The relationship between provocation frequency and human aggressive responding

Don R. Cherek, Donald M. Dougherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Six adults participated in an experiment designed to study the effects of provocation frequency, that is, point subtractions, on free-operant aggressive respond ng. Subjects were given two response options on separate buttons labeled "A" and "B." Pressing Button A was maintainec by a fixed-ratio 100 schedule of point presentation. A counter was incremented when a point was earned, and these points were later exchanged for money (one point = 10 cents). Subjects were instructed that the completion of each fixed-ratio 10 on Button B subtracted a point from a second subject (fictitious) also responding to accumulate money. Button B responses were operationally defined as aggressive because they ostensibly presented an aversive stimulus (i.e., point subtraction) to another person. To engender Button B responding, the subjects were provoked by having points subtracted from their from their point counter at random intervals (ranging from 6 s to 120 s). Instructions attributed these point subtractions to Button B responding made by another subject (fictitious). Button B responding could initiate periods free from provocation. The duration of these provocation-free intervals was varied in two experiments. Subjects were exposed to five different levels of provocation frequency in order to determine if aggressive responding would be proportionate to the frequency of provocation. This experiment demonstrates that rates of responding on the B button generally increase as the frequency of point subtractions increases. This finding is consistent with the nonhuman research which has shown that the probability of aggressive responding is proportionate to the frequency of aversive stimulus presentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-370
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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