Horton and Rice Assess Anger within Prominent Criminological Theory

September 25, 2012

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Department of Psychology Assistant Professor Randall Horton and Department of Criminal Justice Assistant Professor Stephen Rice published "On the Variability of Anger Cross-Culturally: An Assessment of General Strain Theory's Primary Mediator" in the journal Deviant Behavior. They were joined by Nicole Piquero and Alex Piquero of the University of Texas-Dallas.

Situating their findings within the predictions of general strain theory, a prominent criminological theory, Horton, Rice and their colleagues examined variability in the experience of anger across cultures.  Using data from structured interviews and fieldwork in ethnically Tibetan communities of India and in the United States, their findings suggest cultural differences in the social approval of anger, the perceived effects for one's self from becoming angry, reaction tendencies to open social expressions of anger and in emotional memory. 

"Our research suggests that cultural beliefs and practices can play an important role in shaping when people become angry, whether they show that anger to others, and what they expect to happen as a result of becoming angry," says Horton. "Tibetan culture, rooted in Mahayana Buddhist teachings, texts and institutions, for instance, finds little or no useful place for the human experience of anger. This contrasts markedly with American views. Dr. Rice, our colleagues and I are tracing implications of this variability for understanding and modeling criminal behavior across cultures." 

Adds Rice: "Anger, general strain theory's primary mediator, is framed as a byproduct of personally or vicariously experienced strains such as the failure to achieve positively valued goals, the presentation of negative stimuli such as discrimination or violence, or the loss of positively valued stimuli such as the death of a close intimate. The study's findings suggest a need for further elaboration of this key theoretical construct."