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Stuck on the train of ruminative thoughts: The effect of aggressive fantasy on subjective well-being


Poon, K. T., & Wong, W. Y. (2021). Stuck on the train of ruminative thoughts: The effect of aggressive fantasy on subjective well-being. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36, 6390-6410.

2020 Impact Factor 6.144 | 5-year Impact Factor 5.378

2020 JCR Rank 14/83, Q1 in Psychology, Applied


Previous studies have focused almost exclusively on identifying the antecedents of aggression and violence; as such, there are virtually no experimental data about the psychological consequences of fantasizing aggressive and violent actions. The present experiment aimed to fill this significant informational void in the literature by testing whether aggressive fantasy would influence people’s rumination tendency and subjective well-being. We hypothesized that aggressive fantasy would make people more likely to ruminate, which would thereby lower their subjective well-being. To test this prediction, we recruited a sample of participants, who were adults in the United States (overall valid N = 113; 39 men; mean age = 36.27, SD = 11.27), and they were randomly assigned to either the aggressive fantasy condition or the control condition. At the beginning of the experiment, participants were asked to think of a person they despised and describe the characteristics of the despised person. Next, participants in the aggressive fantasy condition fantasized aggressive and violent actions toward the despised target, while participants in the control condition fantasized a control experience. Finally, their state rumination and subjective well-being were assessed. The results showed that, relative to participants who did not fantasize aggression, those who engaged in aggressive fantasy reported higher levels of rumination and lower levels of subjective well-being. Further analysis showed that enhanced rumination significantly mediated the effect of aggressive fantasy on subjective well-being. The present findings contribute to the literature by providing new insights into the psychological consequences of aggressive and violent responses and the underlying mechanism.

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