Self-control and aggression

Thomas F. Denson, C. Nathan DeWall, Eli J. Finkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Citations (SciVal)


Psychological science has largely neglected the role of self-control in studying aggression. Fortunately, the past half decade has witnessed a surge of research on this long-neglected topic, including two self-control-informed integrative theories of aggression. Robust experimental evidence demonstrates that self-control failures frequently predict aggression and, conversely, that bolstering self-control decreases aggression. Research on rumination also suggests that maladaptive anger regulation decreases self-control and, consequently, increases aggression. Advances from social-affective and cognitive neuroscience suggest that the neural mechanisms involved in emotion regulation and cognitive control mediate the relationship between deficient self-control and aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research described in this paper was supported by grants to Denson from the Australian Research Council (DP0985182) and Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (Project Grant 630671) and by grants to DeWall (BCS-1104118) and Finkel (BCS-719780) from the National Science Foundation. The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funding agencies.


  • aggression
  • rumination
  • self-control
  • social neuroscience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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