bradford fire, indeed, “in
all the emergencies that have been studied” (p. 98). Several behaviors and events
will illustrate the nature of the stages that I have chosen to label, ambiguityquestioning, decision-formation, and action phase.
Ambiguity-Questioning
At the outset, something or someone gets the attention of those nearby, for
example the smell of smoke or a shout of “fire.” This initial stage is one of looking for answers, asking others for information, or listening to those in authority.
It takes valuable time for individuals to resolve the ambiguity before deciding
on their best course of action. The spectators at Bradford did little in the first
few minutes. Those close to the origin of the fire moved away then turned to
watch. One man went to get an extinguisher while another poured the contents
of his coffee cup on the flames. The man searching for the extinguisher alerted
police who returned with him to inspect the situation. They then called the fire
brigade. With precious seconds ticking away, a senior police officer walked the
entire length of the pitch to examine the situation, only then ordering spectators
to leave the stands for the safety of the playing field.
Decision-Formation
As the ambiguity surrounding the situation is gradually clarified with information about the situation and that provided by people nearby, individuals choose a
course of action. Previous training or experience in emergencies (e.g., military,
police, medical), personality traits (e.g., empathy, altruism), physical status
(e.g., youthful–elderly) or one’s location in the facility in relation to the source
of danger (e.g., proximal–distal) may to an important degree determine the
response of individuals to the threat. Some may assist others, some may fight the
fire, some may look for the nearest available exit, while still other individuals
may search for friends and relatives (see Johnson, 1987a).
The decision we make in an emergency is in several important respects unlike
any other we are called upon to make. One’s choice of a marriage partner, the
purchase of a new home, taking early retirement are all important decisions
with long- term implications for the decision maker and those close to him/her.
Yet, they differ sharply from a decision made when we hear a shout of “FIRE”
coming from under the stands at a dilapidated stadium (Proulx, 1993, 2002).
The decision taken could be the difference between life and death outcomes.
The very survival of the decision maker and those closest to him/her may be at
stake. Also, there is limited time available in which to gather information, weigh
options, and think through the decision. Moreover, the list of critical options
may be rapidly shrinking with each passing minute. Staying with the stadium
fire example, several exits open a few minutes earlier may now be clogged with
escaping fans. Lastly, decisions taken in emergencies are necessarily based on
incomplete information. Such information as is available is typically sketchy,
ambiguous, and possibly misleading. Still, a decision must be taken.

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Action Phase
Time is the critical factor in the third stage. For example, a fire does not invariably increase in scale and intensity in a linear fashion. Depending on conditions
at the time, a fire can literally explode in a matter of seconds. At this late date,
a large throng of people attempting to hurriedly leave by their chosen route
are left with little room for error. If one person trips or stumbles the result can
be tragic. If their escape route leads to exits that are locked, as they were at
Bradford, the toll of deaths and injuries is apt to be horrific.
Factors Influencing Decisions
What factors are involved in influencing people’s behavior in the face of an
imminent threat? What considerations are at play in shaping the individual’s
response and choice of action? Proulx (2002) identifies three important aspects
of an emergency situation, for example fire in a facility, that underlie or determine the behaviors of individuals, namely, the individual, the building, and the
fire itself.
Characteristics of the individual are paramount. The time taken to react to
the situation and how quickly the individual moves toward an escape route are
influenced by numerous intrapersonal factors. That is, response time and speed
of movement are to an important degree determined by gender, age, physical
status, and group influences (Bryan 2002, as cited in Proulx, 2002). Admittedly
speculative, there is a further strong belief among researchers that having knowledge of the layout of a facility and past fire experience should lead to a more
successful outcome (Proulx, 2002).
A second consideration predictive of the response to an emergency situation is the building or facility itself. For example, the response to a fire alarm
sounding in a basketball arena, a sports awards banquet or at the airport where
fans are gathered to welcome a local team would likely differ. Similarly, the
type of activity that people are engaged in may also influence their response to
the alarm. Thus, a man standing in line at the stadium concession counter may
respond differently than a man seated with his fiancé inside the stadium proper.
A further consideration pertains to the management of a building. The specific
means by which people are alerted to a danger and then given useful information and instructions is crucial to a successful evacuation. It is a well-established
finding that the sounding of a fire alarm is rarely sufficient to prompt the evacuation of buildings. A ring signal is frequently misunderstood. The exception is
when a well-trained staff is present or live spoken information is provided by
means of a public address system (Benthorn & Frantzich, 1999; Proulx & Sime,
1991, as cited in Proulx, 2002).
Thirdly, there is the matter of the fire itself and its effects on individual decision making. For example, studies suggest that sleeping adults are probably not
awakened by the smell of smoke (Lynch, 1998, as cited in Proulx, 2002). What is
known with some certainty is that people are willing to make their way through
fairly dense concentrations of smoke. However, the conditions surrounding the

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decision maker and the distance to be traveled to safety are less well understood
with respect to their impact (Bryan, 2002, as cited in Proulx, 2002).
Communicating Information in Emergencies
Providing accurate information to people is critical in an emergency. It is not
enough to simply sound the alarm. The evidence shows that it is highly unlikely
that people will take any action at that point (Proulx, 1996). What follows is the
outline of a strategy that details the means by which people in dangerous circumstances can understand the nature of the threat they face and receive instructions on the appropriate response to their situation. The strategy is general and
can be adapted to a variety of threatening circumstances, be it a stadium fire, an
earthquake, or a bomb threat. For present purposes, we will imagine it to be a
stadium fire (Proulx, 1996; Proulx & Sime, 1991, as cited in Proulx, 2002).
The first step to be taken following the sounding of the alarm is to bring to
a halt whatever people are attending to, for example, a football match. Stopping
the game signals to spectators that something very serious is taking place and
they are likely involved. In addition, it ensures the full attention of spectators
and prepares them to receive voice announcements.
A live voice communication system should be used to convey messages to the
public. Evidence shows that live communications rather than prerecordings are
to be used inasmuch as the public regards live messages as more accurate and
reliable. Proulx (1996) characterizes prerecorded messages as ineffective and
possibly dangerous. For example, in one training exercise prerecorded messages
were unable to identify the location of an alternate escape route when the main
exit route was blocked.
Three essential pieces of information should be conveyed to spectators in
the case of fires and most other emergencies. These include (a) the identification
of the problem, for example, a small fire, (b) the location of the emergency, for
example, under the North bleachers, and (c) instructions and actions they are to
take, for example, “for now, please leave by the exit nearest to your seat.”
Above all, a message should be simple, direct, and truthful. Attempts to downplay the seriousness of an emergency or in other ways disguise the real situation
create confusion and ultimately lessen the likelihood of adaptive responses. In
the past, audiences were rarely told about the true nature of an emergency. It was
widely believed that such information would trigger widespread panic among
those exposed to the danger. Quite the opposite! Telling spectators the truth
about our stadium fire is far more likely to prompt adaptive actions on their part.
It would seem infinitely better to be told the truth early on when there is still
time for life-saving actions to be taken than later when the truth of the situation
becomes apparent only as flames are lapping at your toes.
The Canter et al. (1989) recognition of three stages, that is, ambiguityquestioning, decision-formation, and action-phase, is an important first step
in understanding the behavioral dynamics of endangered crowds attending
sports and entertainment events. Among other considerations, the framework
calls attention to the indecisive and often dithering behavior of spectators and

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officials seeking information during the time-consuming early stages. Moreover,
regulatory changes based on the outdated view of panics as a wild, frantic
flight of terror stricken people lead legislators and others to overlook the possibilities of other strategies likely effective in reducing the carnage. As Canter
et al. (1989) conclude: “the early planning for potential accidents, the quick and
effective communication and the ready recognition of potential danger and how
to cope with it, can all be far more important than having precisely the right
number of exits” (p. 101).
Designs for People or Ball Bearings?
The design of sports, entertainment, and other facilities has historically been the
domain of engineers and safety specialists. Their principal goal has been that
of maximizing the safe egress of people during an emergency whether through
planning, legislation, for example, building codes or the design of facilities. For
the most part, their planning, legislative recommendations, and design decisions
are based on calculations of the time needed to escape from danger, that is the
time needed for people to make their way to exits and to move through those
exits to safety. Often missing from the calculations is the time it takes people to
start to move (Sime, 1995). We have seen from the earliest experiments (French,
1944; Latané & Darley, 1968) and more recent accounts of panics (e.g., Canter
et al., 1989) that people often do not move immediately toward the exits. In
fact, they typically remain fixed for a considerable period of time during which
their prospects for survival may diminish. People’s initial response to a crisis is
generally subdued. La Pierre (1938) speaks of an initial period of shock “during
which all behavior, overt and covert, is momentarily arrested” (p. 445). That
period may be short lived or prolonged over an extended amount of time as
people seek out information and direction. Families may assemble and friends
reunite as people prepare to abandon ship or make their way toward the stadium
exits.
The traditional engineering view regards panics as essentially a physics problem to be solved without the need to take into account the social dynamics
among those involved. Their investigative approach has been characterized by
Phillips as studying “the flow of corks in a channel of water” (as cited by Sime,
1983), failing as it does to recognize the crowd as a composite of individuals and social groups. The impersonal engineering model has similarly been
likened to studying the movement of ball bearings. Sime (1995) illustrates the
two contrasting views in an equation defining the time required for a crowd to
escape potential harm. The human perspective is represented as a term in the
equation T (time to escape) = t1 (time to initiate movement) + t2 (time to move
to and pass through the exits). An engineering approach would be represented
simply by T = t2.
The engineering model with its emphasis on the physical environment sees
solutions to the problem of getting people to safety as lying with the design of
escape routes, for example their width, number, and distance. The view of a
panic is that of a homogeneous mass of people behaving irrationally in their

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flight to escape from danger. The overriding motive of a crowd is seen as one of
self-preservation; it is a case of every man for himself.
A contrasting position is represented by a people view. Rather than seeing a
crowd as acting on a primitive instinct to flee from danger in a chaotic fashion,
there is a recognition that the crowd is heterogeneous, made up of families and
friends interacting with each other. As Johnson (1987a, 1987b) observed, there is
social order among those seeking safety. The strong among the crowd help the
less able. That is, adults help children, men help women, while others help the
infirm. The common analogy of ball bearings rolling along a corridor scarcely
provides an adequate representation of panic behavior.
Both the engineering and people models have merit in furthering our understanding of panic. In a similar vein, both models can develop effective procedures or recommend legislation to maximize the safe egress of people when
emergencies arise. As an example, adequate information may be conveyed by a
public address system during the early stages as people are milling about seeking information and direction. As noted above, it is during that time (t1) that
considerable minutes of critical time are often lost and a safe exit imperiled.
Unambiguous public announcements at that time may prove invaluable. The
work of Sime (1995) in examining a series of evacuation exercises prompted
him to conclude that “evacuation times were reduced by at least 1/2 or even
2/3 . . . . by reducing the time for people to start to move.” This was achieved “by
altering the information available to people about a potential danger” (p. 9). He
further notes that a major problem in disasters arises from delays in warning the
crowd of a threat, be it a fire or a bomb.
Summary
The foregoing highlights two models of crowd behavior that in many ways
determine the approach taken by each to maximize the safe egress of a crowd
during an emergency. The engineering model stresses the importance of the
physical environment and the ways in which that environment can be tailored
to allow a crowd to move unimpeded to safety. The second overlapping model
places the emphasis on the social dynamics of the crowd in recognizing the
existence of familial and affiliative bonds that influence the crowd’s response to
an emergency. The people model further emphasizes the need for early warnings of a potential danger combined with clear directions regarding the actions
to be taken. A comprehensive strategy in planning for a disaster would wisely
embrace both models.
Simulations
Computer simulations of crowd behavior during escape panics are becoming
increasingly sophisticated and represent a sharp departure from earlier models.
In addition to representing both physical and social psychological factors, more
recent simulations have included a larger number of variables represented in

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greater detail. In effect, computer simulations of escape behavior are becoming
more and more complex. The first simulation to be highlighted (below) was
developed by three Eastern European researchers.
The Helbing et al. Model
A relatively new approach to simulating escape panics is that developed by
Helbing et al. (2000). It is just one of many possible models. However, it does
represent a more equal emphasis between a traditional engineering view in
which the elements of a crowd are unthinking and irrational in their behavior and a view where the human rationality of those making up the crowd is
recognized.
Several important features of real-life panics are represented in the simulation. As examples, the simulation incorporates the reactions of crowd members
to reduced visibility, for example, in a smoke-filled room as it does individuals experiencing the crush of others as they make their way toward exits.
Furthermore, the tendency noted by early theorists for people to follow the
lead of others, for example, “mimicry” in the words of La Pierre (1938), is also
recognized in the simulation.
Several counterintuitive panic phenomena were identified in the Helbing
et al. simulation. It was observed that people moving rapidly as part of a crowd
escaping danger will jam up an exit that the same crowd can pass through easily
at a normal walking speed. A second oddity involves the widening of a corridor
with a view to increasing the rate of flow. Rather than allowing a faster movement of people along the hallway, the widening instead slows down their progress.
Seemingly, individuals try to overtake others or move away from the main flow in
the widened section and then squeeze back in at the end of the widened corridor.
Simulations can be extremely useful in developing evacuation strategies for
stadia, gymnasiums, theaters, or ships, at the same time providing data for calculating the optimum width of passageways along with the number of doors
and their location. As an example, we see two models that lead to different
outcomes for people attempting to escape from a smoke-filled room with two
exits at opposite ends. A model based on the flow of liquid through a pipe with
two holes in it would predict that equal numbers of those fleeing would use
the two available exits. An individual-centered model would predict something
quite different. In the smoke-filled room example there is clogging at one of the
doors; the other door is used by only a few and they pass through with ease. It
should be noted that the term “herding” is often applied to explain the behavior
of the vast majority of people who rush to one exit, while a second, equally
accessible exit is scarcely used. The use of the term herding to describe this
phenomenon implies the operation of an underlying instinct. As will be shown
in Chapter 7, labeling an observed behavior as instinctual creates a tautology
that has no explanatory value.
The task for those developing panic simulations is to refine their present
models and to confirm their prediction on the basis of real-life behaviors. This

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is not an easy task by any means. We move now to consider a simulation of
panic behavior based in part on the work of Helbing and his colleagues (above).
In an intriguing twist, the real-life experimental participants were not the usual
first year psychology students but ants.
When Ants Panic
Recently, a Cuban–Norwegian research team conducted an imaginative experiment in panic behavior in which ants served as participants (Altshuler et al.,
2005). The aim of the study was to determine if a large group of ants would
escape from an enclosure through two, equally accessible exits in roughly equal
numbers. The obvious expectation was that the ants would use door #1 about
as often as door #2. However, the earlier model of panic behavior (Helbing
et al., 2000) had predicted that people would rush one of two doors in larger
numbers under conditions of an escape panic. Would ants show the predicted
behavior? First, however, I provide a brief description of their tiny participants,
the experimental apparatus, and the procedures used.
The participants were Cuban leaf-cutting ants (Atta insularis) collected individually by hand from several nests all located in a 400 m2 area. In each trial,
66 ants from the same nest were introduced into a circular cell, an acrylic drum
8 cm in diameter and 0.5 cm in height. The cell rested on filter paper and was
covered by a 0.3 cm sheet of glass. Two exits 1 cm in width were at opposite
sides of the cell (control condition). A second cell (experimental condition) was
identical in all respects with the exception of a tiny hole in the center of the
cell’s glass cover. This allowed the researchers to inject a drop of insect repellant
(citronella Labiofam, Cuba) creating a “panic” among the group of ants. Both
the control and experimental trials were repeated 30 times with a new group
of 66 ants collected from a single nest each time. The two exits were opened
several seconds after the groups of ants were introduced to the cells. In the case
of the high-panic experimental condition, the repellant is quickly injected in the
few seconds before the exits are opened.
As shown in Figure 6.1, the ants’ escape patterns differed dramatically
between the low- and high-panic cells. When the exits are opened in the lowpanic control condition (A), the ants escape through the two doors with the same
frequency. By contrast, those ants in the repellant-induced panic condition (B)
rush one exit in large numbers all but ignoring the remaining exit. The results of
the present study were similar to those in the Helbing et al. (2000) investigation.
In both, a large majority of participants chose to escape through one of two
equally accessible exits.
Certainly, this study gives us much to reflect upon. The researchers all
but invite discussion with their conclusion: “Our experiments show that
escape behavior under panic can be amazingly similar from invertebrates to
vertebrates” (p. 643). The point likely to be contended was identified over 60
years ago by Strauss (1944) who observed: “If one chooses to study human
panic by having recourse to experiments with animals, his success is likely to be

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(B)

Figure 6.1 Ants escaping under normal and panic conditions. (From E. Altshuler,
O. Ramos, Y. Nunez, J. Fernandez, A. J. Batista-Leyva, & C. Noda. Symmetry breaking
in escaping ants. The American Naturalist. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005,
pp. 643–649. By permission of the University of Chicago Press.)

limited—unless the assumption is made that the character of animal and human
panic is essentially the same” (p. 326).
To their credit, Altshuler et al. (2005) have eliminated several rival explanations for their findings. For example, across all high-panic trials, the ants
showed no preference for right versus left exits. They jammed up right versus
left exits with equal frequencies. Moreover, they followed up their experiment
with additional trials in which ants from different nests were combined. The
results were the same, supporting the researchers’ contention that genetic relationships among the ants are not a plausible explanation for the effect.

PANICS: PROACTIVE AND MITIGATING MEASURES
Introduction
The concluding section of this chapter brings together a set of formal and informal suggestions that have been put forward by individuals who are familiar
with panics. For the most part they are people who have conducted research
on the topic and have made recommendations regarding the prevention and/or
mitigation of panics.
The suggestions described on the pages to follow represent an incomplete listing. Furthermore, unlike the suggestions regarding riots in the previous chapter,
research supportive of recommendations on panic is often thin or nonexistent.
The general lack of empirical evidence that might otherwise support recommendations is an unfortunate consequence of the current state of panic research.
Despite some promising beginnings, we know far less about panics than almost
any other social group phenomena. However, the merits of a considerable number
of the suggestions will be seen as self-evident. That is, we can scarcely argue

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with a recommendation to keep emergency exits unlocked or combustible rubbish
from accumulating under the stands. It should also be acknowledged that while
some measures may be easy to implement, others may simply be impractical.
Finally, other suggestions may speak in generalities or be vaguely worded such
that the specific means by which they can be put into practice remain obscure.
Engineering/Design Considerations
Seated Versus Standing
The question of whether seating or standing areas are more conducive to outbursts of riotous behavior was addressed by Mann (1989). He suggested that riots
were more likely to originate on the terraces and for most of the same reasons,
extended his view to include panics. He notes that in a crush a standing crowd
“is more likely to sway and fall, causing wholesale panic” (p. 307). Two late to
mid-20th century riots in the United Kingdom are cited to bolster his view. Both
resulted in a considerable number of deaths and occurred on the terrace areas of
the stadium. However, in the absence of hard evidence, for example an archival
study, views on the issue remain speculative.
Retractable Escape Gangways
One of the last projects to be completed before the opening kickoff to the 2006
World Cup of soccer was the installation of 29 rescue gangways in Berlin’s
70-year-old Olympic Stadium. Their purpose is to bridge the 2.7-m ditch separating the seats and the playing field. Police officers stationed in the stadium’s
security center will deploy the electrically operated gangways in the event of an
emergency. Thus, within 12 s, spectators are provided the means to escape onto
the pitch rather than climbing up through countless rows of seating to reach
the regular exits (“Berlin’s Olympic Stadium,” 2006). Had the gangways been
installed at Hillsboro and other sites, the tragic course of those events may have
ended differently.
Antipanic Leadership
Writing in 1938, La Pierre suggested that “regimental” behavior on the part
of a leader and his audience may be effective in averting or minimizing the
consequences of a panic response. He proposed that two factors underlie the
occurrence of a panic. First, it requires an unusual crisis, for example the smell
of smoke and/or the sight of flames, that is perceived by the crowd as dangerous.
The second factor is the absence of regimental leadership. In such circumstances
the likelihood of panic is greatly increased.
For La Pierre, “regimental behavior is essentially a means by which the
enforcement of an individual solution to a collective crisis problem is assured”
(p. 437). The audience or crowd has already received at least a smattering of training in regimental behavior albeit by unintended and informal means. Western

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cultures, for example, have already instilled a tradition of “women and children
first” that most of us recognize as normative behavior in emergency situations.
Regimental leadership involves an individual capturing the attention of the audience who find themselves in danger, quickly bringing a measure of calm and order
to any panic-like actions they might otherwise take. However, antipanic leadership
is unable to stem panic behavior once it is underway (for a detailed description of
antipanic leadership see a 1938 article by Malamud, as cited in La Pierre, 1938).
I believe La Pierre would not be unhappy with my choice of a real life
example of antipanic leadership and a regimented crowd. The example involves
the actions of a quick thinking few who forestalled an entry panic in its formative stages. A leadership initiative intended to avert panicky behavior was found
effective in a European example.
Chakotin (1941) recounts a memorable incident in a crowd seeking to gain
entrance to a Paris stadium.
The neighborhood of the Velodrome d’Hiver (Winter Sports Stadium) was densely
crowded for a big race. There were two narrow entrances, and no police to be
seen. The crowd rushed to the entrances, and the pressure seemed to be threatening suffocation for many victims. But suddenly some of the crowd began to shout
rhythmically, “Don’t push! Don’t push!” and the shout was taken up and chanted
in chorus by the whole multitude. The result was marvelous: Order was restored,
the pressure reduced; a collective inhibition had spread through the minds of the
whole throng (pp. 43–44).

The chanting of a few spread rapidly until the entire crowd was of one mind. In
all likelihood, a tragedy was averted. One or more individuals initially caught the
attention of others nearby who joined in the rhythmic shout “don’t push!” As with
“women and children first,” there is a cultural tradition of “don’t push” when we are
being jostled or squashed in a crowd. Antipanic leadership in a regimented crowd
by a few unknown individuals was exhibited that day at the Paris Velodrome.
The Iroquois Theater Fire
Lastly, I have strayed somewhat off course in using an example of a panic from
the field of entertainment rather than sports. My choice of Chicago’s Iroquois
Theater fire as an illustration of the true nature of panic and the numerous failures
and errors of judgment by those in positions of authority was never made clearer.
As America’s worst theater disaster, it stands alone as a lesson for us all.
Antipanic value is also attributed to those who have the attention of an audience before the emergence of a danger. A prime example is the stage performer
who by his words or actions has on occasion maintained calm in the audience and effected an orderly escape to safety. One such incident took place in
Chicago’s Iroquois Theater in 1903. Comedian, Eddy Foy provides a chilling
account of events as they unfolded on that fateful afternoon.
As I ran around back of the rear drop, I could hear the murmur of excitement
growing in the audience. Somebody had of course yelled “Fire!”—there is almost
always a fool of that species in an audience; and there are always hundreds of

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people who go crazy the moment they hear the word. The crowd was beginning
to surge toward the doors and already showing signs of a stampede. Those on the
lower floor were not so badly frightened as those in the more dangerous balcony
and gallery. Up there they were falling into panic.
I began shouting at the top of my voice, “Don’t get excited. There’s no danger.
Take it easy!” And to Dillea, the orchestra leader, “Play, start an overture-anything!
But play!” Some of his musicians were fleeing, but a few, and especially a fat little
violinist, stuck nobly.
I stood perfectly still, hoping my apparent calm would have an equally calming effect on the crowd. Those on the lower floor heard me and seemed somewhat
reassured. But up above, and especially in the gallery, they had gone mad (Foy &
Harlow, 1928).

Foy’s actions were apparently successful in reducing the toll on that dreadful
afternoon. In eight minutes, 602 theatergoers perished; many more were injured.
La Pierre informs us that in the aftermath of the Iroquois theater disaster
the fundamental rule of show biz was “the show must go on, come hell or high
water” (p. 454). He notes that later veteran show people fondly recounted stories of having themselves performed well while firemen extinguished flames
backstage.
A final antipanic tactic, described by La Pierre (1938) as “remarkably effective,” is the playing of a country’s national anthem. Following a series of deadly
theater panics, it became an established British custom to play the national
anthem at the end of every performance at which time the audience rose to
attention as one.
With disheartening regularity, we see in the aftermath of panics that the
most obvious of construction design failures has resulted in excessive casualties. Ushers were untrained; exit doors opened “inwards;” the theater was overcrowded; doors were locked; there was overcrowding; stairwells were steep,
narrow, and reversible; and exits were poorly lit and lacked adequate directional
signage. Faintly reminiscent of the 1915 Titanic disaster, the new theater was
believed by authorities to be fireproof.
The failures evident in the Iroquois theater fire remain with us today, a
century later. Consider the words of Mr. Foy:
There were thirty exits, but few of them were marked by lights; some had heavy
portieres over the doors, and some of the doors were locked or fastened with levers
which no one knew how to work.
. . . some of the exit doors leading from the upper tiers onto the fi re escapes
on the alley . . . were either rusted or frozen. They fi nally burst open, but
precious moments had been lost—moments which meant death for many behind
those doors. The fi re-escape ladders could not accommodate the crowd, and
many fell or jumped to death on the pavement below. In places on the stairway,
particularly where a turn caused a jam, bodies were piled seven or eight
feet deep.

Finally, a tragic irony becomes apparent.
The fire department arrived quickly after the alarm and extinguished the flames
in the auditorium so promptly that no more than the plush upholstery was burned

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off the seats. But when a fire chief thrust his head through a side exit and shouted,
‘Is anybody alive in here?’ no one answered (Foy & Harlow, 1928).

It was further noted that the theater itself was never burned. By one account,
performances could have been resumed in a couple of days. The Iroquois
Theater fire stands as an archetypical example of shortcomings in design that
can magnify the scale of a tragedy many times over. The examples noted above
point to the role of individuals, themselves caught in a potential panic situation,
who informally emerge as control agents. In many ways, these individuals are
the counterpart to the peacemakers described in the context of riots. Shouts of
“remain calm,” “don’t push,” heard above the confusion have undoubtedly been
effective in minimizing or averting human disasters. While individual members
of the public are under no obligation to assume such roles—their emergence is
pretty much a matter of chance—others with formal responsibilities, for example
security personnel, ushers, ticket takers, can be given specific training in providing instructions and direction to exits for those fleeing a facility.
SUMMARY
Given the rarity of panics, the evaluation of the effectiveness of measures, or
steps taken to avert their occurrence, is problematic. While historical accounts
of panics and simulations may support, or appear to support, the efficacy of a
proactive measure, doubts may linger. The very latest stadium, theater, or ship
design may be certified by experts as “panic-proof,” “fireproof,” or “unsinkable.”
History has shown us wrong on too many occasions.
The rarity of panics also works against mitigating measures being in place. It
seems wasteful, too costly, or even unnecessary to prepare for a possible panic
that is not likely to occur in one’s lifetime, if at all. A case in point is the general lack of earthquake preparedness in the pacific northwest of North America.
Seismologists predict with virtual certainty that a devastating quake will hit
in the next decade yet little seismic upgrading or other precautions have been
undertaken by governments. Other priorities take precedence.
A final thought. While the design or upgrading of sport and other facilities
may be undertaken with an eye to their panic potential, there remains a major
omission, that is the human factor. To the writer it seems that when we introduce
human judgment and common sense to the mix, the stage is set for things to
go horribly wrong. Human failures seem as likely as design and system failures.
Those entrusted with the public’s safety should be fully aware of the potential
for panic and well prepared to effectively respond to the possibility, however
slim.
Suggested Readings
Proulx, G. (2002). Cool under fire. Fire Protection Engineering, 16, 23–25.
This reader-friendly article provides a concise review of the current state of
research on panics. Furthermore, it dispels some of the myths surrounding people’s

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behavior in emergency situations. It is an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar
with the topic.
Quarantelli, E. L. (2001). The sociology of panic. In N. J. Smelser & P. B. Baltes
(Eds.), International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences (vol. 1;
pp. 11020–11030). Oxford, U.K.: Elsevier.
This review chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the largely sociological
literature on panics. It is an excellent resource.
Sime, J. D. (1995). Crowd psychology and engineering. Safety Science, 21, 1–14.
The two major approaches to addressing crowd behavior in highly threatening circumstances follow parallel paths. Sime argues for the integration of a psychological view
of crowd members possessing human qualities with an engineering view in which crowd
members are regarded as objects analogous to ball bearings. The paper also highlights
the fact that people facing extreme threats do not immediately start to move toward
safety thereby losing precious minutes and further endangering themselves.

7
Methods, Measures, and Views
of Sports Aggression

INTRODUCTION
Research findings underlie much of what we know about human aggression.
This being the case, it is in our interests to develop an appreciation of the
various means by which social scientists go about gathering data and drawing
conclusions based on their analyses.
The first section of this chapter is intended to acquaint the novice and others
possessing a limited background in methodology with some of the basic elements
in conducting research. It is not intended as a substitute for a formal course in
research methods nor does it do more than touch upon the field of statistics.
However, for those interested, a supplemental reading describing the popular
correlation statistic is provided at the end of this chapter. In the case of the more
powerful experimental approach, the reader’s attention will be drawn to a number
of potentially biasing influences for which the experimenter must remain alert.
These experimental artifacts are described along with suggestions of how they
may be controlled.
There is a vast array of means available to measure variables that are
typically assessed in studies of sports aggression. These might include personality traits, for example, impulsivity; environmental factors, for example, noise;
social factors, for example, peer influence; or the influence of the media, for
example, priming. Some measures have excellent psychometric properties,
while others fall short of acceptable standards of measurement. Moreover, some
measures may be suited to one group or purpose but not well suited to others.
For example, a test of assaultive tendencies developed and standardized using
first-year British university students in a study comparing ethnic groups within
a Texas youth detention facility is unlikely to yield meaningful results. As you
will recall, references were made to major aggression theories at various points
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in preceding chapters. The concluding sections of this final chapter feature overviews of a sample of those theories. Lastly, cathartic theory and its variants are
traced forward from earlier times and evaluated in the light of recent research.
At this juncture you might ask why a background in research methodology
might be valuable to the reader. In addition to developing a more critical eye and
a deeper understanding of sport science research, the reader will likely be better
positioned to evaluate claims made for new products, new sport programs, or
training regimens. For example, the media may be flooded with ads proclaiming
the benefits to athletes of a new sports drink, that is, “Burst.” Among the claims
made for Burst are greater strength and endurance, better concentration, and
increased energy, all adding up to an improved athletic performance. Hinting
at the drink’s scientific pedigree, we are told it is the creation of Dr. Mooz
and associates at the Institute of Power Sports. Lest doubters remain, we are
further informed that Burst has been scientifically “proven” to increase athletic
performance. What evidence is offered as proof of the claims? Most often the
evidence takes the form of testimonials, in many cases provided by commercially
minded celebrity athletes. Now it must be said that testimonials are virtually
worthless as evidence that a particular product is both effective and safe.
Pseudo-science practitioners making bogus claims and presenting those claims
as scientific fact abound in modern society, as they have throughout history. The
best defense against their misleading, generally unsubstantiated, claims is an
informed public. As for Burst, a cup of coffee before the big race or marathon is
likely a more effective (and cheaper) performance-enhancing tactic (see Pasman,
van Baak, Jeukendrup, & Haan, 1995).

THE EXPERIMENTAL OPTION
Probably the most informative means of investigating questions of interpersonal
aggression has been the experimental approach. Its advantage over other methods
of inquiry lies with its ability to establish cause and effect relationships between
the variables of interest to a researcher, for example, noise and aggression.
Experiments are typically conducted in a social laboratory where an independent variable(s) is manipulated by the experimenter, for example, high level of
noise, medium level of noise, and a no noise (control) condition. Participants are
randomly assigned and exposed to one of the three noise conditions. Following
their exposure, participants are given the opportunity ostensibly to administer a
level of electric shock to an experimental confederate who earlier was rude and
insulting when they first arrived at the lab. The dependent variable is aggression
represented (i.e., alternatively, “operationalized”) by the level of shock chosen
by the participant. It bears repeating that the experimenter varies the noise
level (independent variable) and subsequently tallies the mean (average) level
of shock (dependent variable) delivered by participants assigned to each of the
three noise conditions. On the basis of previous research findings or theorizing,
the researcher’s hypothesis probably predicted that people exposed to increasing
levels of noise become increasingly aggressive in their behavior.

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Hypothetically, let us say that the mean levels of electric shock delivered by
the participants were 60.2 V (no noise), 71.7 V (medium noise), and 84.1 V (high
levels of noise), respectively. Should a statistical analysis reveal that these mean
values are significantly different from each other, that is not due simply to chance,
the experimenter’s hypothesis would be confirmed. Assuming the experiment was
competently carried out and was methodologically sound, support for a causal
relationship between noise and aggression is established.
The researcher in our fictitious experiment is now in a good position to cautiously generalize the findings further afield to real world phenomena. One might,
for example, answer a reporter’s query by saying “Yes, the very high levels of
crowd noise created in a stadium or arena is a factor (among several factors)
that contributes to the likelihood of fan violence erupting.” I would like to add
a word about our rude confederate. At no time was he zapped by electric shock.
Despite appearances, he was not hooked up to the shock apparatus. As you will
see momentarily, ethical considerations generally preclude treatment that is injurious to those involved in aggression research. Equally important for the reader
to know, the deception and other details of the experiment were revealed to each
participant in a debriefing session following their participation.
Ethical Comment
The fictional experiment described above for illustrative purposes raises several
ethical questions. Lab experiments in particular have ethical safeguards in place
to ensure that participants generally are not subjected to treatment that is harmful
to their well-being. Researchers undertaking a research program are generally
required to submit a detailed proposal to an ethics review committee comprised
of qualified peers who evaluate its merits on ethical grounds. Above all, the task
of the committee is to ensure that no harm comes to the participants.
Social scientists have the further obligation of ensuring that participants are,
as fully as possible, informed in advance of what they will be doing in the
experimental session. Equally important to obtaining informed consent is the
further obligation to fully debrief participants in a post experimental debriefing
session. Here all questions are answered and any deception is revealed along
with the hypothesis being tested. Lastly, a summary of the results, that is “how
it all came out,” is typically made available to the subjects at an early date.
This feedback signals to the participant that research is something of a partnership in which their contribution is invaluable and the topic being investigated is
important and was deserving of their time and effort.
EXPERIMENTER AND PARTICIPANT BIAS
Introduction
It is often the case that human errors are nonrandom; they point in a particular
direction. Consequently, they tend to bias the results of social psychological
investigations. That is, the validity of an experiment is put into question insofar

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as the bias tends to be in a single direction. Doubts are thereby raised regarding
conclusions drawn from the study or the implications of the experimenter’s findings. The pages to follow briefly describe three sources of bias, one originating
with the experimenter and two with participants.
Experimenter-Expectancy Effects
This source of experimental bias has also been referred to as the self-fulfilling
prophecy. The investigator of a topic proposes one or more hypotheses that
represent her judgment of the direction and difference she expects will result from
an experimental test. Typically, the investigator predicts a difference in average
scores between a treatment or experimental group and a control group. When she
assumes the role of experimenter, her personal expectations regarding the outcome
of the experiment can increase the likelihood the hypothesis will be confirmed.
Despite her best efforts to remain neutral, she subtly conveys her expectations to the
participants thus eliciting behaviors that confirm her predictions. The experimenter
is unwittingly involved in an interactive influence process wherein minute changes
in her behavior, for example, gestures, postural changes, or voice inflections, lead to
changes in the participants’ behaviors that are supportive of the hypothesis.
Examples
We see clear evidence of expectancy effects at play in a field experiment conducted at a summer camp for boys and girls aged 7–14 (Burnham, 1968). The
results of a bogus personality test were shared with the swimming instructors at
the start of the 2-week program. The test “results” identified one of two randomly
chosen groups of beginning swimmers as “swimming-ready.” Thus, expectations of their likely success were planted in the minds of the instructors. Being
randomly assigned, children in both groups, that is those “swimming ready” and
those not identified as such, can be regarded as having equal potential to develop
into good swimmers. Even so, the youngsters for whom the instructors held
expectations of swimming success developed into decidedly more accomplished
swimmers over the weeks of daily instruction.
You might ask how the children’s ability level was measured at the end of
the program, that is, what was the dependent measure of performance? It was
their performance on 21 graduated tests of specific swimming skills, that is,
the means by which one earns a Red Cross beginning swimmers card. Keep in
mind that the instructors did not consciously favor any of the children. Rather,
they interacted in subtly different ways with those from whom they anticipated
success. The instructors unwittingly gave encouragement and reinforced the
“swimming-ready” students as they gradually acquired the elements of a swimming stroke. The young students responded in kind.
Control of Experimenter-Expectancy Effects
There are several options available to the researcher to control for expectancy
effects. At the least, the use of blind experimenters who do not know whether the

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participants are in the experimental treatment or control condition is generally
recommended. Better still is the use of a double-blind procedure in which experimenters and participants are unaware of who has been assigned to the experimental and control conditions of the experiment. Such is typically the preferred
design used in pharmacological studies testing different drugs for their effects on
various medical conditions.
Demand Characteristics
Demand characteristics arise in the context of the experimental setting and
involve an array of obvious and not-so-obvious cues. These cues influence the
participant’s perception of what is expected of him as well as the experimenter’s
hypothesis. However, these participant perceptions may or may not be accurate.
The further point to note is that participants generally make every effort to
be seen as a “good participant” often going to extremes to play that role. The
behavior they exhibit in the lab is unusual and does not resemble their day-to-day
behavior in other situations. Two motives appear to underlie their lab behavior,
the first a desire to “look good,” to be cooperative and docile, and second, to
behave in ways that support their perception of the experimenter’s hypothesis.
Examples
Two early studies clearly illustrate the strength of the participant’s desire to
cooperate even in the face of all-but-certain harm (Orne, 1962; Orne & Evans,
1965). Martin Orne was interested in testing the limits of cooperation. To this
end, he devised a set of meaningless, mind-numbing and utterly boring tasks.
The experimenter asked subjects to complete a page full of simple sums then
fold the answer sheets several times and rip it into 32 pieces and then repeat the
process. Participants continued with this task for over 5 hr until Orne finally
gave up. Throughout, they worked at a constant pace with few errors and few
signs of hostility. In a second study (Orne & Evans, 1965), participants were
instructed to handle a snake earlier described as poisonous and were later asked
to reach barehanded into a beaker of fuming nitric acid. In both instances, participants fearlessly complied. Of course, the snake was not poisonous nor was
the nitric acid what it appeared.
Control of Demand Characteristics
Several tactics have been suggested as means to minimize the effects of demand
characteristics. Although ethical issues surround the suggestion, participants
can be provided with a plausible but false hypothesis. If the false hypothesis is
totally unrelated to the true hypothesis, participants attempting to conform will
increase random rather than systematic error.
Other means of minimizing demand characteristics include choices made by
the experimenter in designing the study. The use of a posttest-only design in
which the dependent measure is taken only after participants are exposed to

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the experimental treatment reduces the potential for bias (see, e.g., Campbell &
Stanley, 1963; Rosnow & Rosenthal, 1996).

Volunteer Effects
Many of my readers will recall having volunteered to answer a survey or participate in a study or, perhaps, a formal experiment at some time in their past. For
a variety of reasons, others will recall having refused some or all such requests.
Even at this early stage of an investigation, the researcher has something of a
problem. The investigator would like to communicate his findings to his colleagues and in so doing generalize his findings to the immediate community
and perhaps beyond. However, the experimental participants may not resemble
those who did not volunteer, let alone the general public. That is, volunteers differ from nonvolunteers in important ways, often in ways that are central to the
topic under investigation. Consequently, in some instances generalizing becomes
problematic.
The importance of taking volunteer status into account has been ably documented by Rosenthal and Rosnow (1975). These authors summarized a considerable literature on volunteer bias and provide a rough ranking of relevant
differences between volunteer participants and individuals who choose not to
participate. A handful of examples (in descending order of confidence) will
suffice to illustrate the bases of differences.
• Volunteers are generally better educated and are of higher social class
than nonvolunteers.
• Volunteers have a generally higher need for social approval and are
more sociable than nonvolunteers.
• In general, women are more likely than men to volunteer. However, if
the research is physically or emotionally demanding, for example electric shock is administered or sexual behavior is discussed, men are more
likely to volunteer.
• Volunteers tend to be less authoritarian than those who do not volunteer.
Control of Volunteer Bias
One means of minimizing a volunteer bias is to increase the rate of participation
in a study to more closely resemble the background population from which the
volunteers were drawn. Several steps have been proposed to increase the response
rate from a participant pool. One effective suggestion has been to emphasize the
positive aspects of the participant experience. Moreover, stressing that volunteers
will find the study interesting will tend to increase the number of volunteers as
will efforts to allay participants’ fears of being negatively evaluated.
The three sources of bias noted above are but a small sample of a longer
list. Hopefully, the sample is sufficient to sensitize consumers of social science
findings to the importance of developing a critical eye with respect to the design
of studies and the stock they can place in the conclusions. We turn now to

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descriptions of various means by which researchers have traditionally and, more
recently, investigated aggressive behavior in the social science laboratory.

MEASUREMENT OPTIONS
This section is intended to acquaint the reader with the range of measurement
options available in the study of sport aggression. Passing reference will be made
to the psychometric properties of some measures. However, this section is not a
substitute for the detailed evaluations offered in other sources (e.g., Anastasi &
Urbina, 1998; Robinson, Shaver, & Wrightsman, 1991).
Laboratory Investigations
Laboratory investigations of aggression have been a mainstay of aggression
research in recent decades and have provided much of what we know about interpersonal aggression. The essence of these investigations involves three versions of
an aggression device or procedure by which researchers can study actual physical
aggression usually with minimal, if any, discomfort to participants. Each has its
variants and each seems suited to the investigation of certain topics, less so to
other topics. The first of these is the Buss (1961) “aggression machine.”
Buss Aggression Machine
An early means by which researchers have examined physical aggression in a
laboratory setting is the aggression machine (Buss, 1961). Participants arriving
for the experiment are informed that the experimenter’s interest centers on the
effects of punishment on learning. At that time they and a second (confederate) participant are told that one will be the “teacher” and the other participant
the “learner.” The true participant is invariably assigned the role of teacher.
Furthermore, as the learner strives to master various materials, the teacher will
reward him for success by illuminating a light. Mistakes however are made
and punished by means of electric shock, again by the teacher at a level of his
choosing. Rewards (light) and the level of shock are delivered by means of the
aggression device. An array of 10 buttons (1–10) represents the level of shock
to be delivered to the learner. Button number 1 is described as “very mild,”
button number 2 “somewhat stronger” all the way up to 10 that delivers a “hefty
jolt.” To allay any lingering doubts that the aggression machine is fully operational, participants are given a few sample shocks at the outset. It is important to
note that the confederate learner is not connected to the apparatus and does not
receive any shocks. Mistakes do occur albeit on a prearranged schedule determined by the experimenter. The procedure provides three basic measures of
participants’ aggression toward the error-prone learner, that is, shock intensity,
shock duration (length of time the button is pushed), and a combined intensity
× duration index.

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A number of studies have sought evidence of the technique’s validity. For
example, Hartmann (1969) compared the shock levels set by two groups of adolescent boys when they were assigned the role of teachers. The first group was
comprised of boys with a history of violence; the other group had nonviolent
histories. The boys with violent backgrounds chose to set higher levels of shock
than did their nonviolent counterparts. In addition, those with both a greater
number and severity of past violent offenses set higher levels of shock in
punishing the learner.
Berkowitz Procedure
Another paradigm by which investigators can study physical aggression in a
laboratory setting was developed by Leonard Berkowitz (1962). Similar to
the Buss procedures, shock is delivered to another person in the context of a
problem-solving task. The participant along with a confederate participant is
informed that the study is an investigation of the effects of stress on problemsolving ability. Their task will be to provide a written solution to a problem presented by the experimenter. The participant’s solution is then evaluated by the
(confederate) participant with his impression of its worth represented by electric
shocks. A solution judged to be excellent would see the confederate delivering
one or two shocks to the participant whereas one judged to be totally inadequate
might involve seven to a maximum of 10 shocks. Typically, the interest of the
researcher is in creating a condition in which half of the participants are aroused
or angered. To this end, the number of shocks delivered to the participant is
predetermined to be either two or seven.
At this point the participant watches either a nonviolent (exciting competition)
or a violent (boxing) film clip (e.g., Berkowitz & Geen, 1966). The final stage
involves a reversal of circumstances, that is, the true participant now has the
opportunity to evaluate the confederate’s essay. Note that the participant, previously unprovoked or provoked, now has control only over the number of shocks
(occasionally, the duration) though not its intensity. He too now has the option of
delivering up to 10 shocks, the researcher’s measure of physical aggression.
Taylor’s Competitive Reaction Time Task
The third major approach to studying physical aggression in the social science
laboratory has been Taylor’s (1967) competitive reaction time task. Participants
and a confederate participant arriving at the lab are told they will be competing against each other on the basis of their reaction times. The person with the
slowest reaction time will receive an electric shock, the intensity of which will
be set by his opponent. Before the trials begin, an “unpleasantness threshold” is
established for each participant. Starting with a subthreshold shock, each participant receives actual shocks of increasing intensity until a point is reached
where he/she describes the pain as “definitely unpleasant.” This point is represented by the number 10 button and will be the strongest intensity delivered in
the experimental session. Button number 9 is set at 95% of the unpleasantness

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threshold, while button number 8 is set at 90% of that value and so on down to
button number 1. Lights provide feedback to the participant informing them of
the shock level set for them by their opponent. Note that it has been preset by the
experimenter whether they won or lost on each reaction time trial. As you saw in
foregoing chapters, the Taylor procedure has been extremely useful in furthering
our understanding of various factors thought to influence behaviors, for example,
the presence of an audience (Borden & Taylor, 1973), threat (Taylor, Gammon,
& Capasso, 1976), competition (Gaebelein & Taylor, 1971), and the effects of
various drugs (Ben-Porath & Taylor, 2002).
Recent Laboratory Aggression Paradigms
The Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm
The Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm (PSAP) has been used extensively
in the area of drug research over several decades by its developer and other
investigators (e.g., Cherek, 1981). The paradigm uses the subtraction of money
from the participant’s earnings as an aggressive action by another (fictitious)
participant playing the same game. The true participant is seated at a computer
repeatedly pressing a button to earn money, for example 100 pushes earns 10¢.
However, the participant has the option of pushing a second subtraction button,
for example 10 times, the effect of which is to subtract the same amount from
the fictitious participant playing the game in another room. Subtractions by the
fictitious player are made on a preset schedule and displayed on the participant’s
screen along with the running total. All money accumulated by each participant is
paid daily at the end of their participation. Although the participant cannot keep
the money he or she subtracts from the other player’s earnings, the “reverse” is
not the case. Rather, he/she is told the other person does keep money subtracted
from the participant’s earnings. The subtraction of money from the participant’s
total earnings not surprisingly serves as a provocation. In such a circumstance,
the participant has the option of retaliating by pushing the second subtraction
button. The measure of a participant’s aggression is straightforward, that is, the
number of times the participant pushes their subtraction button.
The Hot Sauce Paradigm
A novel means of representing aggression in the social lab has been developed
by Lieberman, Solomon, Greenberg, and McGregor (1999). In their paradigm,
aggressive behavior takes the form of participants’ deciding how much hot sauce
they want to see consumed by another individual who had earlier provoked them.
This individual is described as having a strong aversion to spicy foods. The
provocation takes two forms. Either the participant read an essay challenging
and insulting their political beliefs or they were required to drink a noxious concoction of juice mixed with a teaspoon of white vinegar. The essay provocation
was ostensibly written by a fellow participant the content of which violated their
cultural world view. For example, a staunch conservative read an essay stating

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that conservatives were bringing the country to ruination. Participants generally
allotted more hot sauce to an individual who threatened their world view than
to a target whose views were consistent with their own (see also, McGregor
et al., 1998).
A number of features of the hot sauce paradigm recommend it as a valuable
research tool (Ritter & Eslea, 2005). The act of using hot sauce to inflict harm
and suffering on another person has its counterpart in daily life. In addition to
being a favorite test of fraternity pledges’ mettle, the serving of hot sauce has
also led to assault charges being laid against a Denny’s restaurant cook. The
cook’s dislike of New Hampshire state troopers prompted him to go heavy—
very heavy—with the Tabasco sauce when he prepared breakfast for the officers.
A burnt mouth and a severe stomach ache resulted from the cook’s actions,
described by one trial witness as intentional (Milne, 1995, cited in Lieberman
et al., 1999).
In addition to the measure being ecologically valid, there is also evidence of
its having convergent validity. That is, there was a significant positive relationship between the amount of hot sauce administered and the Physical Aggression
subscale of the Aggression Questionnaire (Buss & Perry, 1992). A number of
investigations using modifications of the measure have also proven successful
(e.g., Fischer & Greitemeyer, 2006; Klinesmith, Kasser, & McAndrew, 2006).
The Bungled Procedure Paradigm
Upon their arrival, participants are escorted to the laboratory by an experimental assistant. As they enter a shot (blank) rings out from behind the door.
The experimenter lowers a paintball gun to the table, greets the participant,
and introduces him or her to a second (target) individual. The target person is
dressed in heavy baggy overalls and is holding a motorcycle helmet (with visor)
under his or her arm. A life-size female (or male) silhouette is displayed on two
8 ft. by 3 ft. white plywood panels in the corners of a long rectangular room.
A thick plastic backdrop, the panels, and the target’s attire are splattered with
paintball shots.
The cover story can of course be modified to suit the sex of the target or participant. A version follows (Russell, Arms, Dwyer, & Josuttes, 2007; Russell, Arms,
Loof, & Dwyer, 1996). Male participants were told the researcher was interested
in getting men’s impression of a novel form of entertainment that had recently
appeared in Southern California and the Midwest. Apparently, men in bars are
given high-powered water guns to shoot at scantily clad women on stage (Greene,
1986). The experimenter continues, explaining that water would obviously create
far too much of a mess in the lab and that paintball guns were being used instead.
Acknowledging that regulation paintball guns are much too powerful at close
range in the lab, he indicated that five other guns, cut way down in power, are
available for the experiment. The participant is told the assistant will get the gun
of his choice from a locked cabinet. The number one gun is described as “fairly
weak,” the number two gun is “a little stronger,” number three is about “average”
all the way up to the number five gun that packs a bit of a wallop. Furthermore,

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they are told they can have anywhere from one to five shots at the target. Having
given answers to the number of shots and power of the gun, the experimenter
continues but is interrupted by the assistant asking “Excuse me professor but
which condition is_______in?” The experimenter replies “You mean you haven’t
done that?” (the bungled part) to which the assistant says “No, I thought you
were going to” (the experimenter emits an audible groan). A fumbling exchange
ensues during which they realize that it is still not too late to randomly assign
the participant to the experimental or control condition. The assistant retrieves a
fishbowl from under a side table and the participant is asked to draw a slip. The
participant discovers he is in the control group and will not be required to shoot
at the target person. The “control” group participant is then escorted to a nearby
room to complete several measures that sought opinions on his experience as a
participant in the experiment.
A number of variables of interest can be examined within the general paradigm. For example, the sex or race of the participant vis-á-vis the target person
can be varied as can the level of provocation initiated by the target. The procedure provides two measures of aggression, that is, the power of the gun and
the number of shots the participant elects to take. As predicted, the measures
were positively related to both the Anger and Physical Aggression scales of the
Aggression Questionnaire (Buss & Perry, 1992; Russell et al., 2007).
Experimental Graffiti and Tearing Procedure
A new paradigm measuring indirect aggression has been developed by Norlander,
Nordmarker, and Archer (1998). It represents a form of interpersonal aggression that is fairly common, that is, deliberate damage or destruction of another’s
property.
Participants are asked to perform two tasks. At the outset, they are given
an illustration of “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise” and told to draw
or write on it. Judges subsequently provide ratings of the amount of graffiti,
aggressive, or sexual content and the extent of any destruction to the illustration.
In the second phase, participants are given an illustration of “Samson and the
Lion” with instructions to tear it apart. The strong aggressive theme depicted in
the illustration is presumed to elicit aggression from the participants. The scraps
are then gathered up and placed in an envelope. The total number of pieces then
is taken as a measure of each participant’s level of aggression.
Summary
Brief descriptions of lab apparatus and procedures used by social scientists in
their investigations of human aggression were provided in the foregoing sections. The first set has been used extensively for decades and generally found
to be psychometrically sound. Moreover, they have been suited to the investigation of a full range of aggression topics from the effects of various drugs to
the acquisition of aggressive behaviors to the role of violent media portrayals.
Although they are sometimes modified to meet particular requirements of the

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researcher, they remain true to the essential features of the apparatus and lab
procedures.
The second set of four aggression measures are of more recent vintage.
Evidence of their psychometric properties is somewhat limited but such as exists
is generally favorable, for example, validity or reliability. A recent critical review
of the measures exposes some of the weaknesses in the procedures along with
their strengths. The same article also provides a critique of the earlier set of traditional means of investigating aggressive behavior (Ritter & Eslea, 2005). The
task for the aggression researcher is one of choosing the paradigm best suited to
investigating their topic of interest. None are without shortcomings. However, a
critical review of earlier aggression paradigms by Tedeschi and Quigley (1996)
provides additional background for an easier and more informed choice.
Projective Measures
The assumption underlying this class of measures is that as the test materials
(e.g., pictures, ink blots) are increasingly unstructured, ambiguous, or vague,
respondents, when prompted, are as a consequence better able to reveal more
of their innermost selves. Extensive supervised training is required in the
administration and scoring of protocols with measures of this sort. For present
purposes, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) will serve to illustrate a projective measure occasionally used in assessing aggression.
The Thematic Apperception Test
The TAT (Murray et al., 1938) is intended for use as a clinical diagnostic tool.
Subjects are asked to tell a story in response to 19 cards each depicting a vague,
ill-defined scene. Their interpretation is sought as are suggestions of what led up
to and followed the scene. In addition, the thoughts and feelings of the characters
are elicited.
Several early studies used the TAT as an aggression measure first comparing
the aggression of college athletes engaged in the three sports of boxing, wrestling, and cross country plus a control group. Somewhat surprisingly, the boxers
scored lowest (Husman, 1955). In the second example, the TAT was administered
to spectators attending basketball and professional wrestling matches. Their
aggression scores were found to decline from before to after the events thus
favoring a cathartic view (Kingsmore, 1970). However, as will be shown in the
concluding pages of this chapter cathartic hypotheses no longer appear tenable.
Moreover, despite decades of research with this clinical diagnostic instrument,
acceptable validity has yet to be shown; reliability fares only slightly better.
The limitations of projective measures aside, they have been used with some
success by Davis (1990). This investigator was interested in the role of imaging
in hockey performance. The roster of the Calgary Flames hockey club was
administered the TAT and Rorschach in an independent context that did not
draw upon their sports experiences. Davis derived measures of achievement
and action imagery from the test protocols. Seemingly, on-ice performance

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in the National Hockey League is predicted by the players’ ability to develop
imagery. That is, players able to generate large amounts of achievement and
action imagery in a nonsports context were also those who led their team in
goals and assists.
Self-Reports
Are words matched by deeds? It is entirely reasonable to ask whether people
answering a questionnaire or being interviewed regarding their behavior answer
truthfully. Understandably, one’s skepticism might increase if the answer implicates the respondent in possibly illegal or immoral practices. As examples, would
you “break the leg of the star player of the rival team?” (Wann et al., p. 409),
“describe your most vicious fight” (Farrington, Berkowitz, & West, 1982) or
“If a fight or other disturbance were to break out in the stands that was started
by the ‘visiting fans,’ what are the chances that you would join in?” (Russell
& Arms, 1998, p. 222). One might expect distortion to perhaps minimize the
seriousness or illegality of their actions. Alternatively, male respondents might
exaggerate in a spirit of bravado, a form of impression management.
Reassuring in this regard is Elliott and Agetons’ (1980) observation that
self-reports of major acts of delinquency closely correspond to official police
records. Similarly, West and Farrington (1977) asked delinquents questions
about their past that could be verified, for example, court appearances, and
found their answers to be “generally accurate.” In addition, they asked a question
that virtually invites exaggeration from young males, that is “tell me about the
most vicious fight in which you have ever been involved”? (paraphrased by the
author). The investigators concluded “The youths clearly did not exaggerate their
accounts of fights leading to police intervention” (p. 24). Further, a comparison
of the youngsters’ accounts of the fights that led to their convictions was made
with official criminal records. The researchers found “that their reports tended,
if anything, to play down these events” (p. 24). Seemingly, self-report data has
much to recommend it as an investigative tool and appears somewhat more
resistant to deliberate bias by respondents than generally believed.
As with any type of measure, there are strengths and weaknesses associated
with their use. Reliance on a single measure of the dependent variable always
involves an element of risk. That risk can be minimized by including a second
dependent measure in the design. Preferably, the measures chosen would represent different categories, for example, the Aggression Questionnaire and police
records of the participants’ past assaultive behaviors. Should the researchers’
analyses yield the same result with both divergent measures of aggression, then
our confidence in their conclusion is greatly increased.
Objective Inventory Measures
At this juncture, I think it would be instructive to examine a measure of aggression from this category in some detail. Probably, the measure used most widely
by aggression researchers is the Aggression Questionnaire (Buss & Perry, 1992).

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It replaces the outdated Buss and Durkee Hostility Inventory in use since 1957.
The scale consists of four subscales that assess Physical Aggression, Verbal
Aggression, Anger, and Hostility. A sample item from the Physical Aggression
subscale is: “I get into fights a little more often than the average person.” Equally
straightforward, the Verbal Aggression scale is reflected by the item “When
people annoy me, I may tell them what I think of them.” The Anger component
includes physiological arousal and the emotional aspect of behavior. The item
“I have trouble controlling my temper” captures this aspect of aggression. Lastly,
a cognitive aspect of behavior reflecting ill will and resentment underlies the
Hostility scale. A sample item is “At times I feel I have gotten a raw deal out of
life.” Test–retest reliability of the scales over a 9-week period was calculated to
be Total score, .80; Physical Aggression, .80; Verbal Aggression, .76; Hostility,
.72; and Anger, .72. These correlations demonstrate adequate consistency.
While men scored considerably higher than women on Physical Aggression,
they scored only slightly higher on Verbal Aggression and Hostility. Sex differences on Anger were not apparent. Furthermore, two personality traits in
particular, for example, competitiveness and impulsivity, showed strong positive
correlations with all subscales and the total score. In my view, the Aggression
Questionnaire appears psychometrically sound and suited to the investigation of
a full range of topics within the sports world.
Response Biases
The reader should be alert to a number of potential response biases when considering the results of various personality and other paper-and-pencil measures.
It is often the case that some items in a personality inventory are transparent
with respect to what they were designed to measure. An inventory spotted with
items such as “I occasionally fly into a rage” or “I have punched a wall when
I was angry,” is clearly open to distortion intended to create a positive self-image.
Can there be any doubt in the minds of respondents completing this inventory
that aggression, possibly pathology is being assessed? Despite the experimenter’s
request to answer truthfully and even with assurances of anonymity, is it not
reasonable to suggest that some respondents will alter their answers to appear in
a better light, that is, as less aggressive than is actually the case?
Early on, a scale was developed specifically to measure this source of systematic error, that is, the 33-item, Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability (MCSD)
Scale. It is this tendency for some to answer personality and other scales in
such a way that they will be evaluated more positively than might otherwise be
the case that underlies a need for social approval (Crowne & Marlowe, 1964;
Robinson et al., 1991). However, before long it became apparent the scale was
also likely measuring a personality trait. Indeed, subsequent research revealed
that those scoring high on the MCSD were generally more conforming and more
open to social influence than other respondents.
While the MCSD has been used extensively in investigations of social
approval as a personality test, the scale serves another important function. The
scale is often administered as part of a battery of measures in the construction

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of a new test, for example, a measure of sport hostility. For the test developer,
it is important to know if the new test is related to the MCSD. If a correlational
analysis yields a significant relationship between the new hostility test and
the MCSD, then some of what is being measured is the respondents’ need for
approval rather than their hostile impulses. Published reports of a new test often
include comments on its association with the MCSD.
Other sources of systematic error also lie in wait for the unwary researcher.
Some individuals called “yea-sayers” exhibit a bias whereby they agree with
inventory statements regardless of the direction or content of the items. For example, pairs of items such as “I enjoy watching a good fight at a hockey game” and
“The sight of players fighting in a game disgusts me” are consistently answered
in the affirmative. This source of bias is called the acquiescent response set and
is seen to be operating when a respondent consistently expresses agreement with
both pro and con sides of an issue. The problem is typically corrected with the
removal of these respondents from the sample.
Archival Investigations
Officials in most sports keep meticulous, detailed records of nearly all aspects
of individual and team performances. They often include weather conditions,
time of day, attendance, team rosters, and for present purposes, rule infractions, for example, fighting and the penalties awarded by game officials, such
as a British football referee showing a player a red card. Sports records are
compiled by individuals with no association or knowledge of their use in a
study. Consequently, archival studies are relatively free of distortion arising
from actions of the researcher, that is, experimenter bias. The quality of sports
records almost totally lies with the official record keeper, that is, his/her dedication, attention to detail, and accuracy.
In many major sports, rule infractions reflect unacceptable aggressive conduct
by athletes. Moreover, they occur with sufficient frequency to provide data for
testing a variety of aggression-related hypotheses. Note should also be taken of
the fact that the researcher’s data has already been collected and lies in a dusty
drawer at the league’s head office. It remains for the investigator to organize
and analyze the raw data with respect to her initial hypotheses. Note too, that
participants are unaware of having been subjects in a study, a fact that further
eliminates any concern with subject effects, for example, demand characteristics
or volunteer effects (Rosnow & Rosenthal, 1996). In effect, measures of aggression developed from archival records provide the researcher with a behavioral
criterion of interpersonal aggression occurring in a naturalistic setting.
Measures of sport aggression derived from game/contest records are well
suited to testing a variety of hypotheses. The structure of some sports is such
that interpersonal aggression occurs with considerable frequency under the
watchful eyes of contest officials. It is only when the aggression violates the
rules of play in its intensity and/or form that the contest is stopped and a penalty
awarded, for example, a low blow in boxing, the ever-popular fist fight in hockey,
shoving a baseball umpire. Thus, as Zillmann (1979) notes “The infliction of

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pain in interpersonal competition does not constitute aggression . . . as long as
the agreed-upon rules are not violated” (p. 35). Judgments of the severity of
infractions and the intentions of the protagonists are left to contest officials. To
the extent that their calls are valid, the researcher can readily extract measures
of interpersonal aggression from this archival source.
Archival records have provided aggression researchers with a rich source of
data. In some instances an archival source can be used as the means to identify levels of an independent variable subsequently to be related to predicted
changes in a dependent measure of aggression. Several examples follow. The
astronomer’s bible, the Ephemeris, provides precise information on a host of
celestial events. Tests of lunar-aggression hypotheses were thus made possible
insofar as precise times of the moon’s two major cycles could be determined and
related to hockey fights (e.g., Russell & de Graaf, 1985; Russell & Dua, 1983).
Detailed weather records from the U.S. Department of Commerce and local
records have facilitated research examining a temperature-aggression relationship (e.g., Anderson, 1989). British investigators were similarly aided in their
attempts to flesh out the demographic characteristics of soccer hooligans by having access to detailed police records (Trivizas, 1980).
More often it would appear that records provide aggression data that serve as
the dependent variable. Ice hockey game records identify a large number of rule
infractions, most of which are aggressive in nature, that is, slashing versus too
many men on the ice. For example, Bushman and Wells (1998) provided results
supporting the predictive validity of the Physical Aggression subscale of the
Aggression Questionnaire. Here the measure of on-ice player aggression served
as the dependent variable. Finally, major league baseball records were the source
of a clever measure of pitcher aggression. Game records show a “batter hit by
pitch” (BHP) notation when batters are struck by an errant pitch. Researchers
have taken these incidents to be mostly intentional and hence aggressive in
nature. The study of interracial aggression in sport have been furthered by the
development of the BHP measure complementing as it does the existing array of
attitudinal tools (e.g., Timmerman, 2002).
Finally, archival sources provide opportunities for an increase in the triangulation of measurement. By triangulation is meant the desirability of measuring a
concept such as aggression by a variety of independent means, each with its own
strengths and weaknesses, to arrive at a better understanding of the proposition
being tested (Webb, Campbell, Schwartz, Sechrest, & Grove, 1981, p. 315). Put
another way, it is “the process of using multiple methods to zero in on the effect
in question” (Rosnow & Rosenthal, 1996, p. 416). A proposition confirmed by
two or more independent approaches is generally regarded as robust and as
a result, a finding for which there are fewer rival explanations. Archival data
frequently provides that confirmation. For example, findings from lab studies
testing a heat-aggression relationship have been confirmed by baseball statistics (Reifman, Larrick, & Fein, 1991). Replications of studies by means of an
alternate measure are to be preferred. Reliance on a single study with a single
measure is generally risky.

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On Generalizing
This concluding section examines a question that should be of considerable
interest to consumers of scientific research, including researchers themselves. It
concerns the matter of generalizing the results of a study further afield to other
groups of people and other situations. How confident can we be that the results
of our study are also true of other persons and situations far removed from
where our investigation was conducted?
Generally speaking, a controlled lab experiment is a powerful means of
establishing a causal relationship between two variables. It complements other
investigative approaches and in turn, is itself complemented. Yet from time to
time students, colleagues, and others express misgivings regarding the artificiality of the laboratory setting and question how lab results can possibly be
generalized to the “real world.” In effect, the critic is challenging the external
validity of lab studies in suggesting the results cannot be generalized to other
populations or settings in the real world (Anderson & Bushman, 1997).
To answer the question of external validity with respect to a particular lab
study, it is first necessary to assess its internal validity. High internal validity
is said to exist when the design and structure of an experiment are such that
changes in the dependent variable were clearly caused by changes in the independent variable. By contrast, if the results of a lab study leave us with a number
of plausible rival explanations for the tested relationship, then the study can be
described as having low internal validity. Thus, the number of plausible rival
explanations is determined by the design and structure of the study. Therefore,
if a lab study is low on internal validity, it is very unlikely to be high on external
validity and consequently its results cannot be readily generalized.
A formal definition of external validity is offered by Anderson and Bushman
(1997). Typically, it “refers to the generalizability of the results of a study to
other (usually real world) settings or populations” (p. 21). Thus, the similarity
between (a) the sample, (b) the setting, and (c) the means by which the variables
are represented (operationalized) in the lab and, the same variable attributes in
the target investigation determines the external validity.
A key question remains. Is there good evidence that “trivial” laboratory experiments can lay claim to external validity? Anderson and Bushman carried out a
sophisticated analysis (meta-analysis) examining five situational variables and
three individual differences variables in real world settings and aggression studies
conducted in the lab. Situational variables included provocation, violent media,
alcohol, anonymity, and high temperature. The category of individual differences
was represented by sex, Type A personality, and trait aggression. As to outcome, in
the words of the authors “results strongly supported the external validity of trivial
laboratory studies” (p. 19). In more specific terms, Anderson and Bushman summarize the requisite conditions for findings to generalize. “When careful conceptual
analyses of both types of situations are conducted, and when empirical research
methods are used, findings about the relations between conceptual variables will
generalize from the laboratory to the real world, and vice versa” (p. 35).

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THEORIES OF AGGRESSION
Instinctual Views of Aggression
Early theorists attempting to understand human aggression advanced the notion
of instincts as an explanation for our violence toward one another. Aggression
was regarded as a built-in aspect of our basic character and not readily subject to
change. In effect, aggression was seen as an inevitable consequence of our being
human. Even today, it is not uncommon to hear people refer to others as having
a competitive instinct, a herding instinct, an instinct for survival, or good social
instincts. Those describing various behaviors as instincts do so confident in the
belief that they have explained, for example, why some individuals more than
others appear competitive. They have strong competitive instincts.
During a Sabbatical at the University of Sussex, I spent a fair amount of
time prowling the antiquarian bookstores in Brighton. I came across a copy of
Social Psychology by William McDougall (1908/1960), a leading exponent of
the instinctual view. In the passage to follow McDougall is eloquently developing his case for a gregarious instinct. In speaking of gregariousness, he argues:
It is the same instinct working on a slightly higher plane that brings tens of thousands
to the cricket and football grounds on half-holidays. Crowds of this sort exert a
greater fascination and afford a more complete satisfaction to the gregarious instinct
than the mere aimless aggregations of the streets, because all their members are
simultaneously concerned with the same objects, all are moved by the same emotions, all shout and applaud together. It would be absurd to suppose that it is merely
the individuals’ interest in the game that brings these huge crowds together. What
proportion of the ten thousand witnesses of a football match would stand for an
hour or more in the wind and rain, if each man were isolated from the rest of the
crowd and saw only the players? (pp. 73–74).

Instinct theory encountered difficulties early on. It became apparent that
labeling observed behavior as an instinct did little if anything to further our
understanding of the behavior. It was circular reasoning to suggest for example,
that people fight because it is a human instinct, that is, an aggressive instinct.
One might ask what evidence we have for an aggressive instinct. One has only
to look around! On any given day people can be seen fighting. Eventually, the
instinctual view was mortally wounded as the sheer number of identified instincts
grew to unwieldy proportions, by one estimate nearly 6,000 (Barash, 1979).
Undoubtedly, many people will continue to use instinct theory as a means of
explaining the cause of various human behaviors. The notion is appealing in its
simplicity and easily supported by “evidence” that points to real life examples of
the behavior in question, for example, gregariousness or aggression. Hopefully,
people will come to recognize the tautology.
Instinct theory was further advanced by the influential writings of Freud.
In his view, human aggression arises from a primitive death wish or instinct
(Thanatos) common to all persons. Initially this instinct is directed inward
to the self, shortly thereafter to be redirected outward toward others. These
destructive urges increase over time and require release lest they build up to

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dangerous levels. While aggressive behavior may result, these aggressive urges
may instead be displaced onto scapegoats or be channeled into socially acceptable activities.
The popular and influential writings of ethologist, Konrad Lorenz (e.g., 1966)
produced continuing support for instinct theory. On the basis of his study of
animal behavior, Lorenz proposed that humans as well as other species share
in the inheritance of a fighting instinct. Unlike Freud, Lorenz sees aggression
as being generally adaptive. For example, in evolutionary terms the strongest
and healthiest will have reproductive success thereby increasing the prospects
for survival of their species. However, similar to Freud, Lorenz sees a constant
welling up of aggressive energy that requires periodic discharge lest it builds to
dangerous levels. Further discussion of the feasibility of relying on a cathartic
discharge of aggression to avoid violent outbursts will be made later in this
chapter.
Frustration–Aggression Hypothesis
Spectators witnessing a hockey player being blind-sided by a vicious premeditated attack almost immediately begin to look for answers. What could possibly
have prompted the illegal assault? Is the attacker known to be violent and this
is but another notch in his belt or was there something about the situation itself
that triggered the attack? Sportscasters and spectators alike who are witnessing
the incident feel compelled to offer an explanation. It is a virtual certainty that
many will raise the likelihood that the instigator was in some way “frustrated”
and his violent action was not totally unexpected. Ever mindful of the numerous frustrations we all encounter every day, most have few reservations about
accepting the explanation as an insightful analysis of behavior. The attacker
acted out of frustration, for example, his team was losing and facing elimination,
the attacker just moments earlier mishandled a pass and failed to score, or rumor
has it that he is facing relegation to a farm team.
The notion that frustration leads to aggression was given formal expression by
a group of Yale psychologists in what has been called the frustration–aggression
hypothesis (Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939). The main thrust
of the hypothesis is that any blocking or thwarting of a person’s behavior in
pursuit of a goal will result in aggression. In turn, any act of aggression was
preceded by, or can be traced back to, an earlier state of frustration. For a time,
it appeared that this simple, straightforward explanation accounted for much
of human aggression. However, cracks began to appear in the explanation.
Critics pointed out that many people simply make a greater effort when they
are thwarted. Others encountering obstacles in their path regress or revert to
behaviors more typical of an earlier stage of their development, for example, pout
or sulk. Still others meet frustrations with humor. Aggression, then, was seen as
but one of several responses to frustration (Berkowitz, 1989, 1993).
On the aggression side of the frustration = aggression equation, it is evident that
aggression is frequently the result of factors other than frustration. An altercation
can readily be sparked by an insult, verbal threat, or a shove. Furthermore, the

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hockey enforcer who assaults the star player on the opposing team on instructions
of his coach may never have been frustrated in his own play. Rather, he is simply
following orders.
Clearly, a revision of the frustration–aggression hypothesis was called for, one
that took into account several of the shortcomings noted above and elsewhere.
A subsequent revision held that “frustration produces instigations to a number
of different types of response, one of which is an instigation to some form of
aggression” (Miller, 1941, p. 338). Other nonaggressive responses to frustration
can also occur. However, it is stipulated that the most likely or dominant response
to frustration remains aggression.
As noted above, all of us encounter frustrations on a daily basis. Yet, rarely
do we fly into a rage when our favorite team fails to make the playoffs or a
television network blacks out the “big game” in our viewing area. Are there
particular conditions that increase the likelihood of people responding aggressively to frustration? There are indeed.
One set of such situational factors will be identified with a view to highlighting its role in facilitating an aggressive response following frustration.
The first is the importance of the goal to the individual. Being blocked from
attaining a goal that matters little is unlikely to bring an aggressive response.
Additional factors include the magnitude of the frustration and the degree to
which the blocking is arbitrary or justified. Thus, the closer one is to achieving
an important goal when thwarted, the greater is the frustration and the aggressive response (Berkowitz, 1993; Harris, 1974). Two examples follow: one, a
study using archival data, and the second, an account of crowd violence at an
American high school football game.
The first example highlights the effects of severity of thwarting on aggression. The records of a full season of play in an Alberta senior men’s hockey
league provided a measure of team aggression, that is, aggressive penalties.
Throughout the season, teams occupying first place showed very little aggression in their games. However, when teams found themselves in second place
(the most severely thwarted) on-ice aggression soared with levels steadily
declining thereafter as teams occupied third place on down to sixth in the
league standings (Russell & Drewry, 1976). The greatest amount of aggression,
then, was exhibited by teams in contention but falling just short of the mark for
a championship title.
In a second example, we see how the frustration–aggression model might
explain an outburst of violent crowd behavior.
More than 100 people rush the field and five adults are charged with assault for
attacking a high school football official as the crew leaves the field following a
state playoff game. The crowd became angry when the officials called back an
apparent game-winning touchdown due to a holding penalty with four seconds
remaining. (Ohio, November 2000)

The points to note are the importance of the game, the disallowing of the
game-winning touchdown (severe thwarting), and the team’s proximity to their
goal of a playoff win. The hopes and dreams of fans so suddenly dashed!

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The Frustration–Aggression Hypothesis in Practice
As most sports fans are aware, competitive contact sports such as English rugby
and American football are chockablock full of frustrations. Berkowitz (1993)
gives us the example of football in which rivals block, tackle, shove, and generally clobber each other throughout the game. Yet amazingly few fights erupt in
a game. This is in spite of apparent massive and repeated frustrations in their
pursuit of one another’s end zone.
Staying with the football example, a receiver streaks down the sidelines and
breaks to the inside to make a fingertip catch. He takes only a few steps with the
ball before a defender knocks him heavily to the ground. What spectators have
come to expect is that the receiver regains his feet and calmly trots back to the
huddle, perhaps even having been helped up by the defender. The relatively rare
exception is an exchange of insults and/or a physical assault by the receiver. Has
the frustration–aggression hypothesis failed in a real life test or, alternatively,
have the conditions for frustrations leading to aggression not been met?
Berkowitz (1993, pp. 33–39) draws our attention to a number of conditions
that likely work against fights breaking out each and every time players are seen
to experience frustration. Foremost among the possible reasons is the likelihood
that players have learned to inhibit their aggressive inclinations. The penalties
for fighting are generally more severe than for other infractions. Equally plausible is the possibility that a player has not actually been frustrated. Our receiver
had not realistically expected to get into the end zone, only to catch the ball.
A touchdown would have been a bonus. The question of just how strongly players
are frustrated might also be raised. Throughout most of an important contest,
frustrations can be expected to be weak. It is only in the dying minutes of a
game when a sudden thwarting of their hopes of victory occurs that aggression
becomes likely (Dollard et al., 1939).
Aggressive Cue Theory
The frustration–aggression hypothesis (Dollard et al., 1939) has undergone
a series of revisions and modifications since its original formulation (e.g.,
Berkowitz, 1962, 1969, 1989, 1993). An early qualification centered on the part
played by aversive cues in the frustration–aggression relationship. Berkowitz’s
aggressive cue theory identifies a number of aversive stimuli, including frustration, that have the potential to instigate aggressive responses. However, aggression does not result simply from their presence. Instead, they create a readiness
for aggression. If aggression is to occur, aggressive cues must also be present in
the situation.
Stimuli can acquire aggressive meaning through past associations with
unpleasant events or situations. People, for example a hockey enforcer; objects,
for example boxing gloves, can come to have aggressive cue value. Over time
and a sufficient number of pairings with unpleasant circumstances the stimuli
may develop the capacity to elicit aggressive behavior from people, especially
from those already frustrated.

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A further modification was introduced by Berkowitz (e.g., 1989) in his cognitive
neoassociation model. A range of aversive stimuli that includes frustration along
with noxious odors, oppressive temperatures, pain, and excessive noise contribute to negative affect. Thwartings would not on their own instigate aggression.
Rather, the individual must experience the thwarting or blockage as an unpleasant event.
Social Learning Theory
Stanford psychologist, Albert Bandura has been the central and most influential
proponent of Social Learning theory (e.g., Bandura, 1973, 1986). The theory
distinguishes between (a) the learning of an aggressive pattern of behavior,
(b) instigating factors or conditions, and (c) factors that maintain the complex
aggressive skill that the individual has learned.
Acquisition
Although people can learn aggressive behaviors through direct instruction
or trial-and-error, the vast majority of such learning takes place through the
observation of others, that is, by vicariously observing models. Models may be
drawn from any walk of life, for example, relatives, historical figures, media,
and sports stars. Those models most closely attended to are further assumed to
exert the greatest amount of influence. Indeed, their influence on admirers may
be considerable with a roughly equal likelihood of the influence being positive
or negative in its effects.
Let me describe one in a series of the well-known Bobo doll experiments
that illustrates the influence of a model on young children (Bandura, Ross, &
Ross, 1961). The youngsters were at play designing pictures with colorful stickers as either an adult male or female teacher was escorted to the opposite end
of the room. The furnishings in this area included a table and chair, mallet,
Tinker Toys, and a five-foot inflated Bobo doll. In one experimental condition,
the model calmly assembled the Tinker Toys; in the other she was seen to attack
the Bobo doll for a 10-min period. In the attack condition she both physically
assaulted (e.g., kicking, hitting) and verbally assailed the doll with utterances
such as “pow,” “kick him,” and “sock him in the nose.” Next, the child was
taken to a new location where he was mildly frustrated, that is, his favorite toy
had ostensibly been reserved for another child. The child was then told that he
could play with any of the other toys. Those available for play included those that
can be described as having “aggression potential,” that is, mallet and pegboard,
dart guns, tether ball with a painted face, and a Bobo doll. Nonaggressive toys
included crayons, tea set, toy bears, plastic farm animals, and cars/trucks.
The principal measures of aggression were the extent of the children’s imitation
of the adult’s physical and verbal aggression. The powerful influence of a relevant
model on the behavior of children is evident in the results. For example, girls
watching the aggressive model averaged 18.0 aggressive acts with the mallet.
Over the same time period, girls watching the peaceable model averaged 0.5. Nor

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should we assume these newly acquired responses are short lived or fade rapidly
over time. Hicks (1968) reported that children still retained approximately 40%
of modeled aggressive responses 8 months after their participation in this type
of experiment.
At this juncture, an important distinction should be made between the
vicarious learning of an aggressive behavior and the actual performance of the
aggressive behavior itself. Aggression displayed by the model under the watchful eye of the observer may not be performed by the learner. This does not mean
that the lesson was not learned. Rather, the lesson may have been encoded but
the observer judges it to be unwise to display his/her newly acquired skills in
the present circumstances.
Instigating Conditions
For the most part, instigators have been acquired through previous learning.
Included on a long list of instigators are the presence of one’s enemies/rivals,
threatening utterances or gestures, threats to one’s reputation, physical assault, and
emotional arousal. An aggressive response will occur if past experience has taught
the individual that his aggression will in all likelihood meet with success.
Consider the results of Eisenberg’s experiment (as cited in Geen, 1990).
Children witnessing the violent actions of a television character in the presence
of an approving adult later expressed more verbal aggression than children in
the presence of an adult who was disapproving. That is, the children paired
with the approving adult learn that their aggression is unlikely to meet with
criticism. Parenthetically, children who watched the violent programming alone
later showed the same level of verbal aggression as those accompanied by adults
expressing their disapproval. It is generally recommended that parents watch
violent programs with their youngsters, the hope being that the parents’ disapproval will somehow insulate the child from unwanted influences.
A further instigating condition likely to lead to an aggressive response is an
obedience situation. We saw earlier in a series of investigations (e.g., Milgram,
1974) that participants not necessarily given to aggression become so when such
actions are demanded of them by an individual perceived to be in a position of
authority.
Conditions Maintaining Aggressive Behavior
While an aggressive response may be acquired and on occasion put to use, it is
necessary for conditions to exist to ensure its continued availability. External
reinforcers typically serve this function. As an example, the local crime boss
who has amassed considerable wealth and enjoys a lavish lifestyle has little
incentive to abandon his wicked ways. In a similar fashion, soldiers receive
praise and admiration for their aggressive actions with medals being awarded
for outstanding acts of courage.
The work of Hans Toch (1984) with assaultive prison inmates offers several
examples of conditions that maintain aggressive behaviors. Consider the chilling

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behavior of the bully-sadist, a category of inmates representing 6% of the prison
population. Toch describes the violent encounters of these individuals as being
on their own terms, never on a level playing field and characterizes their attacks
as “unfair, unmerciful and inhumane” (p. 106). While suggesting that an intense
fear underlies the bully’s behavior, Toch also gives emphasis to the fact that they
derive considerable pleasure from the pain and suffering they inflict on their
victims.
Catharsis Theory
Introduction
A letter to the editor of The European newspaper captures the major points
and corollaries of the cathartic view (Huarte-Mendicoa, 1993). In the letter
headed “Hooligans Who Need an Outlet,” Eneko Huarte-Mendicoa of Barcelona
writes:
Violence is something we have always had to live with, whether organized by
individuals or groups. Young people invariably want to feel part of the team or the
gang and they feel frustrated with their lot. They often have problems at home, at
school or at work and they need some outlet for their energy.
Sport provides a release for much of this frustration, either as a participant or
as an observer. Football violence is nothing special. It is simply part of human
nature. We are reading a lot about football hooligans and the problem is being
blown out of all proportion. Most of these “hooligans” are simply blowing off a
necessary bit of steam.

Yes, I did reply to his letter.
Among the most widespread and deeply held beliefs in the sports world is the
notion that participation in aggressive sports affords people the means to release
whatever aggressive impulses are being held in check. The result of sparring a few
rounds in the ring, charging a tackling dummy or practicing slap shots is thought
to “vent,” “purge,” “drain,” or “discharge” one’s pent-up aggression. Physical
aggression in safe, controlled sports settings then is thought to serve as an outlet
or safety valve for those who might otherwise inflict harm on others. Better to
leave your anger in the boxing ring, on the gridiron, or ice.

The Popularity of Cathartic Views
The substance of the cathartic viewpoint was contained in a question put to 525
Canadian university students. They were asked whether “Participating in combatant or aggressive sports is a good way for people to get rid of their aggressive
urges.” Fully 63% of males and females alike expressed agreement with the
question. The same question was asked of 84 somewhat older males found
in attendance at a hockey game with 75% endorsing the statement (Russell,
1983b).
A second version of the cathartic view suggests that the observation of
aggression, whether on television or as seen from the stands leads to a similar

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reduction in the observer’s aggression. The results of a national poll of nearly
four thousand 15–19-year-old Canadian high school students showed somewhat
less support for the cathartic effects of witnessing aggression. Among the
youthful respondents, 51% of boys and 38% of girls endorsed the statement
“watching violent TV shows tends to make people less aggressive (Russell,
Arms, & Bibby, 1995). The same question asked of U.S. male and female college
students resulted in 13% agreement. When the question was worded “Watching
aggressive sports in person is a good way for people to get rid of their violent
urges,” agreement rose to 39.4% (Wann et al., 1999). Finally, Wann et al. also
tested the hypothesis that those most deeply involved in aggressive sports
would be overrepresented among those believing in cathartic effects arising
from watching aggressive sports in person or on television. Their results bore
out the prediction. Those most heavily involved in aggressive sports expressed
the strongest beliefs in catharsis.
Seemingly, cathartic beliefs in one form or another circulate through all levels
of society. The implications are far-reaching and, among other things, set the
agenda for planning sports and recreational programs in various institutions, for
example, community, educational, or correctional. Not to overlook the obvious,
there are critical implications for parenting. In which sport should parents choose
to enroll their son or daughter for the upcoming season?
Origins
The idea of catharsis had its origins in early philosophical thought likely beginning with Aristotle. He proposed that those observing the expression of emotions, for example, pity or fear, displayed in the Greek tragic theater are purged
of these same emotions. Although there was no specific mention of aggression,
it is generally assumed that he would have agreed with its being included.
In more recent times, catharsis resurfaced as a major concept in the Freudian
view. A death instinct was proposed in which destructive impulses were continuously building up in individuals. As a consequence, the outlook for mankind
was bleak with the prospect of a future marked by a continuing pattern of
wars and terror. However, the Freudian position allows a glimmer of hope to
the extent that we are somehow able to redirect our aggression into relatively
safe channels. Competition in its many forms, including sports, provides the
means to safely drain our aggression and thereby avoid a buildup of destructive
impulses with the potential for exploding in an aggressive rage.
The notion of a cathartic mechanism formed an important part of the original
formulation of the frustration–aggression hypothesis (Dollard et al., 1939). A
corollary appended to the frustration–aggression model stated: “The expression
of any act of aggression is a catharsis that reduces the instigation to all others
acts of aggression” (p. 53). However, the prediction of a reduction in the likelihood of aggression applies to the near term. Over an extended period of time
the effects may instead contribute to an increased likelihood of aggression by
means of learning. As Dollard et al. observed, “presumably this reduction is
more or less temporary, and the instigation to aggression will build up again if

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the original frustration persists. Also, the repetition of a mode of release may
produce learning of it” (p. 50).
A resurgence of public interest in catharsis came with the publication of
Konrad Lorenz’s (1966) On Aggression. The book was written in an engaging
style, a bestseller that presented the views of ethology. Simply stated, ethology
represents a European tradition of scientific inquiry in which the focus is on the
systematic observation of lower organisms functioning unrestricted in their natural
habitats. One of the more intriguing claims arising from the ethological model is
that vestiges of behaviors observed among lower organisms occur at the level of
humans. For example, people give every indication of being territorial creatures
as they build fences around their yard or define the local playing field or arena as
their turf, areas they are often seen to defend against intruders. In a similar fashion,
our aggression in social situations can often be interpreted as a means of establishing dominance over others. These and other sequences of aggressive behaviors are
referred to as fixed action patterns. They are characterized as being stereotypical,
innately determined, and triggered in response to specific environmental stimuli, for
example, a threatening stare from another male. The concept of catharsis enters the
picture inasmuch as aggressive energy is thought to be constantly generated within
the individual species member. This energy seeks periodic release lest mounting
pressures reach dangerous levels and an attack is suddenly unleashed. From the
ethological perspective, it would seem prudent to occasionally drain aggressive
energy into safe channels by performing acts of aggression. Competition in the
form of debates, an international race for the conquest of space, and of course,
sports provide a variety of relatively safe, competitive outlets. Lorenz observed:
While some early forms of sport, like the jousting of medieval knights, may have
had an appreciable influence on sexual selection, the main function of sport today
lies in the cathartic discharge of aggressive urge; besides that, of course, it is of
the greatest importance in keeping people healthy. (p. 242)

While ethology’s two leading figures, Lorenz and Tinbergen, have gained
widespread recognition for their views, fewer people recognize that they have
distanced themselves from their earlier support for catharsis. Evans (1974)
writing in Psychology Today quotes Lorenz as saying “Nowadays, I have strong
doubts whether watching aggressive behavior even in the guise of sport has
any cathartic effect at all” (p. 93). Nicholaas Tinbergen (1968) in commenting
on crowd disturbances at football matches believes an “inflammatory effect”
(enhancement) frequently dominates a “waning effect” (cathartic) among fans
following the conclusion of the contest.
The currency of cathartic beliefs is perhaps better understood against the
background of those eminent and influential scholars who at one time or another
have advanced the case for catharsis. The names highlighted above rank among
the most authoritative analysts of behavior and include two Nobel laureates, that
is, Lorenz and Tinbergen. However, a dissenting voice was occasionally raised.
Charles Darwin left it to the next-to-last page of his monumental work The
Expression of the Emotions in Men and Animals to comment: “he who gives
way to violent gestures will increase his rage” (Darwin, 1872/1965, p. 365).

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Are attempts to drain or vent our aggressive urges by physical means generally
successful? Following a hydraulic model, can people relieve pressure on the
psychic dam that is holding back slowly rising levels of anger lest a surplus
of aggressive energy spills over or breaks through? Does physical aggression
have as its function an opening of the flood gates with a resulting lowering
of pressure behind the dam? While the analogy is appealing—even intuitively
convincing for many—support for the notion has not been forthcoming. Rather,
studies generally show that physical aggression results in either no change or,
more often, an increase in aggression.
Archival data provides the means to test the cathartic hypothesis that acts of
physical aggression serve to reduce one’s aggression. For example, on-ice aggression by hockey players would be predicted to decline from the opening face-off
through to the final whistle. Whatever frustrations and anger a player brings to the
game, relief is only as far away as his first fight. A review of such studies showed
clearly that interpersonal aggression increases steadily over the course of a game
(Russell, 1981a). However, it might be claimed that a 60-min game does not provide
enough time or opportunities for player aggression to be vented. Yet, other data
shows player aggression increases with the number of time any two teams have met
over a full season of play (Russell, 1983a) as have National Hockey League (NHL)
average annual penalty minutes tracked from 1930 to 1988 (Russell, 1991).
The Persistence of Cathartic Beliefs
There is a strong, pervasive, and continuing belief in catharsis theory that appears
resistant to change. One might ask what influences sustain a large segment of
the population in that belief. Bushman, Baumeister, and Stack (1999) have proposed that its persistence has resulted from mass media endorsements of “the
view that expressing anger or aggressive feelings is healthy, constructive, and
relaxing, whereas restraining oneself creates internal tension that is unhealthy
and bound to lead to an eventual blowup” (p. 367).
They asked if media endorsements of cathartic activities—and they are
plentiful—would prompt people to hit a punching bag. Half of the participants
heard a procatharsis statement, the remaining half an anticatharsis message. All
participants were then either angered or not angered before being asked to rank
in order of preference a list of 10 activities to be performed later in the experiment. The list included “playing solitaire,” “watching a comedy,” and, of course,
“hitting a punching bag.” The angered participants took the procatharsis position
to heart giving the option of hitting a punching bag a high preference rating.
A suggestion from this preliminary experiment is that media endorsements of
cathartic activities may influence those persuaded to vent their anger aggressively. But does the message carry over to actual aggression at a later point?
In a second phase of the Bushman et al. (1999) investigation, participants
having heard the pro- or anticathartic messages were given opportunities to
actually hit a punching bag and to physically aggress against a confederate who
had earlier angered them. Their means of aggression was the administration
of a blast of white noise delivered over 20 trials using the competitive reaction

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time procedure (e.g., Giancola & Zeichner, 1995; Taylor, 1967). The results were
straightforward and opposite to that predicted by the catharsis hypothesis. The
principal analysis involved those who read the procatharsis message and were
given the opportunity to aggress against the individual who had earlier angered
them. Those hitting the punching bag delivered significantly more aversive noise
to the source of their anger, the confederate.
In their concluding comments, the researchers “suggest that media messages
advocating catharsis may be worse than useless. They encourage people to
vent their anger through aggressive action, and perhaps they even foster the
displacement of aggression toward new, innocent third parties” (Bushman et al.,
1999, p. 375).
Bushman et al. (1999) have suggested three reasons why cathartic means of
reducing anger are highly regarded as effective by a sizable portion of the public.
Firstly, pop psychologists and others enamored of catharsis theory continually
advise angry people and parents with aggressive children to find an activity
where their aggression can be channeled, discharged, or safely vented. Though
seemingly knowledgeable, they are giving bad advice. While enrolling a child
in a boxing, hockey, or football program may make them stronger and fitter
(barring injuries), their difficulties in managing anger and aggression are apt
to remain, even worsen. Second, procatharsis media statements or recommendations may be construed as implicitly providing “permission” for people to
relinquish their self-control over their actions. Finally, they suggest that catharsis is generally known to have a long history of discussion among intellectual
illuminaries in various fields. For many, it would seem to follow that the theory
must have merit.
A second study in this short series of examples was conducted by Bushman
(2002). His design involved 600 male and female college students who were initially angered by a student confederate before being randomly assigned to one of
three experimental conditions, that is, rumination, distraction, or a control group.
Participants in the rumination and distraction conditions hit a punching bag as
often, as hard, or for as long as they wanted. Control participants sat quietly
during the same time. Those in the rumination group were also told to think about
the student confederate who had angered them earlier. The distraction group was
instructed to think about becoming physically fit as they punched the bag.
Bushman again used the Taylor (1967) competitive reaction time task with the
noise level and duration set by participants for the confederate serving as the measures of aggression. Those who thought about the provocateur as they punched
the bag were most aggressive followed by those distracted by thoughts of getting
personally fit. Participants who sat idly by were least aggressive. As Bushman
concluded: “Doing nothing at all was more effective than venting anger” (p. 724).
Verbal Aggression
Verbal aggression by spectators is commonplace and tolerated at some major
sports events. People watching baseball, basketball, or football jeer, boo, and
hurl insults at game officials and opposing players with impunity. The same

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behavior by those witnessing a tennis or golf match would not be tolerated.
They would be ejected forthwith from the facility. However, players using foul
and insulting language in confronting referees or umpires are similarly likely
to be sent to the showers. Against the background of catharsis theory, can we
conclude that verbal hostility on the part of spectators and athletes alike is an
effective means of venting their wrath?
Such a view has been expressed by Narancic (1972). The suggestion is that
serious conflicts can be avoided by cursing that functions “as a lightning rod
to conduct away ‘bad blood’ ” (p. 208). Should the individual repress his/her
inclination to swear, one result may be overt aggression. “If the swear word
becomes a whisper and is pushed back into the throat psychological complexes
have to look for another channel” (p. 210).
The question of the effects of verbal aggression has been examined in several
studies (e.g., Ebbesen, Duncan, & Konecni, 1975; Loew, 1967). In Loew’s investigation, subjects were randomly assigned to either of two groups. Those in
the first group were required to recite aggressive words aloud, whereas those
assigned to the second group recited neutral words. Subjects in the aggressive
words group subsequently behaved more aggressively toward a peer. The strong
likelihood is that bellicose spectators and athletes are becoming increasingly
hostile during the event rather than draining their anger. Verbal aggression,
then, is not a special case of catharsis in which insults and profanity operate to
clear one’s system of anger.
I would like to conclude this section with a quote that captures the view
(and feelings, I think) of most of us who are familiar with the literature on
catharsis. “it is time to put a bullet, once and for all, through the heart of the
catharsis hypothesis. The belief that observing violence (or ‘ventilating it’) gets
rid of hostilities has virtually never been supported by research” (Tavris, 1988,
p. 194).

SUMMARY
The opening sections dealt with a set of experimental artifacts that lay in wait
for the unwary researcher. Thereafter, a wide range of means to measure aggression was described along with both traditional laboratory means and several
newer, innovative methods. A following section outlined the basic features of a
sample of aggression theories, both historical and current. The concluding section offered a short review of the concept of catharsis and its current status with
respect to the scientific literature attesting to its merits.

Suggested Readings
Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (1997). External validity of “trivial” experiments:
The case of laboratory aggression. Review of General Psychology, 1, 19–41.
This is a defense and response to the critics of laboratory investigations of aggression.

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Aggression in the Sports World

Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A. (2001). Is it time to pull the plug on the hostile versus
instrumental aggression dichotomy? Psychological Review, 108, 273–279.
This article provides a thoughtful and convincing reexamination of a long-standing
distinction between two types of aggression.
Retrosheet, Inc. <www.retrosheet.org>
This volunteer organization of baseball enthusiasts has as its goal the creation of a
detailed, play-by-play database for every game ever played in major league baseball. They
have already made impressive strides toward their goal, that is, data from every game
played from 1957 to 2005 (except 1999) is presently available along with a number of
nonconsecutive seasons. Ultimately, the Retrosheet organization plans to make the information available to all interested researchers. If you wish to volunteer your time, energy,
or provide copies of game accounts/records, contact information is on the web site.
Savage, J. (2004). Does viewing violent media really cause criminal violence? A methodological review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 99–128.
This large-scale methodological review of empirical research on the effects of television on criminal aggression might instead have been a Suggested Reading for Chapter 4.
However, because it largely involves detailed discussion of methodological issues it provides
a valuable extension to the foregoing section on Methods.
Stanovich, K. E. (2006). How to think straight about psychology (8th ed.). New York:
Allyn & Bacon.
In my opinion this book should be required reading for all students entering the
social sciences. This reader-friendly paperback will also clarify for the lay person what
science is, and is not, all about. Above all, it is entertaining and dispels the mystery
surrounding scientific investigations. It further provides the reader with the intellectual tools to debunk the misleading claims of pop psychologists and pseudo-science
practitioners.

SUPPLEMENTAL READING
Correlation: A Quick Review
The next few pages provide a quick review of correlation for those of my colleagues
who would welcome a refresher or others unfamiliar with the statistic. A correlation coefficient represents a measure of the closeness or strength of the relationship between two variables. In turn, “a variable is an event or condition that the
researcher observes or measures or plans to investigate and that is liable to variation (or change)” (Rosnow & Rosenthal, 1996, p. 44). Alternatively, a variable is an
attribute of the real world that can be quantified (fairies are particularly troublesome
in this regard).
The scale expressing the strength of a relationship ranges from +1.00 down
through 0 to –1.00. A positive correlation simply indicates that the values associated with the two variables tend to rise and fall together. By contrast, when the
values associated with one variable rise as those associated with the second fall,
we have a negative correlation.
The two variables, height and weight nicely illustrate a positive correlation.
We all recognize that these two measures of stature are related to each other.
With some exceptions, taller individuals are generally heavier while shorter

Methods, Measures, and Views of Sports Aggression

231

people tend to be lighter. Were we to actually gather information on people’s
height and weight, a correlation coefficient in the range of +.60 to +.80 would
be expected. As the recorded heights of individuals increase, the weights of
these same individuals also tend to increase.
Consider a basic question asked by investigators of crowd violence, that is, the
relationship between age and involvement in disorders. Data collected through
interviews with spectators at sport venues consistently reveal that it is the younger
males who become embroiled in disturbances, with the older men tending to
avoid involvement. That is, as age increases, involvement in crowd disorders
decreases. A negative correlation in the range from –.35 to –.40 might reflect
the strength of this particular relationship. Negative and positive correlations are
of equal importance. The sign (+ or –) simply tells the reader the direction of
increases in the values on one variable relative to those on the second.
The size necessary for a correlation to be “significant,” that is other than the
result of chance, depends on the sample size. Generally, if the correlation is calculated with a small sample, it must be fairly large to be statistically significant.
On the other hand, a small correlation based on a large sample may also be
significant. Tables are available at the back of most elementary statistical texts
for determining if a particular correlation coefficient is significant or falls short
of significance.
A final point that is frequently overlooked by consumers of research
findings and even some researchers has to do with the concept of causality. Simply because two variables are found to be significantly related does
not as a consequence allow us to infer causality, that is, that changes in one
variable are producing changes in the other. For example, approximately 150
youngsters have entered in the State Amateur Golf Championship in the 15
years and under bracket. An enthusiastic graduate student at a nearby college is flirting with a number of quirky hypotheses, one of which is that shoe
size is somehow related to golf scores (perhaps, they provide a more stable,
firmer footing for the golfer as the ball is struck that consequently provides a
competitive edge?).
The graduate student is given permission to record the shoe size of the young
entrants as they arrive for the event. After 3 days of play a champion is declared
and entered in the record book along with the total scores of all contestants. Lo
and behold, when the shoe sizes and total scores are correlated, a significant,
negative correlation of r = –.25 results, that is bigger sizes—lower scores.
Should our graduate student be encouraged to present his findings to an
upcoming conference of sport psychologists? I would think not. Although he
found support for his “Big Foot” hypothesis, are the lower golf scores really
the result of larger shoes providing a firmer footing? As tempting as it might
be to conclude a causal relationship, an alternate, more plausible explanation
is at hand. Among other things, youngsters with large shoe sizes are generally
older. Being older, they have more years of golfing experience and greater stature and strength, making them better golfers. Age and all that it entails then is a
third variable likely bringing about the relationship between shoe size and golf
scores.

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A significant correlation does not allow us to infer that changes in the values
on one variable are in some way causing changes in the values on the second
variable. It may seem likely, even very likely, that they are but first evidence
or reasoning sufficient to discount the merits of rival explanations must be
presented. This is a daunting task for our student.
Consider the finding by Semyonov and Farbstein (1989) of a significant
correlation of +.28 between the levels of team violence and levels of spectators’
violence across 297 Israeli soccer teams. That is “teams characterized by violent
players are more likely to have violent spectators” (p. 50). Incidentally, the correlation calculated over a 14-year period of league play rose to +.50! What is the
direction of causality? Are violent players increasing spectator aggression or are
violent spectators somehow fueling the aggression of players? Using a sophisticated statistical analysis, the researchers determined the causal influence was
unidirectional, that is “it is violence in the field that sparks violence in the stands”
(p. 56). See a challenge to this general conclusion in the form of evidence to the
contrary showing that members of an audience can also directly or indirectly
increase the aggression of those they observe (see Chapter 1, pp. 18–19).

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Author Index

Note: Some author names may not appear on a particular page as they are included
in an et al. citation.
Adang, O. M. J., 137, 168, 169
Adcock, M. L., 122
Adesso, V. J., 87
Ageton, S. S., 213
Akanda, R., 56
Alioto, J. T., 110, 111
Alker, H. A., 112
Allen, V. L., 178
Allison, J. A., 55
Allport, G. W., 36
Altshuler, E., 194, 195
Anastasi, A., 41, 207
Anderson, C. A., 3, 4, 5, 32, 76, 77, 96, 98, 109,
112, 216, 217
Andreoli, V. A., 95
Antley, A., 17
Apter, M. J., 139, 140
Archer, D., 6
Archer, T., 22–23, 211
Ardrey, R., 100
Arms, R. L., 45, 59, 85, 104, 105, 108, 123,
124, 126, 147, 151, 152, 153, 154, 156, 158,
159, 161, 162, 210, 213, 225
Armstrong, J., 127
Arndt, J., 53, 210
Aveni, A. F., 153
Averill. L. A., 10
Baenninger, R., 54, 100
Bailey, A. A., 71

Bakkestrom. E., 65
Bandura, A., 9, 124, 222
Barash, D., 218
Barker, C., 17
Barnett, S. A., 101
Barney, R. K., 15
Baron, R. A., vii, 26, 45, 52, 76, 77, 79, 84, 85,
128, 129, 153, 162, 164, 169
Barrett, L., 74
Barry, T., 84
Bartholow, B. D., 96, 98
Barton, R. A., 79, 80
Bateup, H. S., 67
Batista-Leyva, A. J., 195
Baum, A., 76
Baumeister, R. F., 227, 228
Beal, D. J., 30
Becker, C. B., 58
Beisser, A. R., 22
Bell, P. A., 76, 84, 129
Benedict, J., 14
Benjamin, A. J., 45, 59, 98, 152
Bennett, R. M., 86
Ben-Porath, D. D., 91, 209
Benthorn, L., 186, 189
Benton, D., 68
Berkowitz, L., 59, 94, 97, 98, 109, 110, 111,
113, 115, 116, 208, 213, 219, 220, 221, 222
Berman, M., 45
Berman, M. E., 91

261

262

Author Index

Bernhardt, P. C., 66
Bernthal, M. J., 119, 120
Berscheid, E., 104
Bettencourt, B. A., 45, 59, 152
Bevan, S., 108
Bibby, R. W., 123, 225
Binney, V., 135
Björkqvist, K., 47, 61, 62, 156
Black, S. L., 108
Blass, T., 153
Boeringer, S. B., 25
Bohstedt, J., 135
Bonacci, A. M., 60
Booker, A., 98
Booth, A., 66, 67
Borden, R. J., 18, 19, 62, 209
Bowdle, B. E., 7, 30, 67
Boyanowsky, E. O., 98, 125
Brainerd, J., 28
Branscombe, N. R., 51, 52, 163
Brauchi, J. T., 90
Bray, S. R., 101
Bredemeier, B. J., 12
Brennan, C., 55, 151
Brissett, M., 47
Brown, D., 106
Brown, R., 173
Brown, T. J., 25
Brown, W. A., 65
Bryan, C., 138, 189, 190
Bryant, J., 106
Buchanan, R. W., 74
Burgess, E., 172
Burnam, M., 78
Burnham, J. R., 204
Burns, R., 134
Bushman, B. J., 3, 4, 5, 38, 39, 41, 57,
60, 71, 88, 109, 112, 131, 163, 216,
217, 227, 228
Buss, A. H., 4, 38, 40, 41, 51, 71, 79, 84, 86,
90, 96, 98, 126, 207, 210, 211, 213
Buss, E., 98
Butz, D. A., 165
Byrne, D., 26, 44
Caggiula, A. R., 152, 162
Cameron, J., 99
Campbell, C., 92
Campbell, D. T., 206, 216
Canter, D., 101, 187, 190, 191
Cantril, H., 172
Capasso, D. R., 86, 87, 209
Caplow, T., 95
Caprara, G. V., 47
Carlsmith, J. M., 34, 77

Carlson, J. D., 55, 56, 225
Carlson, M., 98
Carnagey, N. L., 32
Carnibella, G., 137
Caron, S. L., 25
Carpenter, J. A., 86
Carrico, C., 104
Carver, C. S., 45, 46, 121
Cavanaugh, B. S., 86
Chakotin, S., 197
Chambers, W., 121
Champion, H., 119
Champoux, R., 92
Charpentier, S., 47
Cherek, D. R., 90, 91, 209
Choi, C., 122
Christiansen, K. O., 65
Christie R., 47
Christy, C. A., 156
Chu, L. D., 113
Cleckley, H., 50
Coalter, F., 62, 136, 166, 167
Coates, J. F., 164
Cohen, D., 7, 30, 67
Cohen, S., 134
Cohn, E. S., 20
Colaers, C., 83, 137
Coleman, A. E., 46
Collins, G. S., 99
Comber, M., 101, 187
Comisky, P., 106
Comstock, G., 109, 112
Condry, J. C., 176, 177, 178, 179
Cooper, B. A. B., 12
Cooper, H. M., 88, 163
Corson, M. C., 167
Cothran, C., 51, 55, 56, 225
Court-Brown, W. M., 64
Cox, D. N., 37
Cranston, J. W., 90, 163
Crawford, C., 134
Cresswell, P., 28
Crews, D. J., 47
Crosswhite, J. J., 10
Crowne, D. P., 214
Culver, Z., 56
Curtin, J. S., 121, 144
Curtis, J., 114
Cuvelier, C., 168
Dabbs, J. M., 66
Daglar, M., 56
Dahlke, A. E., 176, 177, 178, 179
Dallas, M. B., 81, 122
Daniels, K., 57, 58

Author Index
Darley, J. M., 173, 174, 185, 191
Darrah, E. M., 10
Darrow, C., 135
Darwin, C., 226
Davis, E. B., 96
Davis, H., 212
Davis, J., 116, 117, 118
Davis, R. W., 20
Davison, A., 17
Dechesne, M., 53
De Divitiis, C., 56
De Freitas, B., 89
DeGregorio, E., 46
de Haan, A., 202
DeNeve, K. M., 76
Dengerink, H. A., 38, 163
Deutsch, M., 94, 96
Dewar, C. K., 83
DeFour, D., 107
de Graaf, J. P., 82, 216
de Kock, H., 141, 142
Diab, L. N., 94, 95
Diener, E., 107, 125, 147
Di Lullo, D., 31, 116
Di Lullo, S. L., 31, 116
Ditrichs, R., 29
Doerr, C. E., 165
Dolan, T. J., 55
Dollard, J., 219, 221, 225
Donnerstein, E., 29, 79
Donnerstein, M., 29
Doob, A., 125
Doob, L., 219, 221, 225
Drake, B., 112
Drewry, B. R., 220
Druen, M., 69
Drury, J., 139
Dua, M., 82, 216
Dugatkin, L. A., 69
Duggan, P., 22
Dunand, M. A., 135, 145, 171
Duncan, B., 229
Dunning, E., 31, 86, 150, 167
DuRant, R. H., 119
Durkee, A., 40, 51
Dwyer, R. S., 108, 210
Dykes, M., 51, 55, 56, 225
Dzieweczynski, T. L., 70
Eagly, A. H., 61
Earley, R. L., 69, 70
Ebbesen, E. B., 229
Edwards, D. A., 67, 68
Eisinger, P. K., 138
Elias, M., 65

Elliott, D., 185
Elliott, D. S., 213
Ellsworth, P. C., 33, 34
Endean, C., 27
Ennis, R., 9
Epstein, S., 23
Eron, L. D., 110
Erskine, J., 21
Eslea, M., 210, 212
Eubanks, J., 32
Evans, F. J., 205
Evans, J., 99
Evans, R. I., 226
Everett, A., 42
Eysenck, H. J., 37, 50, 64
Farbstein, M., 232
Farkas, I., 185, 193, 194
Farrell, B., 87
Farrington, D. P., 213
Fein, S., 7, 77, 216
Feltz, D. L., 12
Fenigstein, A., 108, 125, 126
Fenske, L., 44
Ferguson, D. G., 107, 108
Fernández, J., 195
Ferris, C. F., 65, 68
Festinger, L., 147
Fielden, J. A., 66
Fischer, P., 24, 210
Fisher, J. D., 76
Fitzpatrick, M., 84
Folger, R., 95
Folkesson, P., 22
Fox, K., 137
Foy, E., 198, 199
Frank, M. G., 80, 81
Frantzich, H., 186, 189
Freedman, J. L., 74, 115
French, J., 172, 173, 183, 191
French, L. M., 81
Frey, J., 76, 84
Frodi, A., 23, 98, 128
Froming, W. J., 121
Fulker, D. W., 64
Gaebelein, J., 96, 148, 209
Gaines, J. A., 25
Gammon, C. B., 86, 87, 90, 209
Gandellen, R. J., 121
Gantner, A. B., 87, 91
Gantz, W., 104
Garle, M., 93
Garrick, J. G., 99
Gartner, R., 6

263

264

Author Index

Geen, R. G., 3, 78, 79, 109, 112, 115, 208, 223
Geis, F., 47
Gelles, R. J., 62
Gentile, D. A., 118
Giancola, P. R., 228
Gillis, R., 46
Gillmore, G. M., 40
Gilmour, R., 175
Gilovich, T., 80, 81
Girard, D., 127
Giulianotti, R., 157, 161
Gladue, B., 45
Glass, D., 45, 46, 77
Goeckner, D. J., 87
Goldenson, R. M., 172
Goldstein, A. P., 165, 166
Goldstein, J. H., vii, 6, 20, 51, 62, 123,
132, 143, 151, 164
Goode, E., 134
Goodenough, D. R., 65
Granath, F., 93
Granger, D. A., 67
Green, T. E., 76
Green, T. M., 70
Greenberg, J., 53, 209, 210
Greene, B., 210
Greene, D., 58, 157
Greenwell, J., 163
Greer, D. L., 55
Greitemeyer, T., 24, 210
Griffiths, C. T., 98
Grimes, P. W., 61
Gross, D. E., 177, 178
Grove, J. B., 216
Guger, C., 17
Gustafson, R., 87, 163
Guten, S., 178
Guttmann, A., 129, 130, 160
Hain, P., 28
Haley, A. J., 150, 151
Hall, E. T., 75
Halteman, W. A., 25
Hammock, G., 24
Hardy, C. J., 78
Hare, R. D., 48, 49
Harlow, A. F., 198, 199
Harmon-Jones, E., 53
Harper, D. C., 78
Harré, R., 32, 145
Harris, J. M., 80
Harris, M. B., 220
Harrison, P., 141, 155
Hartmann, D. P., 208
Hastings, D. E., 99

Hayduk, L. A., 75
Haynes, G., 56, 213
Helbing, D., 185, 193, 194
Helfrich, H. M., 47
Helmreich, R. L., 45, 94
Henson, A., 34
Herman, D., 20
Hersch, H., 89
Heslin, R., 74
Hicks, D. J., 223
Higgins, E. T., 10
Hill, A. H., 176
Hill, R. A., 79, 80
Hoaken, P. N. S., 88, 163
Hogg, J., 104
Holland, L. C., 55, 56, 225
Horn, V. E., 130
Horton, R., 138
House, P., 27, 58, 157
Houston, B. K., 45
Howe, N., 122
Huarte-Mendicoa, E., 224
Huddle, M. J., 130, 167
Huesmann, L. R., 110
Hunter, J. L., 52, 156
Hurd, P. L., 71
Husman, B. F., 212
Hutchinson, P., 139, 167
Innes, J. M., 84, 147
Ito, T. A., 88
Izutsu, T., 24
Jacklin, C. N., 61
Jackson, S. J., 13
Jacob, B. E., 55, 56, 225
Jacobson, S., 31
Janis, I., 172
Jenkins, C. D., 45
Jerome, J. K., 42, 43
Jeukendrup, A. E., 202
Johnes, M., 185
Johnson, D. W., 94
Johnson, N. R., 171, 172, 187,
188, 192
Johnson, R., 94
Jones, J. C. H., 107, 108
Jones, M. V., 21, 101
Jordan, C. H., 9
Josephs, R. A., 67
Josephson, W. L., 109, 110
Josuttes, D., 210
Kaare, R., 83
Kahn, A., 153

Author Index
Karnilowicz, W., 114
Kasiarz, D., 6
Kasser, T., 65, 98, 210
Katz, J., 112
Katz, M. D., 88, 92
Kaukiainen, A., 156
Keating, J., 151, 172
Keefer, R., 6
Kelley, H. H., 94, 176, 177, 178, 179
Kelly, I. W., 82
Kelly, T. H., 91
Kenrick, D. T., 54, 76
Kenyon, G., ix
Kernis, M., 20
Kerr, J. H., vii, 31, 140, 141, 142, 150, 154
Killian, L. M., 147, 161, 185
King, A., 31
Kingsmore, J. M., 212
Kinzel, A. F., 75
Kirchler, E., 52, 63, 149, 150, 153, 155
Kittock, R., 66
Klein, A. L., 178, 179, 180
Klinesmith, J., 65, 98, 210
Klötz, F., 93
Knorr, M., 104
Konecni, V. J., 229
Koss, M. P., 25
Kouri, E. M., 92
Krahé, B., 44
Krahenbuhl, G. S., 47
Kruglanski, A. W., 176, 177, 178
Kunda, Z., 9
Kunkler, J., 135
La Pierre, R. T., 172, 185, 191, 193, 196,
197, 198
Lachlan, K., 116, 117, 118
Lagerspetz, K. M. J., 47, 61, 64, 156
Laird, D. A., 55
Lamarre, B. W., 57
Lamb, T. A., 65
Lane, S. D., 90, 91
Lang, K., 143
Lang, K. E., 143
Lange, A. R., 87
Larrick, R. P., 7, 77, 216
Latané, B., 78, 173, 174, 185, 191
Le Page, A., 97, 98
Learner, E., 12
Lefkowitz, M. M., 110
Lehman, D. R., 55
Lehmann-Haupt, C., 64
Leonard, K. E., 87
Leslie, J., 186
Levenson, M. R., 50

265

Levy, A. S., 74
Lewis, G., 8, 42
Lewis, J. M., 135, 137, 138, 187
Lieberman, J. D., 209, 210
Livingstone, M., 168
Llorens, L., 65
Lockwood, P., 9
Loew, C. A., 229
Loof, S. D., 108, 210
Lorenz, K., 95, 219, 226
Lowinger, P., 135
Loy, J., ix
Lubetkin, A. I., 90, 163
Lutter, C. D., 66
Macauley, J., 23
Maccoby, E. E., 61
Macdonald, G., 125
MacDonald, J. M., 86
MacFarlane, S. W., 76
MacNeil, M. L. C., 57, 58
Mann, L., 75, 84, 137, 142, 147, 153, 154, 166,
180, 181, 196
Manning, J. T., 70, 71
Marcus-Newhall, A., 98
Marlatt, G. A., 87
Marlowe, D., 214
Marsh, J., 137
Marsh, P., 32, 33, 137, 145
Marshall, J. E., 74
Martens, R., 37
Maruyama, G., 94
Marx, G. T., 135
Mason, A., 75
Mathes, E. W., 153
Matthews, K. A., 46
Maxwell, J. P., 59, 60
Mazur, A., 65, 66
McAndrew, F. T., 65, 98, 210
McCann, J., 137
McClintock, T., 186
McClusky, M. G., 10, 11
McCown, E. J., 79
McDonald, P. J., 78
McDougall, W., 184, 218
McGeorge, K. K., 55
McGregor, H., 53
McGregor, H. A., 209, 210
McGregor, P. K., 69
McGuire, W. J., 94
McLean, B., 56, 213
McPhail, C., 134, 135, 137
McPherson, B. D., ix
Mednick, S. A., 65
Mehta, P. H., 67

266

Author Index

Meier, N. C., 156
Melnick, M. J., viii, 13, 18, 57, 104, 161
Mennenga, G. H., 156
Metcalf, L. A., 122
Milgram, S., 16, 17, 18, 159, 180, 223
Miller, N., 60, 88, 98, 219, 220,
221, 225
Miller, S., 151
Milligan, M., 84
Millon, T., 50, 51
Mills, B. D., 81
Mintz, A., 172, 174, 175, 178, 179, 183, 185
Mischel, W., 37
Molin, J., 48
Moore, M., 30
Moore, S., 101
Moorhouse, H. F., 134, 144
Morrow, M., 96
Mosher, D. L., 43, 44
Moss, M. K., 84
Mowrer, O. H., 219, 221, 225
Moyer, K. E., 100, 101
Muecher, H., 84
Mullen, B., 153
Mungo, D. A., 12
Murphy, P., 31, 86, 150, 167
Murray, H. A., 212
Murray, S., 92
Mustonen, A., 147, 153, 156, 157, 158, 161
Myers, D. G., 26
Myerscough, R., 90, 91
Narancic, V. G., 229
Nash, J. E., 12
Nathanson, A. I., 117
Neale, M. C., 64
Nelson, D., 94
Newcomb, T., 147
Newton, J. W., 84, 147
Newtson, D., 125
Nias, D. K. B., 37, 50, 64
Niemelä, P., 62
Nisbett, R. E., 7, 30, 67
Noah, J. E., 105, 122
Nocera, R., 25
Noda, C., 194, 195
Nordmarker, A., 211
Norlander, T., 22, 211
Nosanchuk, T. A., 57, 58
Nowicki, S., Jr., 46, 47
Núnez, Y., 194, 195
Nyberg, C., 22
O’Brien, R., 89
Ohbuchi, K., 24

Olivier, S., 101
Olweus, D., 37
Omoto, A. M., 104
O’Neal, E. C., 30, 78
Ong, J., 30
Orne, M. T., 205
Österman, K., 47, 61, 156
Owens, D. A., 55, 56, 225
Owens, L., 62
Page, R. A., 84
Paik, H., 109, 112
Palmer, C. T., 132
Pandey, S., 112
Park, R., 172
Parker, S. M., 99
Pasman, W. J., 202
Pastorelli, C., 47
Patch, M. E., 177, 178
Patterson, B., 104
Paulhus, D., 48
Paull, G. C., 21
Peake, T. M., 69
Pearce, P., 137, 153
Pease, D. G., 18, 57, 104, 161
Pederson, W. C., 60
Pennebaker, J. W., 78
Pepitone, A., 147
Perrow, C., 145
Perry, M., 38, 40, 41, 51, 71, 96, 210,
211, 213
Perry, P., 92
Peterson, R. R., 51
Petersson, A., 93
Phillips, D. P., 114, 191
Pietras, C. J., 91
Pihl, R. O., 87
Pijnenburg, B., 139, 144, 145, 146
Plant, E. A., 165
Pollock, V. E., 88
Pope, H. G., Jr 92
Powell, K. F., 92
Pred, R. S., 45
Prentice-Dunn, S., 8, 28
Price, J., 26, 74
Price, V. A., 45, 46
Price, W. H., 64
Profusek, P. J., 82
Proulx, G., 180, 188, 189, 190
Pullen, P., 56, 213
Pyszczynski, T., 53
Quarantelli, E. L., 172, 178, 183
Quigley, B. M., 212
Quirk, K., 104

Author Index
Rabbie, J. M., 146
Rainey, D. W., 21, 22, 23, 82
Ramos, O., 194, 195
Rand, M. J., 90
Rawtich, A. B., 90, 163
Ray, M. A., 61
Redmond, G., 8
Reicher, S., 157, 161
Reifman, A., 55
Reifman, A. S., 7, 77, 216
Renfrew, J. W., 64
Report of the National Advisory Commission on
Civil Disorders 160, 161
Requa, R. K., 99
Rhodewalt, F., 46
Richardson, D. R., 24, 52, 77, 79, 153, 162, 169
Ritter, D., 210, 212
Roberts, S. C., 80
Robinson, D. E., 91
Robinson, J. P., 207, 214
Rogers, R. W., 8, 28
Roloff, M. E., 104
Rosenfeld, M. J., 144
Rosenman, R. H., 45
Rosenthal, R., 58, 206, 215, 216, 230
Rosnow, R. L., 58, 206, 215, 216, 230
Ross, D., 222
Ross, L., 58, 157, 158
Ross, S. A., 222
Rosser, E., 32, 33, 145
Rotmil, A., 28
Rotter, J. B., 46
Rotton, J., 76, 82, 84
Roversi, A., 63, 136, 149, 150, 155
Rowe, C., 80
Rowland, W. J., 70
Rtland, T. R., 186
Ruscher, J. B., 30
Rushton, J. P., 64
Russell, G., 158
Russell, G. W., viii, 8, 10, 11, 18, 31, 43, 44, 45,
47, 48, 50, 51, 54, 57, 59, 82, 85, 94, 99, 101,
104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 115, 123, 124, 125,
126, 130, 135, 137, 138, 147, 151, 152, 153,
154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 161, 162, 167, 171,
179, 210, 211, 213, 216, 220, 224, 225, 227
Ryan, J. A., 52, 57, 156
Sacco, F. C., 58
Sachs, C. J., 113
Salmivalli, C., 156
Salvador, A., 65
Sandiford, K. A. P., 167
Sandilands, M. L., 124
Sauvey, P., 54

Savage, J., 131
Scaramella, T. J., 65
Scarborough, K. E., 112
Schaeffer, M. A., 78
Schauss, A. G., 82, 184
Schechter, M. D., 90
Schimel, J., 53
Schrader, M. P., 56
Schreiber, M., 168
Schuchts, R., 48
Schulsinger, F. O., 65
Schultz, D. P., 172, 173, 184
Schwartz, G., 89
Schwartz, R. D., 216
Schwarz, N., 7, 30, 67
Sears, R. R., 219, 221, 225–226
Sechrest, L., 216
Segrave, J. O., 122
Semyonov, M., 232
Sesma, A., 118
Sestir, M. A., 96
Shaver, P. R., 207, 214
Sheets, V., 54
Shelley, G., 66
Shelton, S., 51
Shepherd, J. P., 101
Sherif, C. W., 94, 95
Sherif, M., 94, 95
Shields, D. L., 12
Shields, T. J., 186
Shirreffs, J. H., 47
Shirtcliff, E. A., 67
Shute, R., 62
Silva, J. M., 86
Sime, J. D., 172, 182, 189, 190, 191, 192
Simon, L., 53, 210
Simon, S., 29
Simón, V., 65
Simons, Y., 135
Singer, J., 77
Sipes, R. G., 6
Sirkin, M., 43, 44
Sivarajasingam,V., 101
Skalski, P., 116, 117, 118
Skelton, W. S., 156, 157
Skon, L., 94
Slater, M., 17
Slaton, E., 122
Slee, P., 62
Smeaton, G., 44
Smelser, N., 172
Smith, A., 56
Smith, D., 185
Smith, G. J., 104
Smith, M., 87

267

268

Author Index

Smith, M. D., vii, 12, 137, 139
Smith, R. E., 37
Smith, R. J., 48, 49
Smith, S. L., 117
Smith, T., 51
Snyder, C. R., 45
Snyder, M., 104
Solomon, D. H., 104
Solomon, S., 53, 209, 210
Southwick, L., 88
Spence, J. T., 45, 94
Stack, A. D., 277
Stacy, C., 25
Stallings, W. M., 40
Stanley, J. C., 206
Steele, C. M., 88
Steffen, V. J., 61
Steinberg, J. L., 90, 91
Steinmetz, S. K., 62
Stewart, K. G., 107, 108
Stewart, S. H., 88, 163
Stoltz, H. Z., 156
Stone, K., 28
Stott, C., 137, 139, 157, 161, 168, 169
Straus, M. A., 61–62
Strauss, A., 183, 194
Strube, M. J., 46
Suay, F., 65
Sullivan, D. B., 106
Sumner, K. E., 25
Swapp, D., 17
Talley, A., 45, 59, 152
Tamborini, R., 116, 117, 118
Tannenbaum, P. H., 105, 122
Tavris, C., 229
Taylor, I., 187
Taylor, J., 135
Taylor, R. P., 71
Taylor, S. P., viii, 18, 23, 45, 60, 86, 87, 90, 91,
96, 163, 208–209, 228
Tcheremissine, O. V., 90
Tedeschi, J. T., 212
Tesler, B. S., 112
Tharp, G., 66
‘t Hart, P., 139, 144, 145, 146
Thibaut, J. W., 94
Thiblin, I., 93
Thomas, G., 47
Thome, P. R., 23
Thornton, E. W., 57, 58
Timmerman, T. A., 7, 8, 29, 30, 216
Tinbergen, N., 226
Tinsley, M., 69
Toch, H., 159, 223–224

Trivizas, E., 62, 63, 149, 150, 216
Trulson, M. E., 57, 58
Turner, R. H., 147, 161, 185
Twemlow, S. W., 58
Ungeheuer, H., 84
Urbina, S., 41, 207
Uzzell, D. L., 101, 187, 190, 191
Valentine, J., 45, 59, 152
Vamplew, W., 156
van Baak, M. A., 202
van der Kraan, M., 27
Van Limbergen, K., 83, 137, 140, 149
Vanstone, R., 23
Vardaris, R. M., 90, 163
Vasquez, E. A., 60
Veneman, J. M., 135, 187
Vescio, J. A., 10
Vicsek, T., 185, 193–194
Voigt, H., 156
Waddill, P. J., 43
Walder, L. O., 110
Walgrave, L., 83, 137, 140, 149
Walker, R., 51
Walshe-Brennan, K., 151
Walster, E., 125
Wann, D. L., viii, 18, 43, 51, 52, 55, 56,
57, 88, 104, 122, 156, 158, 161,
163, 213, 225
Ward, R. E., Jr 134, 137, 139, 164
Webb, E. J., 216
Wechsberg, J., 83
Weidner, G., 46
Weiss, M. R., 12
Weisman, A. M., 91
Wells, D. D., 55, 56, 225
Wells, G. L., 38, 39, 41, 71, 216
Wenner, L. A., 104
West, D. J., 213
Westerman, D., 116, 117, 118
Wetzel, K., 67, 68
Whatmore, P. B., 64
Wheeler, L., 152, 162
White, G. F., 112, 113
Wilde, K., 10
Williams, J., 31, 86, 150, 167
Williams, T., 104
Williams, T. M., 111
Wilson, B. J., 117
Wilson, D. W., 79
Wilson, L., 28
Winslow, C., 28
Witkin, H. A., 65

Author Index
Wolfers, J., 26
Wolfson, M., 119
Woody, L. W., 107
Worchel, S., 95
Wright, J. C., 135
Wright, L. A., 52, 156
Wrightsman, L. S., 207, 214
Wyner, D. R., 67, 68
Yaeger, D., 14
Yarmey, A. D., 186

Yates, W. R., 92
Yoos, C., 23
Young, K., 184
Young, Kevin., 86, 169
Zani, B., 52, 63, 149, 150, 153, 155
Zanna, M. P., 9
Zeichner, A., 228
Zillmann, D., 4, 106, 128, 129, 215
Zimbardo, P. G., 147
Zyzanski, S. J., 45

269

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Subject Index

aggression:
definitions of, 3–5
hostile versus instrumental, 4–5
incompatible responses, 164
learning of, 8–9
measurement of, 38–44
origins, 63–64
sex differences, 60–63
aggression questionnaire, 40–41, 213–214
reliability of, 41
validity of, 41
alcohol, 86–89, 163–164
fan consumption, 88–89
threat, 86–87
archival investigations, 215–216
auto racing, 43–44
batter hit by pitch, 7–8, 29–30, 77, 216
biological influences:
chromosomal anomalies, 64–65
testosterone, 65–68
catharsis, 60, 224–229
origins of, 225–227
persistence of, 227–228
popularity of beliefs, 224–225
cognitive influences:
bedouin syndrome, 155
false consensus effect, 58–59
hostile attributional bias, 162–163
sore loser reactions, 154–155
competition, 93–96
and color, 79–80

compared to cooperation, 93–96
and hostility, 94–95
summer camp studies, 94–95
superordinate goals, 95
correlation:
a review, 230–232
criminality:
homicide, 6–7, 131
National Football League, 14
crowd violence:
conditions favoring, 147
groups in, 147–148
surveillance, 186–187
crowding, 74–75
and density, 74
and liking, 74–75
personal space, 75
sex differences, 74–75
cultural influence:
international influence, 5–7
regional influence, 7–8
southern honor, 7–8, 30, 35, 67
deindividuation, 147
demand characteristics, 98, 205–206
control of, 205–206
drugs:
alcohol, 86–89
caffeine, 89
diazepam, 91
marijuana, 90–91
nicotine, 90
steroids, 91–93

271

272

Subject Index

environmental factors:
color, 79–82
crowding, 74–75
darkness, 83–84
ions, 84–85
lunar, 82–83
noise, 77–79, 202–203
temperature, 76–77
erotica:
and aggression, 128–129
for profit, 129–130
escalation effects, 19–20
ethics, 203
expectancy effects, 21, 87–88, 120,
204–205, 215
control of, 204–205
fighting fish:
eavesdropping, 69
fist fights, 68–70
finger length ratio:
sex differences, 70–71
and sports involvement, 70–71
generalizing, 69–70, 217
geography of aggression:
location of fights, 99–100
heroes (exemplars):
categories of, 10–11
efforts to emulate, 11–12
historical trends, 10
negative role models, 9–10
positive role models, 10
true hero, 15
villains as, 12–14
home field advantage:
and aggression, 101
homicides, 6–7, 113–114, 131
humor, 128–129, 164
identificatory ties, 51–57
crossing the line, 54–57
national level, 52
terror management, 53–54
impulsivity, 152, 162, 214
Iroquois Theater fire, 197–199
laboratory measures of aggression, 207–212
Berkowitz procedure, 208
bungled procedure paradigm, 210–211
Buss aggression machine, 207–208
competitive reaction time procedure, 208–209
evaluations of, 212
experimental graffiti and tearing, 211

hot sauce paradigm, 209–220
point subtraction paradigm, 209
media:
broadcasters, 105–107
effects of television violence, 108–112
language of sports, 122–123
long reach of violence, 112–114, 131
selling of violence, 107–108, 126–128
sport widow hypothesis, 104–105
suicide, 114
television effects of, 108–112
mitigating panics, 195–197
anti-panic leadership, 196–197
engineering/design, 196–197
retractable gangways, 196
seated versus standing, 196
mitigating riots:
admission charges, 167
banning spectators, 165–166
design and engineering, 166
Dutch model, 168–169
increasing respect, 165
and national flag, 165
post-game events, 164
seated versus standing, 166–167
separation of rivals, 167
training of officials, 165
obedience, 15–18, 223
virtual simulation, 17
Olympics:
combative sports, 6–7
panics:
and ants, 194–195
communication during, 190–191
definitions, 172, 174–175
early experiments, 172–176
engineering model, 191–192
entry, 181–182
exit (escape), 180–181
and leadership, 178–180
in organized groups, 184
recent experiments, 176–180
simulations, 175–176, 185,
192–195
three-stage model, 187–189
peacemakers:
characteristics of, 157–159, 162
incidence of, 156–157
Law and Order Scale, 158–159
personal observation of aggression:
bi-directional influence, 125–126
from the stands, 123–125

Subject Index
personality:
definitions, 36–37
idiographic versus nomothetic, 36
traits, 36–37
personality measurement, 38–41, 43,
45–46, 48–50
reliability, 39–40
validity, 38–39
personality theories:
an aggressive personality, 50–51
locus of control, 46–47
Machiavellian personality, 47–48
macho personality, 42–44
psychopathic personality, 48–50
Type A and Type B, 85
police:
deployment, 168–169
and impulsivity, 162
style of public interactions, 168–169
priming, 98–99, 120–121, 144, 163
professional wrestling, 116–120
and aggression, 124
children as consumers, 118–119
effects on children, 118–120
teen date fighting, 119
projective measures, 212–213
provocations, 30–34
eye contact, staring, 33–34
songs, chants, 31–33
verbal, 30–31
punishment:
effectiveness of, 169
racism, 26–30
definition, 26
evidence of, 7–8
prejudice, 26
stereotypes, 26
response bias, 214–215
rioters, 147–154
characteristics of, 149–151
hooligans, 149–150
personality of, 151–154
superhooligans, 150–151
troublemakers, 148

riots:
crowd composition, 147–148
definitions of, 134–135
incidence of, 135–137
and moral panic, 134
risk assessment, 168
severity of, 138–139
rumination, 59
self-reports:
validity of, 213
situational influences:
geography, 99–100
surveillance, 186–187
territoriality, 100–101
targets of aggression:
minorities as, 26–30
sport officials as, 20–23
women as, 23–26
theories of aggression:
aggressive cue theory, 223–222
frustration–aggression hypothesis,
219–221
instinctual views, 218–219
social learning theory, 8–9,
222–224
theories of riots:
excitement needs, 139–142
FORCE typology, 142–144
role reversal theory, 140–141
social systems analysis, 144–146
third party influence:
direct, 18
indirect, 18–19
verbal aggression, 30–31,
228–229
volunteer effects, 206–207, 215
control of, 206–207
weapons effect, 97–99
demand characteristics, 98
experimental evidence, 97–98
evaluation apprehension, 98

273