Assessing aggression using conditional reasoning

Lawrence R. James, James M. LeBreton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


In a time characterized by wars, students and employees being shot at their desks, and corporate executives raiding pension funds, aggression has taken on considerable prominence in our society. Aggressive people capture our interest because they are the ones who desire to harm others. Considerable progress has been made in recent years in understanding the aggressive personality. Psychology now has a much better idea of the defensive cognitive processes that aggressive people use to create a false sense of rationality for their aggressive acts. This knowledge of defensive processes was used to design a new measurement system to identify aggressive individuals. The new measurement system is based on a "cover" task in the form of an inductive reasoning problem. The use of reasoning to cover the measurement of aggression is made possible because aggressive people use the illusion of rational analyses to create defenses for their harming of others. The measurement system builds on this process by constructing answers to inductive reasoning problems that are grounded in the same defensive, self-illusionary thinking that aggressive people use to rationalize harming others. Aggressive people tend to be drawn to these answers (the answers in the previous sentence). This is because people who habitually engage in creating falsely rational defenses find reasoning based on the same types of protective thinking to be logically compelling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-35
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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