The voodoo doll task: Introducing and validating a novel method for studying aggressive inclinations

C. Nathan Dewall, Eli J. Finkel, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Erica B. Slotter, Galen V. Bodenhausen, Richard S. Pond, Claire M. Renzetti, Frank D. Fincham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Aggression pervades modern life. To understand the root causes of aggression, researchers have developed several methods to assess aggressive inclinations. The current article introduces a new behavioral method-the voodoo doll task (VDT)-that offers a reliable and valid trait and state measure of aggressive inclinations across settings and relationship contexts. Drawing on theory and research on the law of similarity and magical beliefs (Rozin, Millman, & Nemeroff [1986], Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 703-712), we propose that people transfer characteristics of a person onto a voodoo doll representing that person. As a result, causing harm to a voodoo doll by stabbing it with pins may have important psychological similarities to causing actual harm to the person the voodoo doll represents. Nine methodologically diverse studies (total N=1,376) showed that the VDT had strong reliability, construct validity, and convergent validity. Discussion centers on the importance of magical beliefs in understanding the causes of aggressive inclinations. Aggr. Behav. 39:419-439, 2013.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-439
Number of pages21
JournalAggressive Behavior
Volume39
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Keywords

  • Aggression
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Magical beliefs
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (all)

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