Toronto Metropolitan University
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An Investigation of the Contribution of Cognitive Biases to Anger Outcomes and Reactive Aggression in Individuals with High Trait Anger

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posted on 2024-02-13, 18:12 authored by Monique D. Tremblay

High trait anger is an individual difference variable characterized by more frequent anger experiences and challenges with anger regulation. Difficulties with anger control are reported in a number of psychological conditions. However, the cognitive processes contributing to problematic anger are still poorly understood. According to the Integrative Cognitive Model of Anger and Reactive Aggression (ICM), three cognitive processes together contribute to the elicitation of anger and reactive aggression: hostile interpretation biases (HIB); cognitive control; and anger rumination. This dissertation comprises two independent studies that explored the role of two of the mechanisms proposed by the ICM (i.e., HIB and cognitive control) to anger and reactive aggression using cognitive bias modification (CBM) methodology. Both studies involved self-report and behavioural measures of cognitive biases at pre and post-training. Self-report measures were used to assess anger symptoms and reactive aggression, and all participants underwent a simulated anger provocation to evaluate their propensity for reactive aggression following training. In Study 1, a two-session interpretation bias modification program targeting hostile interpretation biases was implemented with a sample of university students reporting elevated trait anger (N = 47). Relative to the control condition, participants who underwent the training demonstrated significant increases in positive interpretation ratings and significant reductions in HIB at post-training. Contrary to hypotheses, these effects did not extend to implicit HIB ratings, attentional biases, or anger symptoms. Further, participants did not demonstrate reductions in reactive aggression. In Study 2, a two-session cognitive control training (CCT) program was delivered to a community-based sample of high trait anger adults (N = 50). At post-training, there were no significant differences between groups on any of the evaluated outcomes. Given the lack of change in hostility-primed cognitive control following the CCT training program, this study was unable to effectively evaluate the role of cognitive control as outlined in the ICM. Overall, the results of this dissertation do not provide a clear picture with respect to the validity of the ICM for high trait anger individuals.





  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Psychology

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • Dissertation

Thesis Advisor

Dr. David Day



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