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Original Articles and Reviews

Can Aggression Provide Pleasure?

Published Online:

Abstract. We investigated the pleasurability of aggressive behavioral decisions. Four questionnaires (on hedonicity, decision making, justification of aggression, and impulsiveness) were given to 50 participants of both sexes, ranging from 16 to 80 years old. Most participants avoided unpleasant behaviors as part of a trend to maximize pleasure and to minimize displeasure. Mean hedonicity ratings followed a bell curve with increasing levels of aggressiveness (p < .0001). Thus, the participants chose neither passive nor highly aggressive responses to social conflicts, with both extremes receiving the most unpleasant ratings. The results offer empirical support for an interesting point: People may derive pleasure from aggression as long as it is exhibited on a low to medium level. More precisely, people associate pleasure with aggression up to a certain point: Aggressive responses of medium intensity were rated significantly less unpleasant than the most passive and most aggressive ones, which were associated with less pleasure. Conclusion: In social conflicts, behavior tends to maximize experienced pleasure; and aggression produces pleasure in the aggressor, except at extreme intensities. The point that mild to moderate aggression brings pleasure, whereas extreme or severe aggression does not, provides a perspective that may reconcile conflicting observations in the literature.