Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

David Chester


Aggressive behavior is a harmful and pervasive psychological and behavioral phenomenon. Inherent to every act of aggression are decisions regarding the modality, severity, and timing of such actions. Prevailing theories of aggression emphasize the role of cognitive processes in aggression, especially retaliatory aggression. Despite this emphasis, few cognitive processes have been examined for their possible involvement in making decisions about retaliatory aggression. Across two studies, I examined the role of processing fluency in making decisions about retaliation. I drew from contemporary models of aggression (e.g., the General Aggression Model) and processing fluency (e.g., the Multi-Source Account) to develop hypotheses in this novel extension of the aggression literature. Study 1 provided correlational evidence that processing fluency facilitates greater retaliation severity among vengeance-seekers and that such fluency linked with greater levels of antagonistic dispositions (i.e., Sadism). Study 2 extended these findings with a between-subjects experiment which provided evidence that induced angry rumination increased processing fluency for retaliation decisions, indirectly facilitating greater severity. Both studies also provided evidence that the Drift Diffusion Model can account for such decisions and that drift rate estimates are a valid measure of processing fluency. These findings hold major implications for contemporary theories of aggression and processing fluency, laboratory research, and clinical practice.


© Samuel J. West

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Date of Submission