A goal model of catharsis
Although research in social psychology has repeatedly refuted the idea that aggression reduces subsequent aggression (e.g., Bushman, 2002), we suggest a more fine-grained analysis of catharsis. We will present and discuss a social-cognitive goal model of cathartic effects in aggression that predicts under which conditions aggression increases or reduces subsequent aggression. The model assumes that the accessibility of aggression-related constructs is a function of goal fulfilment: Prior to goal fulfilment constructs related to the goal are highly accessible in order to facilitate goal fulfilment. However, after goal fulfilment this heightened accessibility loses its functionality and aggressive constructs are consequently inhibited. In the present article we will review empirical work testing this model. Moreover, we will extend this model to the effects of violent computer games. Finally we will discuss theoretical challenges and applied relevance of our model for intervention strategies aimed at reducing aggression.