Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Major Professor

Michael C. Rush

Committee Members

Michael D. McIntyre, M. Lane Morris, Michael R. Nash

Abstract

The Conditional Reasoning Test for Aggression (CRT-A; James, 1998; James & McIntyre, 2000) is an inductive reasoning test designed to assess the extent to which individuals use implicit reasoning biases – known as justification mechanisms (JMs) – to justify engaging in behavioral aggression. James and colleagues (James, 1998; James & Mazerolle, 2002; James et al., 2005) have consistently described the CRT-A as an indirect measure of these implicit cognitions, or JMs, but they recently reframed their discussion of the test to emphasize its theoretical grounding in the concept of defense mechanisms (A. Freud, 1936/1966). In particular, they indicated that the JMs for aggression are influenced by the defense mechanism known as Rationalization (James et al., 2005). However, a close examination of the JMs for aggression reveals that they may also be influenced by a number of additional defense mechanisms. The main purposes of this paper are: 1) To demonstrate the theoretical consistency between defense mechanisms and the CRT-A, and 2) to empirically evaluate the extent to which the CRT-A and its JMs for aggression are related to specific, theoretically relevant defense mechanisms. The theory of ego defense is reviewed, the CRT-A is integrated into the framework of that theory, the JMs for aggression are aligned with specific defense mechanisms that appear similar in function and form, and hypotheses are developed to guide empirical tests of the proposed relations between the JMs for aggression (as assessed with the CRT-A) and those specific defense mechanisms (as assessed with both the Defense-Q [Davidson & MacGregor, 1996] and the MacORDS [MacGregor, Olson, Langford, Meterson, & Lahti, 2003]). Results were largely non-supportive of the hypotheses. In particular, none of the defense mechanisms under investigation (Rationalization, Projection, Grandiosity, Turning Against Others, Identification with the Aggressor, Devaluation, and Neurotic Denial) showed any relation to the CRT-A at the item level. Furthermore, only Grandiosity showed a somewhat consistent relationship with CRT-A scale scores, and even this was exceptionally small. Implications include the possibility that JMs for aggression are not as implicit/unconscious as once believed, and that the CRT-A’s predictive ability may be cogently explained in terms of the theory of threatened egotism (Baumeister, Smart, & Boden, 1996).

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