Does Experience of Failure Decrease Executive, Regulatory Abilities and Increase Aggression?

  •  Farzaneh Pahlavan    
  •  Christophe Mouchiroud    
  •  Emna Nemlaghi-Manis    


Recent advances in the study of affective-cognitive regulation of aggressive behavior suggest positive correlations between poor executive capacities (ECF) and dispositional negative reactivity (Posner & Rothbart, 2000). If the global assumption is correct what are the likely implications of predicted relation? The central issue in present research was to verify this assumption and examine how situational characteristics could alter executive performance in persons with Dysexecutive Syndrome (DES, Baddeley, 1998) and healthy adults (students, health workers) to explore some of the consequences of those modifications for aggressive tendencies. Precisely, we expected the positive correlations between poor executive performances and high aggressive tendencies at dispositional as well situational levels, except for health workers, given their professional duties.

In order to assess cognitive capacities and dispositional as well as situational aggressive tendencies, during two studies (First study: N=60 students; Second study: N= 60 students, N= 24 patient with Dysexecutive Syndrome, ; N= 45 health care workers) right-handed French-speakers participants completed twice, during an initial phase of the study and one week after, a series of standard executive functions neuropsychological tests and aggression questionnaires. During second phase, participants executed a task introducing the experimental feedbacks (success, neutral, failure) before completion of neuropsychological tests and questionnaires. The results provided evidence of a dispositional relationship between poor executive functioning and aggressive tendencies, and extended it to situational level. For all participants, it showed that increases in impulsiveness (negative emotionality and aggressive choices) due to a negative feedback were concomitant with an inability to focus individuals’ attention on ongoing tasks.

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