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The problem of indirect violence


Psychopathic dispositions are significantly associated with dysfunction of the violence inhibition mechanism, and the more pronounced they are in people, the more likely they are to commit acts of violence. However, will this rule be true if we talk not only about direct violence but also about some indirect aggressive actions aimed at harming other people without coming into physical contact with them?

A series of experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that indirect aggression is associated with psychopathy[1]. Indirect, relational, or social aggression was defined as a type of social manipulation whereby the aggressor manipulates others to attack the victim or, by other means, makes use of the social structure in order to harm the target person without being personally involved in the attack. A study, conducted on 103 students, found that such behavior had a strong association with the level of psychopathy, and this association persisted even when the influence of social desirability (the respondents' tendency to give answers that appear preferable in the eyes of others) was taken into account. Especially indirect aggression was associated with impulsive antisociality and coldheartedness.

Two more studies on 201 students showed that the relationship between psychopathy and indirect aggression was significantly mediated by deficits in affective (emotional) but not cognitive empathy. However, this is more characteristic of males, whereas such deficits play a lesser role in the case of females, indicating a difference in the manifestations of indirect aggression between male and female psychopaths. For example, men are more likely to resort to malicious humor than women, who are more likely to induce guilt in others. Also, a study of social skills in 107 students found that, in general, they had little effect on the relationship between psychopathy and indirect aggression. Although specifically nonverbal social skills did significantly mediate it in the student sample, this result was not replicated in two other studies with community samples of 204 and 117 participants. However, these studies confirmed the other findings.

As we can see, the problem of indirect violence, when a person seeks to harm other people, resorting not to physical attack but to social manipulation and various kinds of pressure, is strongly associated with the presence of psychopathic dispositions. In addition, it is affective psychopathy, which includes the previously mentioned coldheartedness and affective empathy deficit, that plays a significant role, which is explained by the dysfunction of the violence inhibition mechanism.

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1) Warren, G. (2009) The relationship between psychopathy and indirect aggression in a commuity sample. PhD thesis, University of York:
Last modified: 2024/04/18 20:21 by Volunto

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