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Self-Distancing Reduces Aggressiveness, Study

Self-Distancing Reduces Aggressiveness, Study

(epharmanews) – A new study has found that people can minimize how aggressive and angry they feel when others try to provoke them by applying a simple strategy known as “self-distancing”.

Researchers advise people to view a provocative situation from a distance; i.e. as an observer rather than a participant, to attempt understanding their own feelings from this perspective.

“The secret is to not get immersed in your own anger and, instead, have a more detached view,” said Dominik Mischkowski, lead author of the research and a graduate student in psychology at Ohio State University.

The worst thing to do in an anger-inducing situation is what people normally do: try to focus on their hurt and angry feelings to understand them, said Brad Bushman, a co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State.

“If you focus too much on how you’re feeling, it usually backfires,” Bushman added.

Although many studies have asserted the effectiveness of this strategy in calming angry feelings, this is the first to show its effect immediately after people have been provoked when they are most likely to act aggressively.

The study, consisting of two stages, involved 95 students who were told they were told they were going to participate in a study about the effect music have on problem solving. They were asked to solve 14 difficult anagrams (rearranging a group of letters to form a word such as “pandemonium”) while listening to classical music and they had only seven seconds to solve each one of the anagrams.

In the first stage the students were asked to communicate their answers to the experimenter over an intercom. The experimenter had to provoke the participants by interrupting them several times and instructing them to speak louder over the intercom finally saying “Look, this is the third time I have to say this! Can’t you follow directions? Speak louder!”

In the second stage, the same steps were applied. However, the researchers told the participants that this time they will be communicating with other students, who were the researchers in fact and who did the same task of provoking the participants and interrupting them.

The participants then were grouped into 3 and asked to reimagine the scene for 45 seconds from different perspectives: the first group was asked to use the self-distancing perspective (“move away from the situation to a point where you can now watch the event unfold from a distance watch the situation unfold as if it were happening to the distant you all over again”) and then analyze their feelings. The second was told to adopt a self-immersed perspective (“see the situation unfold through your eyes as if it were happening to you all over again”) and then analyze their feelings surrounding the event. The third control group was not told how to view the scene or analyze their feelings.

The results of this study, published online in Experimental Social Psychology, showed that students who used the self-distancing perspective had fewer aggressive thoughts and felt less angry than both those who used the self-immersed approach and those in the control group.

“The self-distancing approach helped people regulate their angry feelings and also reduced their aggressive thoughts,” Mischkowski said.

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Prepared by: Nessrin Biram

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