On thwarted goals and displaced aggression: A compensatory competence model


Journal Article

© 2017 Elsevier Inc. Thwarted goals and motivational obstacles are antecedents of aggression, but it is not entirely clear what motivates the aggressive response or why it is often displaced onto unrelated targets. The present work applies Goal Systems Theory (Kruglanski et al., 2002) to consider how displaced aggression can sometimes operate like any other means to an end. Specifically, in five studies, we find that thwarted goals motivate displaced aggression to compensate for a threatened sense of competence. First, when an achievement goal is experimentally thwarted, it both threatens self-efficacy beliefs and increases displaced aggression (Studies 1–2). Second, when goal-thwarted individuals have the means to engage in displaced aggression, it reestablishes self-efficacy in the thwarted goal domain (Study 3). However, we find that the superordinate goal being served is competence and not to be aggressive per se: In Study 4, goal thwarted individuals choose to help someone rather than remain idle, even if idleness is the more aggressive alternative. In Study 5, displaced aggression is attenuated among individuals who expect a second performance opportunity in the thwarted goal domain. Together, the results suggest goal-thwarted individuals mainly resort to displaced aggression when they lack other means to interact effectively with the environment.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Leander, NP; Chartrand, TL

Published Date

  • September 1, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 72 /

Start / End Page

  • 88 - 100

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0465

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-1031

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jesp.2017.04.010

Citation Source

  • Scopus