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Arrest As Displaced Aggression

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 40 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2013 Pages: 1149-1162
Richard R. Johnson
Date Published
October 2013
14 pages

This study examined displaced aggression theory applied to police officers.


Applied to police officers, displaced aggression theory would suggest that an officer primed for a negative affect by a personal family conflict will be more likely to arrest, and less likely to show lenience toward, criminal suspects engaged in minor offenses. The present study primed a sample of police officers for either positive or negative affects. The police officer participants were then presented with a vignette involving a drunken driver that contained details presenting only the minimum level of evidence to justify a legal arrest. The respondent officers primed for a negative affect were significantly more likely to indicate they would arrest the driver. This result held even after controlling for the officers' ascribed characteristics in a multivariate analysis. The results suggest that officers primed for a negative affect by personal circumstances are more likely to take out their frustration by exercising their discretion to arrest for a minor offense. Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.