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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (01) : 42-51     DOI:
Dialectical Thinking Reduces Aggressive Tendencies
ZHANG Xiao-Yan;GAO Ding-Guo;FU Hua
(Department of Psychology and Center for Socio-Cultural Studies and Mental Health, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China)
(Guangzhou Vocational College of Science and Technology, Guangzhou 510550, China)
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Abstract  People process information in fundamentally different ways. When people think dialectically, they tend to be holistic, reconcile contradictions, and emphasize changes. There are marked differences in the cognitive processes between dialectical thinkers and analytical thinkers, including categorization, causal attribution, reliance on rules, use of logic, and preference for dialectical understanding of events (Nisbett & Masuda, 2003). It is believed that the origin of these differences can be traced back to different social systems so that East Asians (including Chinese) tend to be dialectical whereas Westerners tend to be analytical (Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). Because dialectical thinking emphasizes reconciliation and constant changes, it may be able to increase people’s tolerance of differences, reduce extreme attitudes, and decrease extreme behaviors. Here we hypothesize that dialectical thinking reduces aggressive tendencies, which is often initiated by differences and fueled by extreme attitudes. We initiate a new line of research on whether dialectical thinking affects people’s aggression level.
The present research examines the impact of dialectical thinking on aggressive behavior. In particular, we sought to provide the first test of a new mechanism by which dialectical thinking might reduce aggressive tendencies. Study 1 is a correlation study. We measured both dialectical thinking tendencies and aggressive tendencies. In Study 2 and Study 3, we primed participants with dialectical thinking and examined their choices of weapon in a bear-shooting game. We want to see whether increased dialectical tendencies are associated with reduced aggressive tendencies.
In Study 1, participants with dialectical thinking tendencies, measured by a dialectical thinking assessment scale (Chiu, 2000), tended to express themselves in a nonaggressive way, as measured by the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (Buss & Perry, 1992). In Study 2, compared with the control group, participants who had been primed with dialectical thinking selected less bullets and weaker weapons in the bear-shooting game. In Study 3, we replicated the findings of the Study 2 with a modified dialectical thinking prime. A mediation analysis showed that the priming effect of reducing aggressive tendencies was mediated by increasing the dialectical thinking. Taken together, results showed that dialectical thinking leads to reduced aggression.
This research documents that dialectical thinking reduces aggressive tendencies. It is possible that trainings in dialectical thinking can help people control their aggressive urges and reduce violence in the societal level. The research constitutes an initial step toward establishing dialectical thinking as a potential mechanism to fight against aggression and restore interpersonal and societal harmony.
Keywords dialectical thinking      aggression      thinking style     
Corresponding Authors: GAO Ding-Guo   
Issue Date: 30 January 2011
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ZHANG Xiao-Yan
GAO Ding-Guo
FU Hua
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ZHANG Xiao-Yan,GAO Ding-Guo,FU Hua. Dialectical Thinking Reduces Aggressive Tendencies[J]. , 2011, 43(01): 42-51 .
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