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Influence of everyday stress: mechanisms that elicit excitation transfer and dark behavior

Christie Tetreault (School of Psychology, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland)
Eva Hoff (Department of Psychology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 22 March 2019

Issue publication date: 25 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore if a ringing cell phone could impact cognitive performance as well as being agitating to provoke aggressive reactions. The study investigated variables that could impact a participant’s willingness to aggress and retaliate, such as sensitivity to arousal and dark personalities (DRPs), Machiavellianism, narcissism, and subclinical psychopathy and sadism.


There were 128 participants (77 women and 51 men). The cognitive load task consisted of forming anagrams while being in a high or low provocation condition. Participants were subsequently asked how willing they would be to allow one out-group member to be harmed in favor of saving several in-group members. Three personality measures were used: two measuring DRPs and one measuring arousal sensitivity.


The authors discovered that older age and subclinical psychopathy were significant predictors for the willingness to aggress. Those in the high provocation condition retaliated the most against the experimenter, and a participant’s English ability was the only variable that predicted good performance on the cognitive task.


The results warrant further research into how personality types, aggression, and everyday, multiple arousal sources intertwine to inform personalized evidence-based interventions. Organizational and educational psychologists could also use this research to in form how offices and schools are run.



Tetreault, C. and Hoff, E. (2019), "Influence of everyday stress: mechanisms that elicit excitation transfer and dark behavior", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 169-179.



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