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Cognitions supportive of violence and violent behavior

Nicola Bowes, Mary McMurran
Aggression and Violent Behavior; Volume 18, Issue 6, November–December 2013, Pages 660–665.


The role of cognitions supportive of violence is acknowledged in many theories of violent behavior. Despite this, relatively little attention has been paid in research to the cognitions that contribute to violence at an individual level. The aim here was to conduct a systematic review of studies examining the impact of violence-related cognitions on non-sexual violence. Five studies were identified and these studies reported the use of five measures of violence-related cognition, namely, the EXPAGG, a Life Map, the ‘My Life’ checklist, the Provictim Scale, and the Maudsley Violence Questionnaire. The studies indicated that scales of instrumental aggression were positively related to self-reported violence in both prison and non-offender samples. Beliefs supportive of violence were also positively related to violence. This suggests that viewing aggression as means to achieve positive outcome is a risk factor for violence. By contrast, scores on an expressive aggression scale were inversely related to violence indicting that loss of control and guilt about behavior are protective factors against violence. Also, pro-victim attitudes were inversely related to violence. These scales tap the self-conscious moral emotions and recognition of these emotions may be important in violence inhibition. There is clearly a need to extend the identification of cognitions supportive of violence. This would aid research into individual-level violence and contribute to the development of effective interventions to reduce violence.



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