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Through the Looking Glass: Self, Inauthenticity, and (Mass) Violence

aDartmouth College, USA
bUniversity of South Carolina, USA
cVirginia Tech, USA

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-1-83797-477-1, eISBN: 978-1-83797-476-4

Publication date: 14 December 2023



Various mass shooters have explained their violent actions as a response to failing at dominant forms of masculinity, including rejection from women and negative social comparisons to other men. The affect control theory of self (ACT-Self) posits that interactions that violate one's sense of self cause inauthenticity. This disequilibrium motivates behaviors that restore self-meanings, which may partially explain the link between challenges to the self and compensatory violence.


In Study 1, we use ACT-Self to examine the relationship between inauthenticity, violent fantasies, and physical aggression in the autobiography of one mass shooter. We quantify self-sentiments and inauthenticity using ACT-Self measures and methods, and perform a thematic analysis of the shooter's interpretations of and responses to disconfirming events. In Study 2, we examine the relationship between these same concepts in a survey of 18-to-32-year-old men (N = 847).


Study 1 shows that the shooter's inability to achieve popularity, wealth, sex, and relationships with beautiful women (compared to other men) produced inauthenticity that he resolved through violent fantasies, increasingly aggressive behavior, and ultimately, mass violence. Study 2 finds that inauthenticity arising from reflected appraisals from women predicts self-reported violent fantasies and physical aggression in a convenience sample of men in emerging adulthood.


This work leverages a formal social psychological theory to examine the link between self-processes and violence. Our findings suggest that men's inauthenticity, particularly produced by reflected appraisals from women, is positively associated with violent fantasies and acts. Further work is needed to assess whether this relationship is causal and for whom.




This research was supported by funding from the Office of the Dean of Faculty at Dartmouth College and an ASPIRE 1 Grant from the University of South Carolina Office of Research.


Rogers, K.B., Boyle, K.M. and Scaptura, M.N. (2023), "Through the Looking Glass: Self, Inauthenticity, and (Mass) Violence ", Kalkhoff, W., Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 40), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 23-47.



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Copyright © 2024 Kimberly B. Rogers, Kaitlin M. Boyle and Maria N. Scaptura. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited