Automatic sources of aggression

Alexander Todorov, John A. Bargh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


In this paper, we review research on automaticity with particular relevance to aggression. Once triggered by environmental features, preconscious automatic processes run to completion without any conscious monitoring. The basic experimental technique for studying automatic processes is priming. We review studies showing that priming, including subliminal priming, of mental constructs related to aggression leads to reliable effects on perceptions, judgments, and behavior. Specifically, after such priming, people perceive ambiguous behaviors as more aggressive and tend to act more aggressively themselves as well. We also review studies showing that: (a) prolonged exposure to violence can result in the development of chronic accessibility of aggressive constructs affecting how the social environment is interpreted, and (b) even goal-directed behavior can be automatically triggered by situational features if this behavior is consistently and frequently enacted in the same situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-68
Number of pages16
JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


  • Aggression
  • Automaticity
  • Behavior
  • Judgments
  • Priming


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