Understanding and Assessing Aggression and Violence

Edwin I. Megargee

in Oxford Handbook of Personality Assessment

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195366877
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Understanding and Assessing Aggression and Violence

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  • Psychology
  • Psychological Assessment and Testing
  • Social Psychology



This article examines the issues involved in understanding and, especially, assessing, human aggression and violence. First, it defines aggression and discusses a broad range of factors that influence its assessment, before differentiating individualized from generalized assessments. In the former, the clinician analyzes the factors influencing aggressive behavior in a particular individual. A conceptual framework, the “algebra of aggression,” is offered for analyzing physiological and psychological factors, such as instigation, inhibitions, and habit strength, which influence the relative response strength of different aggressive and non-aggressive acts. Generalized assessments are focused on identifying which members of a group, such as applicants for parole, are most likely to be aggressive. A number of subjective and objective rationally and actuarially derived risk-assessment instruments are described and evaluated.

Keywords: aggression; violence; individual assessments; generalized assessments; risk assessment; algebra of aggression; instigation; inhibitions; habit strength

Article.  18592 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Psychological Assessment and Testing ; Social Psychology

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