Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




In the past two decades, numerous experiments have focused on a wide variety of situational factors influencing the arousal, intensity, and direction of aggressive behavior. In contrast, few studies have considered the role of individual difference variables in producing aggression. The present study was concerned with a personality variable which theoretically should have some relevance to the expression of physical aggression. This variable was repression-sensitization (R-S) as measured'by the revised Repress ion-Sensitization Scale (Byrne, Barry, and Nelson, 1963). In an attempt to improve upon the predictive validity of R-S, defensive and nondefensive repressors were differentiated through the use of Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale scores .

Arousal and subject sex were also included as independent variables. Arousal was manipulated by means of instructions.

The dependent variables in the present experiment were mean shock intensity administered on an apparatus similar to the Buss Aggression Machine, Multiple Affect Adjective Check List (MAACL) scale scores, and subscale scores on a Mood Scale constructed by the author. The experimental design was a 3x2x2 factorial with three levels of R-S (sensitizers, nondefensive repressors, and defensive repressors), two levels of sex (male and female), and two conditions of arousal (high and low).

Seventy-two subjects were led to believe that a confederate was also a student participating in a learning experiment. Subjects were told that they would be teaching a concept through the use of reward (a "correct" light) and punishment (shock). Instructions were designed to produce more frustration in the high arousal group than in the low arousal condition. After the experimental procedure, the MAACL, the Mood Scale, and a Post Experiment Questionnaire were administered.

No differences in mean shock intensity were found among the R-S groups. Males and females also did not differ in aggressive responding. Only the arousal main effect reached significance. Contrary to expectations, the low arousal group administered significantly more shock than the high arousal subjects. A possible explanation in terms of aggression anxiety lowering the aggressive responses of high arousal subjects was offered .

On the hostility, anxiety, and depression subscales of the MAACL and Mood Scale, sensitizers scored higher than repressors. No differences in mean shock intensity or affect scale responses were found between nondefensive and defensive repressors. These data were compared to results of previous R-S experimentation in which defensive and nondefensive repressors were differentiated.

In conclusion, while sensitizers describe themselves as more hostile than repressors, their overt aggressive behavior does not appear to differ.