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Role of moral beliefs in aggression: an investigation across two cultures

By Naumana Amjad


The overarching aim of this thesis was to contribute to the understanding of specific moral-cognitive processes and mechanisms and their association with aggressive behaviour across age groups and across two cultures.\ud A review of the literature identified the key questions for present research. There is extensive evidence that the normative acceptability of aggression is associated with aggressive behaviour. However the acceptability for retaliation in specific situations and discernment between justified and unjustified retaliation has not been thoroughly researched. Secondly the role of self-censure and self-reflection 'in the regulation of aggressive behaviour needs to be examined further. Finally hostility between groups and its association with beliefs has not been investigated in Muslim samples. Eight empirical studies addressed these specific questions.\ud Study one investigated the component structure of Normative Beliefs about aggression Scale using samples from Pakistan and the UK. Beliefs about equal retaliation, excessive retaliation and beliefs about general aggression were found to be distinct components, were endorsed differentially and had different level of association with aggressive behaviour across both countries. Study two established the discriminant validity of this distinction by comparing a group of violent adolescents with a matched group of non-violent adolescents on acceptability of these types of retaliation.\ud Study 3 examined the association of self-censure with aggressive behaviour and normative beliefs about aggression and retaliation. Self-censure was negatively associated with aggressive behaviour as well as with beliefs indicating that higher the endorsement of aggression, lower would be the expected self-censure as a result of aggression.\ud Study four using retrospective accounts of real aggressive episodes found that private self-consciousness predicted self-censure as well as thinking about one's own aggressive actions. Both thinking and self-censure were negatively associated with frequency of aggressive acts.\ud The beliefs about direct and indirect aggression among Pakistani adolescents were tested in Study five and a reliable measure was developed and found to have convergent validity.\ud Study six examined moral reasoning among children and explored at a preliminary level a possible intervention for changing beliefs about victimization in school.\ud Study seven and eight extended investigation of beliefs to intergroup context (anti-Semitic beliefs) and found that extreme beliefs were related to hostile intentions. An educational intervention was carried out which showed that beliefs could be influenced through creating empathy and stressing intergroup similarity

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