Influence of everyday stress: mechanisms that elicit excitation transfer and dark behavior

Published date27 June 2019
Date27 June 2019
AuthorChristie Tetreault,Eva Hoff
Subject MatterHealth & social care
Influence of everyday stress: mechanisms
that elicit excitation transfer and
dark behavior
Christie Tetreault and Eva Hoff
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore if a ringing cell phone could impact cognitive performance
as well as being agitating to provoke aggressive reactions. The study investigated variables that could impact
a participants willingness to aggress and retaliate, such as sensitivity to arousal and dark personalities
(DRPs), Machiavellianism, narcissism, and subclinical psychopathy and sadism.
Design/methodology/approach There were 128 participants (77 women and 51 men). The cognitive
load task consisted of forming anagrams while being in a high or low provocation condition. Participants were
subsequently asked how willing they would be to allow one out-group member to be harmed in favor of
saving several in-group members. Three personality measures were used: two measuring DRPs and one
measuring arousal sensitivity.
Findings The authors discovered that older age and subclinical psychopathy were significant predictors for
the willingness to aggress. Those in the high provocation condition retaliated the most against the
experimenter, and a participants English ability was the only variable that predicted good performance on
the cognitive task.
Originality/value The results warrant further research into how personality types, aggression, and
everyday, multiple arousal sources intertwine to inform personalized evidence-based interventions.
Organizational and educational psychologists could also use this research to in form how officesand schools
are run.
Keywords Aggression, Cognitive load, Cell phones, Excitation transfer, Arousal sensitivity, Dark Tetrad
Paper type Research paper
In daily life, our sen ses are perpetually bombard ed with stimuli from traffic no ise, cars or smells.
However, are we awa re of their effect on us, and can they alte r our behavior subconsciously?
Cell phones have become the normal mode of communication worldwide, and their impact
has been studied under numerous conditions, such as driving performance (Bhargava and
Pathania, 2013), time management (Roberts and Pirog, 2013) and multi-tasking (Grinols and
Rajesh, 2014). Cell phones have become an appendage, yet sit in a quiet place and you can
seetheannoyancegrowonpeoples faces while someone talks loudly or has a loud
notification ale rt. The question tha t then arises is whet her or not this annoya nce (arousal) has
subsequent impacts, such as perceived stress, negative affect or even aggression. The main
purpose of this study was to determine if an external annoyance of an everyday item (e.g. a
ringing cell phone ) during a cognitive task impaired performance and subsequently influenced
the likelihood of b eing willing to aggress and/or re taliate. Additionally, we aim ed to tease apart
how particular personalities and dispositions (Machiavellianism, narcissism, subclinical
psychopathy, sa dism and arousal sensitiv ity [ASN]) uniquely influ enced reactions and beha vior.
Misattribution of arousal and the excitation transfer
If you had a stressfulcommute home and as soon as you walked in the door, yourpartner yelled at
you, you would yell back. Had you had a peaceful commute, would you have reacted similarly?
Received 15 November 2018
Revised 16 February 2019
Accepted 18 February 2019
Christie Tetreault is based at
School of Psychology,
National University of Ireland
Galway, Galway, Ireland.
Eva Hoff is based at
Department of Psychology,
Lund University, Lund,
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-11-2018-0390 VOL. 11 NO. 3 2019, pp.169-179, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599

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