Hostile attributional biases among aggressive boys are exacerbated under conditions of threats to the self.
Previous studies have found a tendency for aggressive boys to display hostile attributional biases and social cue interpretation deficits. It was hypothesized that these biases and deficits would be exaggerated under conditions of social anxiety and threat. Aggressive and nonaggressive boys aged 8 - 10 (total N = 65) were administered tests of attributional tendencies and social cue interpretation skills (via videorecorded stimuli) under relaxed and threatening conditions. It was found that, relative to normal boys, aggressive boys displayed a bias toward attributing hostile intentions to peers, a deficit in interpreting accurately others' intentions, and a deficit in linking interpretations to behavioral responses. The hypothesis that these biases and deficits would be exaggerated under conditions of threat was also supported. Findings were interpreted as consistent with theories of preemptive processing and emotional vulnerability in aggressive boys.
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