Coleman, P. T., Goldman, J., and Kugler, K. (2009). Emotional intractability: Gender, anger, aggression, and rumination in conflict. International Journal of Conflict Management, 20, 113-131.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how people’s gender-role identities (self-identified masculinity and femininity) affect their perceptions of the emotional role of the humiliated victim in conflicts (and the norms surrounding the role), and how these perceptions affect the negativity and aggressiveness of their responses and the degree to which they ruminate over conflict and remain hostile over time.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper builds on literature on humiliation, aggression, gender, and rumination and presents a correlational scenario study with 96 male graduate students from a large Northeastern University.
Findings – Males with high-masculine gender-role identities are more likely to perceive the social norms surrounding a humiliating conflictual encounter as privileging aggression, and to report intentions to act accordingly, than males with high-feminine gender-role identities. Furthermore, participants are more likely to ruminate about the conflict, and therefore maintain their anger and aggressive intentions a week later, when they perceive the situation to privilege aggression.
Research limitations/implications – This paper sheds light on how aspects of peoples’ identities can affect their perceptions of social norms (i.e. whether or not aggression is condoned), and degrees of dysphoric rumination and aggression in conflict. Subsequent research should investigate the social conditions influencing these processes.
Originality/value – Research on the psychology of humiliation has identified it as a central factor in many intractable conflicts. However, this is the first study to begin to specify the nature of this relationship and to investigate it in a laboratory setting.