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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jay W. Jackson


Department of Psychology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne


Intergroup aggression may be defined as any behavior intended to hurt another person because of his or her group membership. We tested a person x situation model of intergroup aggression that integrates group identity processes, situational forces, and personality. Since social norms prohibit unjustified aggression (Otten, et al., 1996), we expected aggressive responses only after provocation. Drawing from research on individual-group discontinuity (Wildschut, et al., 2003), we expected provocation to stimulate more aggression in an intergroup condition than in an interpersonal condition. Finally, we expected participants with “dark” personalities (high levels of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) to have exaggerated responses to intergroup provocation (Jonason & Webster, 2010).

Participants (N=212) completed measures of personality and exchanged essays with an online partner, characterized as a local student (interpersonal condition) or an international student (intergroup condition). Participants then received either insulting feedback (provocation condition) or praise (no provocation condition) from their partner. Next, participants completed the positive-and-negative-affect scale. Finally, aggression was assessed using the tangram paradigm (Barlest & Anderson, 2011). Participants selected 11 tangram puzzles for their partner to solve to potentially win a prize. Aggression was defined as the number of hard tangrams selected (an act intended to hurt the partner’s chances of winning).

We found that narcissistic participants reacted more aggressively toward an outgroup member after provocation compared to their low narcissistic counterparts. Additional analyses determined that feelings of anger accounted for the high levels of aggression expressed by the insulted narcissists. The results support a person x situation approach to intergroup aggression and have implications for integrating personality and social psychological approaches. In general, it seems that there are some distinct factors that uniquely influence intergroup aggression, including the dynamics of ingroup bias, individual-group discontinuity, and certain personality dispositions.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Narcissism Moderates the Relationship between Provocation and Intergroup Aggression

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