How goal-fulfillment decreases aggression

Markus Denzler, Jens Förster, Nira Liberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We suggest that the goal to aggress increases accessibility of aggressive thoughts, and that after goal-fulfillment, accessibility of aggressive content is reduced. Experiment 1 showed an increase in accessibility of aggression after imagining an aggression-eliciting situation compared to non-aggressive content. After goal-fulfillment the accessibility of aggression was reduced, regardless of whether fulfillment was achieved by imagining physical or symbolic revenge. Experiment 2 showed similar effects for a non-aggressive conflict-resolution and, in addition, demonstrated a post-fulfillment reduction in actual aggressive behavior. Experiment 3 demonstrated that aggressive acts that do not constitute goal-fulfillment instead increase accessibility of aggression. Relations between our model and previous views on catharsis of aggression are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-100
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Accessibility
  • Aggression
  • Catharsis
  • Goal-fulfillment
  • Priming


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