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Victus 05-10-2006 10:29 AM

I'm thinking about doing a study on instrumental aggression (aggression for the sake of a tangible goal or reward, rather than being prompeted by frustration or emotional outburst). First off I'd like to describe the gist of the experiment (still a gleem in my eye), and then ask for any interesting research on instrumental aggression that anyone has encountered, in the event that I've missed something.

My primary motive is not instrumental aggression itself, but rather its relation to psychopathy (my main interest of psychopathology). Many psychological disorders are associated with an increase in reactive aggression (frustration or emotionally based, no tangible reward). This can be seen in CD/ODD/Childhood and adult bipolar disorder/Intermittent explosive disorder and the list goes on. It has been shown that reactive aggression is linked to frontal lobe dysfunctions, particularly in the ventral (or orbital) regions. While it is true that (criminal) psychopaths display more reactive aggression than non-dysfunctioned controls, they are unique in that they also show a heavy bias towards instrumental aggression (criminals have a 50-50 chance of having committed reactive or instrumental aggression, psychopaths have a 3-97% slide in favor of instrumentality).

Where reactive aggression is linked to poor behavioral inhibition (seen in psychopaths and other disorders), instrumental aggression, I would posit, is a function of poor socialization. One of the unique factors seen in psychopathy is a limited emotional affect (Factor 1 PCL-R). This could explain why instrumental aggression is more prevalent in psychopaths.

The study I'm considering doing would use a community sample (university students), and as such would use a diagnostic device other than the PCL-R (gold standard in forensic psychopathy diagnosis, but inappropriate for community samples), almost certainly the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) would be used. It's fairly easy to complete, score and interpret. In line with some studies, I would be using what's called an 'extreme group analysis', where in the top 10% are taken as 'psychopaths' and the bottom 10% as 'non-psychopaths'.

Participants will complete a 'game' on a computer, which is described as follows...

1) There are believed to be 3 players, when it is actually only them playing against the computer.
2) Each player can choose to either gain 1 point per trial, or to steal points from other 'players' in set amounts (1, 10, 25, 50), there are 100 trials.
3) Players can only 'mug' one other player per trial.
4) The amount they mug for is directly linked to the probability that they will be revealed as the theif to their victim (1%, 10%, 25% or 50% respectively). Regardless of whether or not they are revealed, the keep what they steal.
5) Participants are told that only those scoring over 100 points at the end will receive the credit point normally given for participating in experiments (they actually get it either way, this is simply a prompt for instrumental aggression)
6) Their current score is always on screen.
7) The participants are never, themselves, robbed.

The hypothesis is that participants scoring high on the Fearless-Dominance and Impulsive-Antisociality factors (analagous to Factors one and two on the PCL-R) of the PPI will show more intense mugging, earlier onset mugging, and more frequent mugging.


Can anyone suggest any refinements, I just had this thought last night and jotted it down on a page before bedtime.

Choobus 05-10-2006 12:04 PM

Fuck knows how to do the experiment, but you ought to let it be known that if you don't get the funding you need some arses are going be kicked.

Kate 05-10-2006 12:09 PM

Quote:

Victus wrote
First off I'd like to describe the gist of the experiment (still a gleem in my eye), and then ask for any interesting research on instrumental aggression that anyone has encountered, in the event that I've missed something.

I once had a piano lid slam down on my hands. It fucking hurt. Is there a format you're using to document these encounters?

Victus 05-10-2006 12:13 PM

Perhaps I should have added, "scientists, post too"?

The main hang ups I'm having are as follows...

1) Letting the participants choose any level of mugging that they want might be more accurate as a gauge for instrumental aggression.
2) The probability of being caught was to act as a mediator, though I don't believe it to be truly needed.
3) Telling the participants that they must get above 100 points as a prompt for instrumental aggression may flood the results. I mean, who wouldn't take 'points' for the sake of an increase in their grades? Also, they only have to rob once, for one point, in order to reach their goals.

Victus 05-10-2006 12:14 PM

Quote:

Choobus wrote
Fuck knows how to do the experiment, but you ought to let it be known that if you don't get the funding you need some arses are going be kicked.

There's really nothing to be funded, the total cost of the experiment would probably be under $50.

Victus 05-10-2006 10:44 PM

I said psychopathy, not psychosis. Read it again.
Edit: I'll spell it out using less of a review of previous material...

I'm studying psychopathy, which is associated with instrumental aggression (unlike any other psychopathological condition that I am aware of). The 'game', as described above, is designed to provoke instrumental aggression (hurting another as a means to an end). The hypothesis thus far is that participants scoring high on the PPI (the typical measure of psychopathy in community samples) will show different (increased) patterns of instrumental aggression than the control participants.

Victus 05-12-2006 05:59 PM

I used those other disorders as examples of reactive aggression caused by frontal lobe dysfunctions. Learn to read and maybe you won't have to make such stupid posts all the time.

Reverend Blasphemy 05-12-2006 06:28 PM

What's your negative control?

Victus 05-12-2006 06:41 PM

Quote:

With 10% more blasphemy.. wrote
What's your negative control?

Participants scoring in the low 10% of the PPI.

Gnosital 05-12-2006 07:54 PM

Quote:

anon wrote
Quote:

Victus wrote
My primary motive is not instrumental aggression itself, but rather its relation to psychopathy (my main interest of psychopathology). Many psychological disorders are associated with an increase in reactive aggression (frustration or emotionally based, no tangible reward). This can be seen in CD/ODD/Childhood and adult bipolar disorder /Intermittent explosive disorder and the list goes on.

OKAY, got it. I think the confusion arises because ….

1) psychopathy is distinct from psychosis. While psychopathy is your area of interest, psychosis is not and thus, you are not so careful with the possibility that bi-polar disorder could have psychosis. That a reader could reasonably think that you are also dealing with psychotics.

What the hell are you talking about??? Victus never said anything about studying psychosis, and bipolar is not classified as a psychotic disorder, even though some manic episodes may incorporate near delusional thinking.

Quote:

anon wrote
2) Not all bi-polar disorders have psychosis, but some bi-polar disorders have psychosis, as per your cited case of ‘adult bi-polar disorder’, the person would not be a psychotic.

Victus didn’t cite a case of adult bipolar disorder, and never said anything about psychosis.

Quote:

anon wrote
3) where bi-polar disorders have psychosis, then the person with bi-polar disorder, as per your cited case of ‘adult bi-polar disorder’, the person would also be a psychotic.

??????

Quote:

anon wrote
4) psychosis is a severe form of mental illness often requiring medication, while neurosis is a lesser form of mental illnesss.

A) you are fixated on psychosis which wasn’t even remotely the point of anything Victus wrote and B) where are you getting your info from, DSM I? The term neurosis isn’t even used anymore.

Quote:

anon wrote
5) you would notice that Albert Einstein uses the term ‘optical illusion’ and he does NOT use the term ‘psychosis’ because psychosis is a serious medical mental illness. Einstein being a real scientist would not be careless in use of incorrect medical term to convey wrong understanding, nor would Einstein consider mankind as having the more severe mental illness of psychosis. Instead Einstein sees the greater potentiality of mankind to over come his optical illusion of consciousness…..

6) your failure to draw the distinction between the type of adult bi-polar disorder, led me to think that you are dealing with the psychotic bi-polar disorder person, while what you had in mind is the non psychotic bi-polar disorder. You may wish to read up on the types of adult bi-polar disorder, to see, if there is a such a distinction between the psychotic type and non psychotic type of adult bi-polar disorder, or how the experts in the field of adult bi-polar disorder view it.

You may wish to be evaluated for psychotic ideation, as you are definitely not making any sense whatsoever. Albert Einstein was not a psychologist, either.

Quote:

anon wrote
7) to merely view ALL adult bi-polar disorder as psychopathic would clearly be erroneous, for the reasons state above, as there are can psychotic adult bi-polar disorder.

Word salad?

Quote:

anon wrote
8) proper use of term is thus essential to convey proper understanding. In fact, to say a person is psychotic is libelous (in writing) and slander (orally) and can be subject to a defamation suit, unless the person who says the plaintiff is psychotic can show that it is true that the plaintiff is psychotic, like a psychotic adult bi-polar disorder person, and then the law courr would judge whether the plaintiff is psychotic according to standards of modern medicine and modern psychiatry and not any other standards.

Calling a person psychotic is not against the law, and unless said person could prove that the so-called libel or slander caused actual financial or physical harm, then said person’s lawsuit would be thrown out of court. So I’m guessing you’re not psychotic then, but bipolar?

there, I had to get that out of my system, now I can think clearly again.

Gnosital 05-12-2006 08:37 PM

Quote:

Victus wrote
Where reactive aggression is linked to poor behavioral inhibition (seen in psychopaths and other disorders), instrumental aggression, I would posit, is a function of poor socialization. One of the unique factors seen in psychopathy is a limited emotional affect (Factor 1 PCL-R). This could explain why instrumental aggression is more prevalent in psychopaths.

Why would you link psychopathy to poor socialization, when there is a fair bit of evidence for altered neurophysiology? I'm not really familiar with the literature on psychopathy outside of what I've read on neurophysiology (sorry, I don't have the refs), but I recall seeing papers on hypoactivity of cortical (and maybe limbic?) structures, and something about smaller orbitofrontal regions. Besides that, I recall there is a component of the diagnostic criteria in DSM-IV that includes manipulative qualities of the psychopath, and as I understand it, psychopaths can be incredibly charming and highly socially skilled when it suits them to be. Anyway, I'm not sure that it's necessary to bring in socialization for the purposes of your study, as socialization is not a variable in your proposed design, nor does it sound like you'll be making any generalizations about socialization from your results.

Quote:

The study I'm considering doing would use a community sample (university students), and as such would use a diagnostic device other than the PCL-R (gold standard in forensic psychopathy diagnosis, but inappropriate for community samples), almost certainly the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) would be used. It's fairly easy to complete, score and interpret. In line with some studies, I would be using what's called an 'extreme group analysis', where in the top 10% are taken as 'psychopaths' and the bottom 10% as 'non-psychopaths'.
Maybe a potential stumbling block here is your sampling population... I don't know the instrument you plan to use, but I suspect it would have to be pretty sensitive to detect a significant difference in psychopathy among non-incarcerated (and hopefully not extremely psychopathic) college students. Is that something that it can do reliably? If so, then you are in good shape. If not, then you might have a problem creating a big enough difference in the means for statistical power.

Quote:

Participants will complete a 'game' on a computer, which is described as follows...

1) There are believed to be 3 players, when it is actually only them playing against the computer.
2) Each player can choose to either gain 1 point per trial, or to steal points from other 'players' in set amounts (1, 10, 25, 50), there are 100 trials.
3) Players can only 'mug' one other player per trial.
4) The amount they mug for is directly linked to the probability that they will be revealed as the theif to their victim (1%, 10%, 25% or 50% respectively). Regardless of whether or not they are revealed, the keep what they steal.
5) Participants are told that only those scoring over 100 points at the end will receive the credit point normally given for participating in experiments (they actually get it either way, this is simply a prompt for instrumental aggression)
6) Their current score is always on screen.
7) The participants are never, themselves, robbed.

The hypothesis is that participants scoring high on the Fearless-Dominance and Impulsive-Antisociality factors (analagous to Factors one and two on the PCL-R) of the PPI will show more intense mugging, earlier onset mugging, and more frequent mugging.
I wonder how much trouble you'd have getting this through your IRB? I mean, it's sort of like Milgram's study that revealed to people how vicious and Nazi-like they could be. There would definitely have to be some deception, and you probably couldn't do a full reveal on the debriefing, and I'm not sure you could get an informed consent on that little detail of them not getting credit. Do you have a pretty flexible review board?

One other thing; and I may not fully understand the context of the study, so please set me straight if I'm not interpreting well, but I'm wondering what would be the point of doing a study to show a correlation between a psychopathic personality type and a score on a game that tests tendency toward instrumental aggression (as a psychopathic personality trait)? If the link between psychopathy and instrumental aggression is already as well established as you indicated, then are you testing the PPI for use as a diagnostic or predictive tool? Or is the correlation between instrumental aggression and psychopathy not as definite as I'm thinking?

You might want to try getting permission to access a sampling frame at a prison instead of a college. You will more than likely get a nice sample of psychopaths there. Of course, that might increase the costs of your study, you'd have to pay your participants in cigarettes instead of grade points. (joking... sort of...)

Victus 05-12-2006 09:33 PM

Quote:

scathach wrote
Why would you link psychopathy to poor socialization, when there is a fair bit of evidence for altered neurophysiology? I'm not really familiar with the literature on psychopathy outside of what I've read on neurophysiology (sorry, I don't have the refs), but I recall seeing papers on hypoactivity of cortical (and maybe limbic?) structures, and something about smaller orbitofrontal regions. Besides that, I recall there is a component of the diagnostic criteria in DSM-IV that includes manipulative qualities of the psychopath, and as I understand it, psychopaths can be incredibly charming and highly socially skilled when it suits them to be. Anyway, I'm not sure that it's necessary to bring in socialization for the purposes of your study, as socialization is not a variable in your proposed design, nor does it sound like you'll be making any generalizations about socialization from your results.

Your analysis is quite accurate, however dysfunction in the central amygdala in psychopaths has been hypothosized to manifest as failed socialization (Blair, 2005). It is one of the proposed 'causes' (as much as such a thing is possible in a probabistic science) for instrumental aggression.

Quote:

scathach wrote
Maybe a potential stumbling block here is your sampling population... I don't know the instrument you plan to use, but I suspect it would have to be pretty sensitive to detect a significant difference in psychopathy among non-incarcerated (and hopefully not extremely psychopathic) college students. Is that something that it can do reliably? If so, then you are in good shape. If not, then you might have a problem creating a big enough difference in the means for statistical power.

It has been tested on community samples (including undergraduate students), (Benning 2003, 2005). Your concerns are valid though, as university students are, logically, less likely to have some of the impulsive-antisociality traits associated with psychopathy, in comparison to the general population. Luckily, the primary purpose of the PPI is to detect non-forensic (non-jailed) psychopathy traits. It is seperated into two factors, Fearless dominance (the 'core' traits of psychopathy) and impulsive antisociality (the violent and socially deviant traits commonly associated with, but not needed for, psychopathy). As such the primary predictor being used would be FD traits, with IA traits being of secondary interest. There is no preclusion to persons with high FD reaching the university level (infact their ruthlessness would probably help them advance in some instances).

Quote:

scathach wrote
I wonder how much trouble you'd have getting this through your IRB? I mean, it's sort of like Milgram's study that revealed to people how vicious and Nazi-like they could be. There would definitely have to be some deception, and you probably couldn't do a full reveal on the debriefing, and I'm not sure you could get an informed consent on that little detail of them not getting credit. Do you have a pretty flexible review board?

The risk would be minimal, as they're not even believing to be hurting anyone else, only stealing abstract 'points' from them. As such, I doubt the ethics board would have a big problem with it. Our ethics guidelines require us to disclose everything about the experiment once its over, and provide contact information to the board as well. Still, I doubt this would make many waves, as taking points from people is probably less traumatic that administering (fake) shocks to lethally punish a person.

Quote:

scathach wrote
One other thing; and I may not fully understand the context of the study, so please set me straight if I'm not interpreting well, but I'm wondering what would be the point of doing a study to show a correlation between a psychopathic personality type and a score on a game that tests tendency toward instrumental aggression (as a psychopathic personality trait)? If the link between psychopathy and instrumental aggression is already as well established as you indicated, then are you testing the PPI for use as a diagnostic or predictive tool? Or is the correlation between instrumental aggression and psychopathy not as definite as I'm thinking?

I've only seen one study on it (though it is a widely referenced paper and generally accepted as a 'truth' in the field). This was only shown in forensic populations though, and never in community samples (to my knowledge). Studies on community samples are new, as previous tools have only been forensic based. The PCL-R takes way too long to apply in community samples, whereas self-report measures (while admittedly less trustworthy) take less time to complete, score and interpret.

Quote:

scathach wrote
You might want to try getting permission to access a sampling frame at a prison instead of a college. You will more than likely get a nice sample of psychopaths there. Of course, that might increase the costs of your study, you'd have to pay your participants in cigarettes instead of grade points. (joking... sort of...)

Somewhat defeats the purpose, but yeah. The 'unsuccessful' psychopaths in prison populations would be alot easier and frequent than in the community sample. There is, however, a way around this that has been used in studies with the PPI before. It's called 'extreme group analysis'. We split the top and bottom 10% of PPI scores and make our groups from there. With a large enough sample, it works (apparently, I'm actually quite weak at math).

PS: Thanks for routing anon's post. I couldn't be bothered for sheer idiocy and illiteracy. Excellent critique and questioning.

Tenspace 05-12-2006 11:52 PM

Nothing will get you banned faster than playing lawyer.

Quote:

Also seek psychiatric advice on use of terminology, word, diagnosis and treatment of psychosis, and bi-polar disorder.
Gentle, Scatty. ;)

Kate 05-13-2006 06:07 AM

Quote:

Ten wrote
Gentle, Scatty. [

Naw! C'mon! Sic her!

Down21 05-14-2006 12:07 PM

Im just wondering how good a model for instrumental aggression is this computer game? Im sure you could get a few false positives, since it is a lot easier to virtually mug somebody. Are you allowed ask for histories of aggressive behaviour/ criminal conviction etc. and then correlate that with your top 10% ers?


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