17 Jun 2008

Source of Violence: Threatened Egotism

MMM



Far more intelligent, but consistently and mercilessly overruled, simmering..
Hi All
On the more serious side, I thought I would post an academic work that may offer an insight into the nature and character of Gerry McCann who does not seem to be at all lacking in self-esteem which classic wisdom explains is the root cause of violence and aggression. This article challenges that notion and explains very lucidly that in fact some violent offenders, including domestic violence offenders, who are often only violent to intimate family members, are in fact narcisstic and overburdened with self-esteem, it is when that is challenged they may become aggressive and violent, constantly seeking to up the anti and be right. However the author also suggests that those who attack women and children only may be lacking in self-esteem because they know they cannot be challenged by attacking such people. Gerry does constantly attack though in the face of failure, he sued the Daily Express and he went to Brussels, he is a serious risk taker, as he said himself, "we are pursuing a high risk and aggressive strategy and we will fight this all the way". So, on balance I would say this is a man who cannot stand to be challenged and will keep on fighting back. I realise my former role as a probation officer would encourage me to ask why do people commit serious offences and what can we do to prevent such behaviour in people? How can we better protect children, in particular.

It is a very heavy read, particularly for some who cannot stop copying this blog, but very interesting and insightful, also suggesting that in fact female child abusers may also have an abundance of self-esteem, even when asked "do you hope the child will grow up like you" they typically give a deprecating answer, well no of course not, this is explained as being a manipulative and clever answer rather than one that accurately reflects their true psychological makeup. I am not entirely convinced by this. Female child offenders often seem to be abused themselves, depressed and self-medicating with large quantities of alcohol, they take it out on the children because they cannot fight back. So, in this way, they feel they are "winning" at least against someone. How many times have we all seen an ignorant bully in a supermarket, effectively showing off her "authority" but at the same time repulsing normal people?
"An ironic pattern of responding to failure by raising one's aspirations higher". Who does this remind you of? No, I did not mean Clarence but what a fiery combination he and Gerry must make! Would Kate get a word in when they are plotting the next fiendishly clever strategy, if only to say, that is hopeless, all is hopeless...they would not want to listen.

Viv x


Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression:
The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem
Roy E Baumeister
Case Western Reserve University
Laura Smart
University of Virginia
Joseph M. Boden
Case Western Reserve University
Conventional wisdom has regarded low self-esteem as an important cause of violence, but the opposite view is theoretically viable. An interdisciplinary review of evidence about aggression, crime, and violence contradicted the view that low self-esteem is an important cause. Instead, violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egotism that is, highly favorable views of self that are
disputed by some person or circumstance. Inflated, unstable, or tentative beliefs in the self's superiority may be most prone to encountering threats and hence to causing violence. The mediating process may involve directing anger outward as a way of avoiding a downward revision of the self concept.

Only a minority of human violence can be understood as rational,
instrumental behavior aimed at securing or protecting material
rewards. The pragmatic futility of most violence has been
widely recognized: Wars harm both sides, most crimes yield little
financial gain, terrorism and assassination almost never bring
about the desired political changes, most rapes fail to bring sexual
pleasure, torture rarely elicits accurate or useful information, and
most murderers soon regret their actions as pointless and selfdefeating
(Ford, 1985; Gottfiedson & Hirschi, 1990; Groth, 1979;
Keegan, 1993; Sampson & Laub, 1993; .Scm'ry, 1985). What
drives people to commit violent and oppressive actions that so often
are tangential or even contrary to the rational pursuit of material
self-interest? This article reviews literature relevant to the hypothesis
that one main source of such violence is threatened egotism,
particularly when it consists of favorable self-appraisals that
may be inflated or ill-founded and that are confronted with an
external evaluation that disputes them.
The focus on egotism (i.e., favorable self-appraisals) as one
cause of violent aggression runs contrary to an entrenched body
of wisdom that has long pointed to low self-esteem as the root
of violence and other antisocial behavior. We shall examine the
arguments for the low self-esteem view and treat it as a rival
hypothesis to our emphasis on high self-esteem. Clearly, there
are abundant theoretical and practical implications that attend
the question of which level of self-esteem is associated with
greater violence. The widely publicized popular efforts to bolster
the self-esteem of various segments of the American population
in recent decades (e.g., see California Task Force, 1990)
may he valuable aids for reducing violence if low self-esteem is
the culprit--or they may be making the problems worse.
Indeed, if high self-esteem is a cause of violence, then the implications
may go beyond the direct concern with interpersonal
harm. Many researchers share the opinion that high self-esteem is
desirable and adaptive and can even he used as one indicator of
good adjustment (e.g., Heilbrun, 1981; Kahle, Kulka, & Klingel,
1980; Taylor; 1989; Taylor & Brown, 1988; Whifley, 1983), but
this one-sidedly favorable view of egotism would have to be qualified
and revised: Favorable impressions of oneself may not he an
unmitigated good from the perspective of society if they lead to
violence. In our view, the benefits of favorable self-opinions accrue
primarily to the self, and they are if anything a burden and potential
problem to everyone else. Hence the widespread norms condemning
conceit and arrogance, as well as the tendency to shift
toward modesty when in the company of friends (Tice, Muraven,
Buffer, & Stillwell, 1994). E. Anderson (1994) recently even suggested
that self-esteem among youth gangs and similar groups conforms
to a zero-sum pattern, which means that any increment
in status, respect, or prestige of one person detracts from what is
available for everyone else.
Although some researchers favor narrow and precise concepts
of self-esteem, we shall use the term in a broad and inclusive
sense. By self-esteem we mean simply a favorable global
evaluation of oneself. The term self-esteem has acquired highly
positive connotations, but it has ample synonyms the connotations
of which are more mixed, including pride, egotism, arrogance,
honor, conceitedness, narcissism, and sense of superiority,
which share the fundamental meaning of favorable self-evaluation.
A related set of concepts refers to favorable evaluations
of the self by others, including prestige, admiration, public esteem, and respect. Favorable evaluations are also implicit in liking
and loving, although those terms have additional meanings.
Of particular importance for the present review is that our deliberately
broad usage of the term self-esteem is not limited to
the direct results of validated trait measures of self-esteem
(although we pay close attention to such measures when
available). To reduce confusion, we shall favor the term egotism
to refer both to favorable appraisals of self and to the motivated
preference for such favorable appraisals, regardless of whether
they are valid or inflated. Any assumption or belief that one is
a superior being, or any broadly favorable assessment of self
(especially in comparison with other people ), is relevant.
Thus, in brief, the purpose of this article is to understand how
self-appraisals are related to interpersonal violence. We hasten
to add that we are not proposing a general theory of violence or
aggression, and we assume that many aggressive acts may have
little or no relation to self-esteem. Moreover, when self-appraisals
are involved, they may be only one of several factors, and
so we are not asserting that other causes become irrelevant or
secondary. The intent is merely to understand how self-appraisals
affect violence in those cases in which they are involved.
There do seem to be many such cases.
Traditional View: Low Self-Esteem Causes Violence
A long tradition has regarded low self-esteem as a powerful
and dangerous cause of violence. This view seems to be so
widely and uncritically accepted that it is often casually asserted
in the absence of evidence and even in the presence of apparently
contrary evidence. When reading the literature for this
review, we repeatedly found cases in which researchers summarized
observations that depicted aggressors as egotistical and arrogant,
but then added the conventional supposition that these
individuals must be suffering from low self-esteem. (Hence we
shall in some cases cite authors in this section as arguing in favor
of low self-esteem but shall then later cite their empirical observations
as contradicting it.)
One does not have to look far to find examples of the assertion
that low self-esteem causes violence. E. Anderson (1994)
recently cited low self-esteem as a persistent cause of the violence
among youth gangs. Similarly, Jankowski ( 1991 ) referred
to "self-contempt" of gang members as a cause of violence.
Renzetti (1992) said that the jealousy and possessiveness that
lead to domestic violence have generally been understood as resuiting
from low self-esteem. Staub (1989) cited as traditional
the view that low self-esteem generally causes all manner of violence,
although he was careful not to endorse that conclusion
himself and in fact supplied some contrary evidence. Gondolf
(1985) noted that wife beaters have usually been characterized
as having low self-esteem, although he pointed out that the evidence
for this is largely indirect, namely from clinical case studies
of their victims (Walker, 1979). Long (1990) asserted that
low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy are prominent characteristics
of most terrorists. MacDonald (1975) said that
armed robbers "lack self-esteem" (p. 263). Wiehe ( 1991 ) said
that a possible motive for sibling violence is "as a way to bolster
or increase their low self-esteem" (p. 17). Kirschner (1992)
claimed that several murderers (in this case, adoptees who had
killed their adoptive fathers) suffered from low self-esteem and
viewed themselves as bad. Levin and McDevitt ( 1993 ) casually
mentioned low self-esteem as if it were commonly known to be
an important cause of hate crimes.
In other cases, the weaknesses and fallacies in the low selfesteem
view are readily apparent. Thus, in one of the classic
works on the psychology of violence, Toch (1969/1993) referred
to a "compensatory relationship between low self-esteem
and violence" (pp. 133-134 ), and he suggested that people with
low self-esteem turn violent as a way of gaining esteem. Yet
Toch did not have any direct evidence of low self-esteem; he
merely inferred that these men must suspect themselves of
weakness because they seemed so concerned with refuting that
impression. Alternative interpretations, particularly that they
have highly favorable views of self that are threatened by disrespectful
others, are equally possible. Indeed, in the same passage
in which Toch referred to the self-doubts and "sense of inadequacy"
of violent men, he also proposed that these same
offenders had "exaggerated self-esteem" (p. 136), which is obviously
the opposite assertion. He also said that such an individual
"demands unwarranted respect" (p. 136), which is close to
our own argument of an inflated sense of deservingness (e.g.,
excessively high self-esteem). In short, Toch's explanation is internally
inconsistent.
In another example, Oates and Forrest (1985) asserted that
abusive mothers had low self-esteem. They based this conclusion
on a purported measure of self-esteem that was actually a
single item asking the mother whether she wished her child
would grow up like herself; abusive mothers tended to give self deprecating
answers to this question. At the time of data collection
the mothers had all recently been referred for child abuse.
Under those circumstances, it would seem almost mandatory to
show some self-deprecation and to be hesitant about expressing
the wish that one's child would follow in one's footsteps. To
label that response as low self-esteem seems potentially
misleading.
Likewise, Schoenfeld (1988) proposed that the high crime rate
among American Black people is clue to their low self-esteem. In
his analysis, Blacks were reduced by slavery to a state of extremely
low self-esteem. When slavery ended, this low self-regard was perpetuated
by Jim Crow laws and, more recently, by the modern
welfare system, which fosters helplessness and dependency. Thus,
in Schoenfeld's view, low self-esteem is responsible for the high
crime rate. Unfortunately this analysis suffers from several flaws.
First, it does not fit the temporal shifts in crime rate among Blacks,
which is now reaching its highest levels as slavery recedes farther
and farther into the background. Second, as Crocker and Major's
(1989) review showed, self-esteem levels among Blacks are now
equal to or higher than the self-esteem levels of Whites. Third, it is
far from certain that slaves had low self-esteem; Patterson (1982)
insisted that slaves did not simply internalize the unflattering
views society held of them.
Our review did not uncover any one definitive or authoritative
statement of the theory that low self-esteem causes violence,
so it is necessary for us to consider several possible versions of
that theory. One view (and one that seems implicit in many
writings) is that people who lack self-esteem hope to gain it by
violent means, such as by aggressively dominating others. In this
view, violence would be a technique of self-enhancement, in the
sense that it is used as a means of increasing one's esteem. A
long tradition has assumed that people with low self-esteem
must be strongly oriented toward self-enhancement, because
they want to gain more of what they lack.
The self-enhancement version of the low self-esteem view is
internally plausible, but the accumulation of research findings
has now rendered it untenable. The motivation to seek selfenhancement
has been shown to be characteristic of people high
(rather than low) in self-esteem, and in fact it appears to be
weak or absent among people with low self-esteem (Baumeister,
Tice, & Hutton, 1989; Tice, 1991, 1993). Indeed, people with
low self-esteem appear to be ambivalent about rising in esteem,
and they often avoid circumstances that might raise their selfesteem
(De La Ronde &Swann, 1993; Swarm, 1987; Swarm,
Griffin, Predmore, & Gaines, 1987).
A similar contradiction can be found in recent work on the psychology
of terrorism. Long ( 1990 )summarized what various writers
have concluded about the most common personality traits of
terrorist individuals as including "low self-esteem and a predilection
for risk-taking" (p. 18). Long's explication of the nature of
this low self-esteem seemed, to fit very closely what is
known about high self-esteem. In Long's account, these individuals
"tend to place unrealistically high demands on themselves and,
when confronted with failure, to raise rather than lower their aspirations"
(p. 18). High serf-esteem is associated with higher aspirations
than low self-esteem in general (e.g., Baumeister & Tice,
1985). The particular, ironic pattern of responding to failure by
raising one's aspirations further was shown by McFarlin and Blascovich
( 1981 ) to be characteristic of people with high self-esteem;
Baumeist~ Heatherton, and Tice (1993) replicated that pattern
and showed that it extended to increased risk-taking after failure
or other ego threat. It may once have been plausible to think that
people with low self-esteem would be prone to take risks and raise
their aspirations alter failure, but those patterns have now been
linked to high rather than low self-esteem. Thus, Long's purported
evidence for low self-esteem among terrorists in fact seems to indicate
a pattern of high serf-esteem.
Another variation of the low self-esteem theory is based on
the notion of a subculture of violence. This notion emerged in
the late 1960s as one explanation for violence among stigmatized
minority populations. According to this view, members of
these minority groups lacked access to the traditional or mainstream
sources of self-esteem, so they formed communities in
which aggressive behavior was an alternative source. The subculture
of violence hypothesis has lost ground, however, as researchers
have been unable to identify any community or subculture
that places a positive value on violent acts (see Tedeschi
& Felson, 1994).
Yet another version would propose that all people desire to
regard themselves favorably, and people with high self-esteem
have satisfied this need and can ignore it, whereas it remains a
focal concern of those with low self-esteem. In this view, high
self-esteem ought to confer a kind of immunity to ego threats,
because the person is so secure in his or her self-appraisal that
nothing can diminish it. However, researchers have not found
that most people with high self-esteem are so cheerfully indifferent
to insults, criticism, or disrespect. Indeed, the strong
and sometimes irrational reactions of people with high selfesteem
to negative feedback have been abundantly documented
(Baumeister et al., 1989, 1993; Baumeister & Tice, 1985; Blaine
& Crocker, 1993; McFarlin & Blascovich, 1981 ). Some studies
suggest that people with high self-esteem are if anything more
sensitive to criticism than people with low self-esteem (e.g.,
Schlenker, Soraci, & McCarthy, 1976; Shrauger &Lund, 1975).
Toch ( 1969 / 1993) observed that many violent men seek out
or manufacture situations in which their self-worth is challenged,
with the result being a violent confrontation. Because
Toch espoused the low self-esteem view, we infer that he thought
low self-esteem would be a factor that dictated such efforts. Possibly
Toch thought that people who lack self-esteem seek out
such challenges as a way of gaining esteem. To us, ~ however, it
seems implausible that people who hold low opinions of themselves
will seek out situations that will provide tests or other
feedback. Low self-esteem would favor an avoidance of such
feedback, for several reasons: These people want to protect
themselves from bad feedback (Baumeister et al., 1989); they
dislike and distrust flattering, enhancing feedback (Swann,
1987); and they are not strongly motivated to gain accurate
feedback (Sedikides, 1993). Only the person with a highly favorable
opinion of self will be inclined to seek out risky situations
to prove his or her merit. Picking fights with dangerous
individuals strikes us as a dubious strategy for gaining esteem,
and it seems likely to appeal mainly to individuals with irrationally
high confidence.
There is one final and limited variation on the self-esteem
view that appears to be more plausible than the others. Some
causes of violence may have little to do with self-esteem, and as
a result some people at any level of self-esteem may become
aggressive. The combination of violent tendencies and low selfesteem
might then exert an influence on choice of target. As
we said, it would seemingly require high confidence to attack
a powerful person, but when the target is seemingly weak and
helpless the odds of success may seem quite high. Accordingly,
people with low self-esteem may channel their violent tendencies
into attacks on such weak and helpless targets. Men who
attack women and adults who attack children might well have
low self-esteem, not because low self-esteem causes violence,
but because low self-esteem causes them to seek a victim who is
unlikely to retaliate. On an a priori basis, therefore, domestic
violence seems like the most promising milieu in which to find
evidence of aggression by people who lack self-esteem.
In summary, the view that low self-esteem causes violence
has been widely asserted but rarely elaborated. Our efforts to
reconstruct the theorizing behind the low self-esteem hypothesis
have resulted in several versions, none of which is broadly
satisfactory. Some are internally inconsistent, whereas others
seem internally plausible on a priori grounds but run contrary
to the accumulated evidence about self-esteem. The most viable
view in our version saw low self-esteem not as a cause of violence
but as causing a preference for safe, helpless targets, suggesting
that any violent tendencies that exist among people with
low self-esteem will most likely be expressed in situations in
which fear of retaliation is minimal.
High Self-Esteem and Violence
In contrast to the low self-esteem view, we propose that highly
favorable self-appraisals are the ones most likely to lead to vio-
In fairness to Toch, we have the benefit of several decades of research
on self-esteem that was not available to him in 1969.
8 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
lence. As noted in the previous section, the traditional theories
linking low self-esteem to violence suffer from ambiguities, inconsistencies,
and contradictory empirical evidence. The opposite
view therefore deserves consideration.
There are some bases for suggesting that egotism could lead
directly to violence. People who regard themselves as superior
beings might feel entitled to help themselves to the resources of
other, seemingly lesser beings, and indeed they might even aggress
against these lesser beings without compunction, just as
people kill insects or mice without remorse (Myers, 1980).
Also, many violent episodes involve a substantial element of
risk, and a favorable self-appraisal might furnish the requisite
confidence to take such a chance. In plain terms, egotists might
be more likely to assume that they will win a fight, and so they
would be more willing to start it.
Our main argument, however, does not depict self-esteem as
an independent and direct cause of violence. Rather, we propose
that the major cause of violence is high self-esteem combined
with an ego threat. When favorable views about oneself are
questioned, contradicted, impugned, mocked, challenged, or
otherwise put in jeopardy, people may aggress. In particular,
they will aggress against the source of the threat.
In this view, then, aggression emerges from a particular discrepancy
between two views of sell" a favorable self-appraisal and an
external appraisal that is much less favorable. That is, people turn
aggressive when they receive feedback that contradicts their favorable
views of themselves and implies that they should adopt less
favorable views. More to the point, it is mainly the people who
refuse to lower their self-appraisals who become violent.
One major reason to suggest that violence may result from
threatened egotism is that people are extremely reluctant to revise
their self-appraisals in a downward direction. This assertion must
he understood in the context of the research literature concerning
the motivations that surround self-appraisals. This literature has
been dominated by two somewhat conflicting hypotheses. One
holds that people wish to hold maximally positive views of themselves
and so seek to enhance their self-appraisals whenever possible
(e.g., Darley & Goethals, 1980; Greenwaid, 1980; Schlenker,
1980; Taylor & Brown, 1988). The other is that people seek to
maintain consistent self-appraisals and therefore seek to avoid
changing their self-concepts at all (e.g., De La Ronde &Swann,
1993; Swarm, 1987). Although these two views make contradictory
predictions in some settings, they agree emphatically that
people are reluctant to change toward more unflattering views of
themselves. The avoidance of loss of esteem is thus the clearest
and presumably strongest pattern of self-concept motivation
(Baumeister, 1993). Decreases in self-esteem are aversive for
nearly everyone.
The relevance of level of trait self-esteem to these two motives
(enhancement and consistency) requires elaboration. First,
consider the self-enhancement motive. People with favorable
'opinions of themselves have been shown to exceed those with
low self-esteem in desire for self-enhancement (Baumeister et
al., 1989; Tice, 1991, 1993). The quest for opportunities to
prove oneself or to raise one's standing should therefore appeal
mainly to people with high self-esteem. For example, a pattern
of seeking out situations in which one's worth is challenged or
disputed might strike a very confident person as a good chance
to refute such threats and show oneself off to be a winner. In
contrast, people with low self-esteem will probably tend to avoid
such situations.
Meanwhile, the orientation toward self-protection (against
losing self-esteem) has been shown to be more characteristic of
people with low rather than high self-esteem. On the surface,
this seems to suggest a contradiction to our portrayal of aggression
as resulting from threatened egotism, because low rather
than high self-esteem is associated with broad, chronic concern
with avoiding loss of esteem. Yet this is misleading. Self-protection
characterizes the habitual orientation of people with low
self-esteem because they are constantly concerned with avoiding
situations that could result in a loss of esteem. People with
high self-esteem do not show a strong self-protective orientation
habitually because they do not anticipate that they will fail or
lose esteem. When threats to esteem do arise, however, people
with high self-esteem respond in ways that are often drastic and
irrational (see Blaine & Crocker, 1993, for review; see also
Baumeister et al., 1993; Baumeister & Tice, 1985; McFarlin &
Blascovich, 1981 ). Thus, people with high self-esteem do indeed
hate to lose esteem. Most of the time they scarcely think
about the possibility that they will lose esteem, and so it is only
when a threat emerges that they become extremely defensive.
Self-verification theory (Swarm, 1987) is based on the notion
that people resist changes to their self-concepts. This motive to
maintain consistent self-appraisals means that people who
think somewhat poorly of themselves may resist favorable feedback.
People who think well of themselves, on the other hand,
may be broadly receptive to favorable feedback because it
largely confirms their self-appraisals. However, they will react
quite strongly against unfavorable feedback.
Thus, the self-enhancement and self-verification motives
both predict that the strongest negative reactions to external
feedback will arise when people who think well of themselves
receive unflattering feedback. In our view, that is precisely the
discrepancy most likely to lead to violence--when favorable
views of self are met with external, less favorable appraisals.
To elaborate this basic theoretical position, we shall proceed
as follows. First, we shall examine some likely moderators of the
link between egotism and violence. These moderators are based
on the assumption that anything that increases either the frequency
or the subjective impact of discrepancies between favorable
self-appraisals and external ego threats will increase the
likelihood of violence. Second, we shall examine the role of
affect as mediating between threatened egotism and aggressive
behavior. Last, we shall examine the interpersonal context of
threatened egotism.
Favorable and Inflated Self-Appraisals
If threatened egotism causes aggression, then whatever views
of self encounter the greatest number of threats should be the
ones most commonly associated with violence. On an a priori
basis, it would seem that the higher the self-esteem, the greater
the range of feedback that would be seen as threatening. Thus,
for example, people who believe themselves to be among the top
10% on any dimension may be insulted and threatened whenever
anyone asserts that they are in the 80th, 50th, or 25th percentile.
In contrast, someone with lower self-esteem who regards
himself or herself as being merely among the top 60%
would only be threatened by the feedback that puts him or her
EGOTISM AND VIOLENCE 9
at the 25th percentile; indeed, feedback that puts him or her at
the 80th percentile, which was threatening and insulting to the
person with very high self-esteem, might even be received as
praise by someone with much lower self-esteem.
In short, the more favorable one's view of oneself, the greater
the range of external feedback that will he perceived as unacceptably
low. To the extent that violence arises from threats to selfesteem
(in the sense of receiving external feedback that evaluates
one less favorably than one's self-evaluation), violence should he
more common among people with high self-esteem.
One could dispute the aforementioned reasoning by arguing
that feedback is actually very selectively distributed. That is,
maybe the person who regards himself or herself as at the 90th
percentile is in fact so competent that he or she will almost never
receive the 25th percentile feedback. 2 To the extent that feedback
tends to cluster around accurate appraisal of one's true
abilities (including social feedback, i.e., being seen accurately
by others), there might be no difference in the frequency of
threatening feedback received by people at any level of selfappraisal.
There would, however, be one major exception to the argument
that the general accuracy of feedback would counteract
the excess vulnerability of high self-esteem to threat. Favorable
views of self that are unwarranted, exaggerated, or ill-founded
would be especially prone to disconfirmation by accurate feedback.
Whenever people's self-appraisals are more favorable
than their objective qualities would warrant, the result may be a
pervasive vulnerability to threatening feedback. And how often
does that happen? Evidence suggests that people with favorable
self-opinions frequently benefit from distortion, selective perception,
or exaggeration. The pervasiveness of such inflated
views of self, particularly among people with high self-esteem,
has been well documented (Taylor & Brown, 1988).
Thus, to the extent that feedback tends to be accurate instead
of random, its subjective impact will depend on whether the recipient's
self-appraisals are accurate or inflated. Accurate feedback
will tend to confirm self-appraisals, including favorable
ones, if they were realistic to begin with. Accurate feedback will,
however, tend to disconfirm self-appraisals that are unrealistically
positive. The implication is that unrealistically positive
self-appraisals will increase the frequency with which external
ego threats are encountered. Inflated views of self should therefore
increase the frequency of violence.
Instability, Uncertainty, and Evaluative Dependency
In the section on low self-esteem, we mentioned the hypothesis
that people with favorable self-appraisals would he indifferent to
bad feedback because it would not threaten them. As we said, researchers
have not generaUy found many people who are immune
to criticism, but there may be a kernel of truth in that reasoning.
Undoubtedly there are individual differences and situational variations
in the degree to which people care about the opinions of
others. Such variations would presumably alter the subjective impact
of bad feedback and ego threats, and as a result they would
moderate the degree of aggressive response. Unlike inflated selfappraisals,
which increase the frequency with which one encounters
ego threats, these variables increase the importance of ego
threats and hence magnify the hostile response.
One factor that seems likely to moderate the impact of external
appraisals is the degree of certainty of the relevant self-appraisal.
Someone who is certain of having a particularly good trait may be
relatively less affected by contradictory feedback as compared
with someone who is less certain. Accordingly, those people with
uncertain but positive views of self may also be the ones most
prone to elicit defensive responses to ego threats.
Many views of identity formation have emphasized that people
require the validation of others (e.g., Baumeiste~ 1986; Cooley,
1902/1964; James, 1890/1950; Mead, 1934; Schlenket; 1980,
1986). Probably the most thorough explication of how uncertainty
of self-appraisal is linked to reliance on external validation
was provided in the work of Wicklund and Gollwitzer (1982). In
multiple studies, they showed that people vary in the degree to
which they are motivated to have others confirm their identity
claims. Although nearly everyone requires some social validation,
some people become heavily dependent on it, whereas others require
much less, and these variations can be partly explained on
the basis of having acquired a stock of symbolic affirmations of the
self (which boost certainty and what Wicklund and Gollwitzer
called "completeness"). Once a person has accumulated abundant
trappings of success, for example, he or she may not feel any
urgent need to acquire more, and a stray pejorative remark can be
easily shrugged off. In contrast, a person whose claim to the desired
identity is tentative or incomplete may feel a frequent need to
gain validation by others and may be acutely sensitive to slighting
remarks. Thus, people who feel incomplete and who consequently
feel a pervasive need for social validation of their favorable selfconceptions
are more susceptible to ego threats.
Another relevant pattern would be stability of self-appraisal.
Some self-appraisals are relatively stable over time, which suggests
that they are not greatly affected by daily events. In contrast,
other self-appraisals fluctuate more widely from day to
day. Kernis (1993) and his colleagues showed that global levels
of self-esteem fluctuate more widely in some people than in others.
It seems likely that people who have unstable self-appraisals
will tend to become sensitive and defensive, and so bad feedback
will produce a quicker and stronger reaction in them than in
people with stable self-appraisals. Shifts toward more negative
self-appraisals generally bring anxiety, depression, anger, and
other forms of negative affect (Heatherton & Polivy, 1991; Higgins,
1987). People wish to avoid these unpleasant states, and
so people with unstable self-esteem should be strongly motivated
to ward off any event that might potentially lower their
self-esteem. To such an individual, bad feedback or criticism
from other people would almost certainly contain the risk of
bringing one's self-esteem down, and so one may react strongly
to any hint of such ego threats. In contrast, people whose selfesteem
remains the same regardless of what happens would
have much less reason to fear criticism or other bad feedback.
The result would be that people with unstable high self-esteem
might well become violent in response to even seemingly minor
or trivial threats to self-esteem. Consistent with this reasoning,
Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, and Harlow (1993) found that people
with high but unstable self-esteem were most prone to respond
defensively to unfavorable feedback.
This section has reviewed several factors that would likely increase
the magnitude and subjective impact of ego threats--
2 If only life were so consistently fair!
10 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
instability, certainty, and evaluative dependency on others. The
common theme appears to be that favorable self-appraisals that
are insecurely held may be most vulnerable to ego threats. Although
we have said that these self-appraisals will lead to violence
by increasing the magnitude rather than the frequency of
ego threats, there could be an apparent increase in frequency
too: Instances of minor, slight, or minimal bad feedback could
elicit strong reactions from such insecure egotists, whereas secure
egotists would dismiss such events as too trivial to be worth
a response.
The Mediating Role of Affect
Thus far we have proposed that violence tends to follow from
a certain pattern of discrepant appraisals (i.e., favorable selfappraisals
and unfavorable external appraisals) and that whatever
increases the frequency or subjective impact of such discrepancies
will increase aggression. Yet it is a long step from
inconsistent appraisals to violent action. One crucial intervening
variable may be affect. Hence it may be helpful to expand
our position to say that encountering a discrepancy between
public and private self-appraisals will engender aversive arousal
states, and these in turn foster aggression.
Is negative affect an adequate explanation for aggression? For
many years, theorizing was influenced if not dominated by the
view that frustration was an essential cause (Dollard, Doob,
Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939). Although it was undeniable
that many frustrated people become aggressive, contrary findings
did gradually accumulate. Some aggression did not seem
to follow from frustration, and some frustrations did not result
in aggression. In a sweeping reformulation of this research,
Berkowitz (1989) concluded broadly that aggression results
from negative affective states in general. He proposed that frustration
and anger had been overemphasized. Any negative affect
could cause aggression.
Although Berkowitz (1989) made a compelling case for expanding
aggression theory beyond a narrow focus on feelings of
anger and frustration, there is not yet sufficient evidence available
to conclude that all states of negative affect can cause aggression
(as he noted). Indeed, Baron (1976) showed that
exposing participants to a pitiable injury victim reduced subsequent
aggressiveness, and he concluded that empathic pity is
incompatible with aggressive impulses. Likewise, guilt may often
inhibit aggressive acts (e.g., Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton,
1994). Meanwhile, there is little to suggest that sadness
leads to aggression. The most appropriate conclusion at present
seems to be that some forms of negative affect can produce or
increase aggressive tendencies.
Meanwhile, it is relatively straightforward to suggest that ego
threats can produce negative affect. Decreases in state self-esteem
often lead to negative affect (Heatherton & Polivy, 1991 ). Discovering
that one falls short of ideals or violates one's proper standards
of behavior produces various negative affect states (Higgins,
1987). l_eary, Tambor, Terdal, and Downs (1995) recently provided
evidence linking self-esteem to interpersonal appeal and status,
and interpersonal rejection or exclusion is a central cause of
anxiety (Baumeister & Tice, 1990), so it seems fair to expect that
decreases in self-esteem will bring anxiety too.
Despite this seemingly straightforward pathway from ego
threats to lowered self-esteem to negative affect to aggression,
however, careful inspection suggests several potential problems
and inconsistencies. Higgins (1987) proposed that perceiving
oneself as falling short of ideals should engender low-arousal
emotions such as dejection and sadness, and there is little evidence
that such emotions lead to aggression. Moreover, if drops
in self-esteem were responsible for the negative affect that resuited
in aggression, then one would have to make the strong
prediction that low self-esteem (if only as a temporary state)
was a crucial factor. Last, the view that people revise their selfappraisals
readily in response to external threats runs contrary
to considerable evidence that people resist such downward revisions
(Greenwald, 1980; Swarm, 1987; Taylor & Brown, 1988).
We propose, instead, that when favorable views of self are
confronted with unflattering external feedback, the person faces
a choice point. The affective response will depend on which
path is chosen. One path is to accept the external appraisal and
revise one's self-esteem in a downward direction. Sadness, anxiety,
and dejection might well result from such a course. In contrast,
the other path is to reject the external appraisal and uphold
one's more favorable self-appraisal. The confluence of selfconsistency
and self-enhancement motives would suggest that
this is generally the preferred response. In such a case, the person
would infer that the external evaluation is mistaken and
undeserved, and he or she may well develop anger or other negative
affect toward the source of that evaluation.
The hypothesis of a choice point was anticipated to some extent
by Berkowitz's (1989) observation that many bad experiences
lead to a choice between fight or flight reactions--that is,
between a self-assertive, aggressive response and one of defeated
withdrawal. It also suggests how some seemingly contradictory
findings and implications can be integrated. Thus, research on
shame suggests on the one hand that this global feeling of being
a despicable person often leads to a tendency to withdraw or
hide from others (Lewis, 1971; Tangney, 1991, 1992). On the
other hand, there is evidence that shame-prone people tend to
externalize blame and become angry and aggressive toward others
(Tangney, Wagner, Barlow, Marschall, & Gramzow, 1994;
Tangney, Wagner, Fletcher, & Gramzow, 1992), and clearly angry
aggression is a very different response that seems incompatible
with social withdrawal. It may be, however, that a potentially
shame-inducing experience causes some people to accept
the unflattering evaluation and withdraw, whereas others respond
by refusing to accept the evaluation and by becoming
angry toward the evaluator.
A similar choice point is suggested by recent research findings
about envy. Envy arises when someone else has what the
envious person wanted, which can imply that oneself is less worthy
and less deserving than the other (Salovey, 1991; Salovey &
Rodin, 1984). Smith, Parrott, Ozer, and Moniz (1994) found
that envy leads to hostility only if the person retains a favorable
view of self as deserving the positive outcome, in which case
the envied person's advantage is seen as unjust and unfair. In
contrast, if the person accepts the implication and feels inferior
to the envied person, then hostility does not ensue. Once again,
then, the affective response to an ego threat depends on the selfappraisal,
and the response that maintains a favorable selfappraisal
leads to aggression.
By this reasoning, then, aggression can be regarded as a crude
technique of affect regulation. Meloy (1988) made this argument
in explicit detail for psychopaths, who engage in predatory
EGOTISM AND VIOLENCE 1 1
violence to avoid a broad range of unwanted emotions. To avoid
certain negative emotional states, such as shame, dejection, sadness,
and disappointment with oneself, the person refuses to
contemplate information that reflects unfavorably about the
self. When others attempt to provide such unfavorable feedback,
the person becomes agitated and directs unpleasant emotions
at them. By focusing on his or her hostility toward the
evaluators, the person avoids the dismal cycle of accepting the
feedback, revising his or her self-concept, and experiencing the
dejected feelings about the self.
This affective view dovetails well with the previous analysis of
possible moderators. People whose favorable self-conceptions
are inflated, uncertain, or unstable may become quite sensitive
to unflattering feedback and may react with hostility. Indeed,
this analysis has one further implication, which is that the hostile
response may often seem wildly disproportionate to the actual
informational power of the external evaluation or even to
any contemplated reduction in self-esteem. Because the angry,
hostile response is essentially a means of preventing oneself
from having to suffer through a depressing revision of selfappraisal,
its function is largely anticipatory. Hence highly sensitive
individuals may react with considerable hostility to seemingly
minor ego threats. In other words, once a person becomes
familiar with the emotional distress of losing self-esteem, he or
she may become watchful for potential or incipient threats and
may react strongly to what observers would regard as slight or
trivial offenses.
Interpersonal Context
The last issue to consider is the interpersonal dimension. In
most cases, violence is not a random eruption of intrapsychic
forces but rather is directed toward a particular target in the
context of some meaningful communications.
Two interpersonal aspects stand out. First, aggression may be
a meaningful and coercive response to the unflattering evaluation.
We have proposed that aggression results from a discrepancy
between a favorable self-appraisal and an unfavorable external
appraisal. The matter is not concluded simply because
the recipient decides not to accept the unfavorable evaluation.
Even after that decision is made, the person remains confronted
by someone who is expressing a negative view (which is now
seen as undeserved and unjust). By aggressing against the evaluator,
the person may accomplish several things, including punishing
the evaluator for the bad feedback, impugning the other's
right to criticize, and discouraging that person (and others)
from expressing similar evaluations in the future. Tedeschi and
Felson (1994) recently argued that aggression should be reconceptualized
as coercive behavior. In this context, a violent response
may coerce the other person into withdrawing the bad
evaluation.
Second, a successful violent attack achieves a symbolic dominance
over the other person, and so it affirms one's esteem to
the extent of being superior to the victim. Violence may therefore
be one form of self-affirmation, which is a common response
to ego threats (Steele, 1988). This response may help
explain two otherwise puzzling patterns of aggression. One is
the seeming logical irrelevance of violence to most ego threats.
For example, someone who beats up someone who has insulted
his intelligence does not provide any positive proof of intelligence,
but self-affirmation theory emphasizes that people who
feel their esteem threatened in one sphere often respond by asserting
positive qualities in another sphere (Steele, 1988; see
also Baumeister & Jones, 1978; Greenberg & Pyszczynski,
1985). The other puzzling pattern concerns displaced aggression.
If aggression is understood as a communicative response
to unfavorable feedback, then it would be illogical to aggress
against a third person. But such displacement may become
comprehensible as a way of asserting superiority over someone
else, especially if the evaluator is an unsuitable target for
aggression,
The link between aggression and superiority may have evolutionary
roots. Certain pack animals develop status hierarchies in
which one's position in the hierarchy depends on which others
one can defeat in a fight. Human history has certainly contained
abundant episodes consistent with that pattern; indeed, in the
transition from nomadic, barbarian life to civilization, the most
common pattern was for the warriors to become the aristocracy,
with the foremost fighters or battlefield leaders becoming the individual
rulers (e.g., McNeill, 1982, 1991 ).3 Thus, in both evolutionary
and cultural history, high status has been finked to fighting,
It is plausible that some aggressive resIxms~ derive from this
deeply rooted impulse to achieve physical dominance over rivals
rather than from some calculated response to discrepant selfappraisals.
Although the analogy to pack hierarchies is clearly speculative,
there is one relevant implication that deserves mention. In
any small group hierarchy, the amount of prestige available is
limited. (Other limited resources, such as material rewards,
may also be involved, insofar as these are distributed in proportion
to status.) One can only gain at the expense of another.
Hence under conditions of scarcity the negotiation of esteem
may take on a zero-sum aspect. E. Anderson (1994) proposed
that in poor communities in America, self-esteem does indeed
conform to zero-sum patterns. Gaining esteem requires taking
it away from others. This analysis greatly expands the range of
acts that can constitute an ego threat. If the amount of selfesteem
is fixed, then positive claims by one person are sufficient
to constitute a threat to others. Thus, one does not have to criticize
a person to threaten his or her self-esteem; merely making
favorable claims about oneself is enough.
This zero-sum aspect of esteem should mainly apply to small,
fixed hierarchies, but some forms of it may be apparent even in
a broad society in which the amount of available esteem is less
obviously limited. Feather (1994) recently reviewed research
on the "tall poppy" phenomenon, namely the seeming pleasure
that people may derive from witnessing the downfall of highly
successful people. That pleasure could well be linked to such a
zero-sum esteem pattern, especially if highly successful people
are perceived as unfairly hogging or hoarding esteem that would
otherwise be available to many others.
Still, it must be noted that Feather (1994) did not find the tall
3 This is a slight oversimplification of McNeilrs argument. The hunt
leader tended to rule in hunting societies, and warriors soon emerged as
rulers in early civilizations, but in between there may have been an interval
during which peasant farmers lived in peace under near anarchy
or loose social structures dominated by priests. Still, kingship and aristocracy
were closely linked to leadership in war, which is the relevant
point.
12 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
poppy effect to be widespread or robust. The zero-sum aspect
of esteem-related violence may be limited to highly particular,
circumscribed patterns, such as those in which there is some
explicit sense of competition for a limited amount of status.
Summary of High Self-Esteem Theory
In summary, we propose that one major cause of violent response
is threatened egotism, that is, a favorable self-appraisal
that encounters an external, unfavorable evaluation. Factors
that increase the frequency or impact of such encounters will
increase violence. In particular, unrealistically positive or inflated
views of self, and favorable self-appraisals that are uncertain,
unstable, or heavily dependent on external validation, will
be especially vulnerable to encountering such threats. Such
threats often elicit anger and other negative affects when the person
refuses to accept and internalize the unflattering evaluation.
(If the person accepts the evaluation and revises his or her selfesteem
downward, aggression will be less likely.) The anger and
the aggressive response typically occur in an interpersonal
framework: They are most commonly directed at the source of
the bad evaluation. Aggression serves to refute and prevent bad evaluations as well as to constitute a means of achieving symbolic
dominance and superiority over the other person. Figure
1 summarizes this theory.
Review of Empirical Findings
If reliable data on self-esteem levels of violent and nonviolent
citizens were available, it would be relatively easy to resolve the
question of who is most violent (although some theoretical
questions would remain). Alternatively, if self-esteem had been
routinely measured in laboratory studies of aggression, there
would be at least one methodologically solid source of evidence.
Unfortunately, neither of these is the case. Accordingly, it is necessary
to look at a broad range of evidence about aggression,
violence, oppression, and other forms of evil behavior and to
consider carefully how self-esteem might be involved. In particular,
claims about the self made during violent incidents, or assumptions
about the self that make violence possible, deserve
close attention.
The present review will survey literature on violence, encompassing
both traditional laboratory studies of aggression and
prejudice by experimental psychologists and data from outside
psychology, most notably criminology. Tedeschi and Felson
(1994) noted the irony that aggression psychologists and criminologists
rarely read each other's literatures despite common
interests and despite the obvious value of converging evidence.
Widom (1991) cited broad "agreement" that scholars "need
to look beyond disciplinary boundaries" (p. 130) for problems
such as family violence and child abuse. No single discipline
in the social sciences can claim a monopoly on insights into
violence.
We shall begin by looking at efforts to predict violent, aggressive
behavior from measures of egotism (including self-esteem
and narcissism). Then we shall turn to the complementary
strategy of looking at violent criminals, groups, and other aggressive
individuals to ascertain how favorably they appraise
themselves.
Discrepancy
Favorable between Negative
viewofself __~ internaland (_~ evaluation
- unstable external by other(s)
- inflated appraisals
- uncertain
I threatened
egotism
reject a~appraisal
maintain lower
self-appraisal self-appraisal
q/
toward source of toward self
threat
Figure 1. Schematic representation of the relation of threatened egotism
to violent behavior.
Self- Reported Hostile Tendencies
We begin with survey studies that included both measures
of self-esteem and measures of self-reported angry, violent, or
hostile tendencies. Several studies have sought links between
standard measures of self-appraisal and reports of aggressive actions.
In particular, Kernis, Grannemann, and Barclay (1989)
gave self-esteem measures to their participants on multiple occasions,
which allowed the researchers to assess both the (mean)
level of each participant's self-esteem and the degree of fluctuation
in self-esteem scores. Kernis et al. used the fluctuation
index as a measure of stability of self-esteem. These scores were
then used to predict responses on an inventory of anger and
hostility.
Kernis, Grannemann, et al. (1989) found that the highest
levels of self-reported angry and hostile responding were associated
with participants who had high but unstable self-esteem
scores. Efforts to predict aggressive tendencies from self-esteem
scores alone were inconclusive, and in fact people with high but
stable scores in self-esteem showed the lowest rates of anger and
hostility. In our view, this is profoundly important evidence
about the psychology of bullies and other aggressors: Their opinions
of themselves are very favorable but vulnerable to fluctuEcKYrlSM
AND VIOLENCE 13
ations. Another way of describing this response pattern is that
these hostile individuals were mostly quite high in their selfratings
but they did occasionally drop to substantially lower levels,
which indicates that they were familiar with the distress and
other aversive aspects of losing esteem.
One must assume that people whose self-esteem occasionally
drops will be sensitive and vulnerable to ego threats, in a way
that people who show consistent, stable, impervious high selfesteem
are not. Kernis, Grannemann, et al?s (1989) results
thus seem quite compatible with the view that aggression ensues
when people with very favorable views of themselves encounter
an ego threat that evokes the possibility of losing esteem, although
that conclusion requires some inferences beyond their
data. Their findings do clearly link self-reported aggressive tendencies
with unstable high self-esteem.
Similar studies have also been conducted with narcissism.
The term narcissism is based on the Greek myth about the
young man who fell in love with his own reflection, and it is
commonly used to refer to self-love; however, psychological
(especially clinical) usages of the term have added the implication
of artificially inflated egotism. Wink ( 1991 ) analyzed narcissism
as having several components. All of them were correlated
with disregard for others, which we have suggested is one
factor that contributes to willingness to behave violently.
More important, the component that Wink ( 1991 ) defined
as grandiosity or exhibitionism was particularly correlated with
aggressiveness. That aspect suggests that wishing to show off to
others, particularly so as to convince them to hold an unrealistically
positive view of oneself, has an important link to aggression.
Similar findings were reported by Raskin, Novacek, and
Hogan (1991). They found positive intercorrelations among
grandiosity, dominance, narcissism, and hostility, thus again
suggesting that these wildly favorable views of self are involved
in aggressive behavior. 4
Critique. These studies may be criticized as subject to various
biases of self-report, but they have the advantage that they
can include good, psychometrically sound measures, and so the
information about self-appraisals is good. These are in some
ways the first substitute for having data that include direct measures
of self-esteem and subsequent measures of violent behavior.
The step from self-reported hostility questionnaires to actual
violent action requires several inferences, however. The
main risk would be that reluctance to admit hostility would be
unequally distributed along the range of self-appraisal responses;
presumably, people who wish to present themselves favorably
would score high on self-esteem but low on hostility.
Such a tendency would work against the obtained findings, however,
and so it seems appropriate to accept these findings unless
further work contributes contrary evidence.
Conclusion. Self-reported hostility does not correlate simply
or directly with self-esteem scores, but the most hostile people
seem to be a subset of people having favorable self-appraisals.
Inflated self-appraisals and unstable high self-esteem have
been linked to hostility, consistent with two of the hypothesized
moderators.
Group Differences
An indirect strategy is to look at groups that are known to
differ in self-esteem or egotism and then compare their rates Of
aggressive actions. Obviously, these are correlational patterns
and any one of them is inevitably subject to multiple alternative
explanations. Only if there is broad agreement from multiple
comparisons could one even begin to draw a tentative conclusion.
Still, in an interdisciplinary literature review it seems desirable
to examine as many sources of evidence as possible.
Gender differences can be considered relevant. Men have
higher self-esteem than women (e.g., Harter, 1993; Veroff, Douvan,
& Kulka, 1981 ), although the difference is not large and
may be diminishing in the modern world (see also Crocker &
Major, 1989). Men are also more aggressive than v~omen, although
the size of the difference depends on what measure is
used. In laboratory studies of aggressive behavior, the difference
is about one third of a standard deviation (Eagly, 1985). In violent
crime, the difference is much larger. Although the precise
figure varies according to crime and nation, men are between
5 and 50 times as likely to be arrested as women (Wilson &
Herrnstein, 1985). The crime rate for women has risen in the
United States since the 1960s, but most of that is due to property
crimes, and women commit only about 10% of violent
crimes (Wilson & Herrnstein, 1985). Victimization surveys,
which avoid possible biases in the arresting system, point to
similar differences. The only domain of violence in which
women have been found to equal men is domestic violence, to
which we shall return.
In general, then, men are more violent than women, and they
also have higher self-esteem. This finding is most consistent
with our hypothesis that high self-esteem is a cause of violence.
One qualification is that the size of the self-esteem difference
seems too small to account for the large difference in violent
crime rates. It is also worth noting that the only realm in which
women are more violent than men is child abuse, which could
fit the view that attacking a safe, weak target may be a strategy
among people with low self-esteem.
Another group known to have low self-esteem is depressed people
(e.g., Allgood-Merton, Lcwinsohn, & Hops, 1990; Altman &
Wittenborn, 1980; Brown, Andrews, Harris, Adler, & Bridge,
1986; Brown & Harris, 1978; Cofer & Wittenborn, 1980; Tennen
& Affieck, 1993; Tennen & Herzberg~ 1987). The National Research
Council's (1993) report on violence noted that many types
of mental illness have been linked to violence, but depression had
only been found in connection with family violence, and even
those findings were subject to multiple ambiguities, including the
possibility that depression was the result rather than the cause of
violence and the possibility that depression was the result of one's
own prior victimizations (given the often reciprocal and generational
nature of family violence). More generally, it does not appear
that depression is a major cause of violence. 5 That finding is
consistent with the high se•stcem hypothesis, although the operative
factor in depression could be unrelated to self-esteem (e.g.,
apathy or lack of energy is the aspect of depression that prevents
violence ).
4 They found, oddly, that if one takes the narcissism, grandiosity, and
dominance out of hostility, the residual hostility is negatively related to
self-esteem. It is not clear what this means; perhaps there is some aspect
of violence that is associated with low self-esteem. Or perhaps this is an
overcorrection.
Another qualification is that depressed people do have elevated rates
of suicide. Still, outwardly directed violence is low.
14 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
Psychopaths constitute another relevant group on the fringes
of normality. Although mental illness as a cause of crime is beyond
the scope of this review, psychopaths are not mentally ill
in the usual sense, because they are well in touch with reality
and their actions are apparently freely chosen as opposed to being
driven by compulsions or irresistible impulses (Hare,
1993). Hare described them as "social predators;' and although
they are not inherently or even normally criminals, they
do commit a disproportionately high rate of violent crimes (in
fact, he estimated that they are responsible for 50% of serious
crimes). As to their self-views, Hare characterized them as having
a "narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth
and importance [and] a truly astounding egocentricity and
sense of entitlement, and [as] see[ing] themselves as the center
of the universe, as superior beings" (p. 38). They have grandiose
conceptions of their abilities and potentialities, which have
also been discussed by Meloy (1988). These observations support
the link between inflated self-appraisals and aggression.
Hare also noted that psychopaths' sense of superiority is accompanied
by a tendency to regard other people as simply objects
to be exploited.
Thus, psychopaths seem to fit the view of highly favorable
opinions of self as a source of violence. Hare (1993) also observed
them to be "highly reactive to perceived insults or
slights" (p. 59). We propose that such hypersensitivity might
reflect the use of violence to ward off emotional distress, and
Meloy (1988) proposed that link as central to the psychopathic
mentality. Although they are not socially sensitive in the sense
of having high empathy or concern for others, they are sensitive
in the sense of understanding how to manipulate other people,
and they are certainly sensitive to any blows to their egotism.
Hare's observations are thus consistent with the view that
threatened egotism is a main cause of violence, although they
also support the view that egotism can cause violence directly
because one disregards the other's interests and point of view.
Comparing self-esteem across racial or ethnic groups is complicated
by several factors, such as measurement issues and
temporal changes, but the very possibility of temporal shifts
presents an appealing chance to look for covariation in selfesteem
and violence levels. In the 19th and early 20th centuries,
American White men presumably were fairly securely convinced
of their superior status. This confidence is generally assumed
to have eroded in recent decades, and indeed research
now indicates that Black people have self-esteem levels equal to
or higher than those of White people (see Crocker & Major,
1989, for review). Concerted efforts to boost racial pride and
dignity among Black Americans in the 1960s and 1970s may
have contributed to this shift.
Meanwhile, violence levels also appear to have changed, and
these changes directly contradict the view that low self-esteem
promotes violence. During the period when White men had the
highest self-esteem, they were also apparently the most violent
group. Historians believe that rapes of White women by Black
men were quite rare, whereas the reverse was relatively common
(e.g., Brownmiller, 1975). Likewise, the majority of interracial
murders involved White men killing Blacks, a pattern that is
still reasonably well documented into the 1920s (e.g., Brearly,
1932; Holfman, 1925; Von Hentig, 1948). These patterns have
been reversed in recent decades as Black self-esteem has risen
relative to White self-esteem. According to Scully (1990), Black
men now rape White women approximately 10 times as often
as White men rape Black women. The timing of this reversal
appears to coincide with the concerted cultural efforts to boost
self-esteem among Blacks: LaFree's (1976) review of multiple
studies of interracial rape concluded that researchers found approximately
equal numbers of Black-on-White and White-on-
Black rape in the 1950s, but since 1960 all studies have found a
preponderance of Black-on-White rape (see also Brownmiller,
1975). Similarly, recent murder statistics indicate that the
strong majority (80%-90%) of interracial murders now consist
of Blacks murdering Whites (Adler, 1994). Clearly, both races
have committed far too many horrible crimes, and neither race
can find much claim to any moral high ground in these statistics,
but the shifting patterns on both sides repeatedly link
higher or rising esteem with increasing criminal violence toward
the other. 6
To seek converging evidence regarding cross-temporal shifts
in self-appraisals and aggression, we examined research on
manic-depressive ( bipolar ) disorders. Although these individuals
are mentally ill and therefore fall outside the main scope of
our review, they do provide an appealing chance to examine
intraindividual fluctuations in self-esteem. Inflated, grandiose
self-esteem occurs in the manic phase and presumably disappears
or inverts during the depressive phase (American Psychiatric
Association, 1994). Evidence suggests that aggressive actions
and general patterns of hostility or irritability coincide
mainly with the manic state (Goodwin & Jamison, 1990),
which is again consistent with the view that favorable and inflated
self-appraisals are linked to violence.
Another variation on the group-differences strategy is to look at
groups who are defined by particular states rather than permanent
traits. Indeed, although state self-esteem is strongly correlated with
trait self-esteem, it does fluctuate around the chronic level
(Heatherton & Polivy, 1991; Kernis, 1993). One particularly relevant
group would be people who consume alcohol. It is well documented
that alcohol consumption increases agw~ession (Bushman
& Cooper, 1990). This conclusion has been well supported by laboratory
studies on aggression, although the usual conclusion is that
alcohol does not so much create aggression as increase aggressive
responding once aggres~on is elicited by other causes. Moreover,
it is well established that the majority of violent crimes are committed
by people who have consumed alcohol, and indeed this
point has been established repeatedly and separately for murder,
rape, and a.~sault (National Research Council, 1993; see also Gottfredson
& Hirschi, 1990;Groth, 1979; Norris, 1988).
To forestall the drawing of unintended implications from these data,
we hasten to add that we are not advocating that any particular group
or category should be denied a basis for pride or self-esteem. We do
think that a diverse society such as the United States is likely to function
best if all groups cultivate an attitude of respect and appreciation toward
all others and seek a severely judicious balance between humility and
pride regarding their own group's accomplishments. Efforts to impose
humility on others are likely to backfire, and indeed some of America's
racial problems can probably be traced to past policies of deliberate
subjugation that were based on one race's ill-founded assumptions of
innate superiority. It is hoped that both races have had enough opportunity
to learn that respect ought to be earned as an individual rather
than claimed as a member of a racial group. The apparent link between
racial egotism and violence toward others may be one of the more unsavory
demonstrations of the cross-racial universality of human nature.
ECK)TISM AND VIOLENCE 15
What, then, is the self-esteem level of people who consume
alcohol? Evidence indicates that alcohol raises the favorability
of self-appraisals. Intoxicated people rate themselves more favorably
than they would otherwise (Banaji & Steele, 1989; Diamond
& Wilsnack, 1978; Hurley, 1990; Konovsky & Wilsnack,
1982; Orford & Keddie, 1985). Apparently, then, alcohol
generally helps create a state of high self-esteem. Thus, again, a
group that shows elevated egotism also shows unusually high
rates of violence.
Critique. Data on large groups can furnish quite accurate
indexes of rates of violence with high external validity. The
drawback is that each group difference is subject to multiple
possible explanations. For example, it is difficult to be certain
that the favorable self-assessments of intoxicated people are a
mediating factor in their violence; it is plausible that there are
direct links from alcohol to violence, without self-esteem being
involved. Moreover, it is possible that the violence is perpetrated
by a minority portion of the group who may be atypical in selfappraisals.
For example, men are both more violent and more
egotistical than women, but it is possible that most of the violence
is perpetrated by men who do not share the egotism common
to their gender. Therefore, none of the findings in this section
permits a strong conclusion about the link between selfappraisals
and violence. On the other hand, the convergence
across multiple comparisons is impressive in its contradiction
to the low self-esteem view. To put this another way: Although
each of the results covered in this section could be explained
with reference to other factors, it would require considerable
explaining and an abandonment of parsimony to continue asserting
that low self-esteem causes violence.
Conclusion. If low self-esteem did cause violence, one
would expect that in general groups with lower self-esteem
would be more violent, but the evidence reviewed in this section
repeatedly found the opposite. It is difficult to maintain belief
in the low self-esteem view after seeing that the more violent
groups are generally the ones with higher self-esteem; at best,
one would have to assume that the effect is weak enough to be
overridden by many other variables. The effort to invoke alternative
explanations is especially difficult in light of evidence
that shifts over time in self-esteem are accompanied by shifts in
aggression such that the periods of higher self-esteem are the
ones linked to greater violence.
Moreover, several findings suggest that inflated or unstable
views of self are linked to violence. The grandiose self-appraisals
of psychopaths and manics, and the inflation of self-appraisal
during alcoholic intoxication, provide support for this
view.
Murder and Assault
We turn now to considering violent crimes by individuals.
Studies have examined various samples of offenders, and our
goal is to ascertain what direct observations of offenders have
suggested about their self-appraisals. A general methodological
problem is that offenders are most available for study after arrest
and imprisonment, but the humiliating process could welt
have an effect on self-esteem. Being captured for a crime is a
prominent failure experience, and moreover the assertion of
humble remorse is often perceived as a prerequisite for parole
and early release. As a result, superficial evidence of low selfesteem
should be especially easy to find in studies of convicted
offenders.
Despite any methodological bias toward low self-esteem,
however, studies of violent offenders have typically suggested
strong tendencies toward egotism and narcissism, and any signs
of low self-esteem are at best ambiguous. Thus, the classic study
of violent men by Toch (1969/1993) sought to classify them
into types. His taxonomy was weakened by the fact that the two
most common types could not be reliably distinguished, and the
third largest was related to the second, so in a sense what Toch
produced was one very large category and an assortment of
small exceptions. The large category (the majority) consisted
of men for whom threatened egotism was behind the violence.
Although, as noted earlier, Toch's remarks were inconsistent as
to whether these men secretly had high or low self-esteem, he
was clear that these men generally became violent as a means of
proving positive self-worth and refuting perceived insults. These
individuals often seemed to seek out or manufacture situations
in which their image was challenged and they could bolster it by
aggressive action. As we have said, this pattern suggests confidence
and possibly arrogance.
Berkowitz (1978) studied a sample of British men imprisoned
for assault. The investigation sought evidence for the hypothesis
of a subculture of violence. More precisely, Berkowitz
tried to show that these men were motivated by the desire to
look good by showing off through aggressive behavior that
would be admired by others. But he was unable to find evidence
to support that hypothesis. Instead, most of the fights had begun
when one man thought another had insulted or belittled him.
"Our impression is that their egos were fragile indeed" (p. 158),
said Berkowitz, which could mean low self-esteem or could
mean a defensive pattern of high self-esteem. He said that these
men seemed excessively prone to regard another's remarks as
insulting or belittling which seems consistent with the unstable
high self-esteem suggested by Kernis, Grannemann, et al.
(1989) and with the hypersensitivity Hare (1993) observed
among psychopaths. The impression of egotism is further supported
by Berkowitz's finding that most of the men said they
had had high confidence that they would win the fight. Thus, in
general, Berkowitz was unable to confirm his initial hypothesis
that aggression was a means of making a good impression on
others or of adhering to subcultural values or securing material
rewards: "If anything, pride appears to be far more significant
than direct external benefits. Wounded pride certainly seems to
enrage them" ( 1978, p. 160). Wounded pride is essentiaUy the
same as threatened egotism, as we have proposed.
A recent study of homicide by Polk ( 1993 ) confirmed these
conclusions. Polk noted that nowadays many homicides occur
in connection with other crimes such as robbery, but in the remaining
cases the homicide is often the result of an altercation
that begins with challenges and insults. The person who feels he
( or less often she) is losing face in the argument may resort to
violence and murder.
Several studies have used the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory (MMPI) on various populations of offenders
(see Wilson & Herrnstein, 1985, for review). Three of the 10
MMPI scales are relevant to low self-esteem: Depression (2),
which includes self-deprecation; Psychasthenia (7), which indudes
anxiety and indecision; and Social Introversion (0),
which includes insecurity and shyness. The weight of the evi16
BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
dence, including some prospective longitudinal studies, as reviewed
by Wilson and Herrnstein, has not consistently shown
any relationship between psychasthenia and criminality, but the
other two scales are both negatively related to criminality: Depressed,
self-deprecating, insecure, and shy people are underrepresented
among criminals. These findings are difficult to reconcile
with the view that links low self-esteem to violent and
antisocial tendencies. Wilson and Herrnstein concluded that the
"lack of criminal tendencies among those whose highest scores
are on scales 2, 5, and 0 are by now commonplace in the empirical
literature on crime" (p. 188). By this measure, then, the
patterns that suggest low self-esteem produce remarkably few
criminals.
Even within samples of offenders, it appears that indicators
of egotism can discriminate violent and troublesome tendencies,
and it is the favorable views of self that are linked to the
worse actions. Gough, Wenk, and Rozynko (1965) administered
the California Psychological Inventory to young men (in
their late teens) on parole. The researchers were able to predict
future parole violations (recidivism) with some success, and
this sort of predictive success had eluded previous researchers.
Among the traits that predicted high recidivism were being egotistical
and outspoken (as well as "touchy," which suggests being
easily offended); meanwhile, being modest and unassuming
were among the traits associated with men who were least likely
to violate parole. These results all seem to fit the view linking
favorable views of self to violent tendencies.
Similar tendencies are evident even earlier in life. Studies of aggressiveness
in children are of special interest because aggressive
children show substantially higher rates of adult aggression and
criminal violence (e.g., Huesmann, Eron, Lefkowitz, & Waldea;
1984). Olweus ( 1994 ) recently summarized his own program of
research on bullies, who have been shown in follow-up studies to
have four times the level of serious criminality during adult life
that nonbullies show. In contrast to victims of bullying (who show
multiple indications of low self-esteem), the bullies themselves
seemed relatively secure and free from anxiety. "In contrast to a
fairly common assumption among psychologists and psychiatrists,
we have found no indicators that the aggressive bullies (boys) are
anxious and insecure under a tough surface" (p. 100), said Olweus,
adding that multiple samples and methods had confirmed
this conclusion, and concluding that bullies "do not suffer from
poor self-esteem" ( p. 100 ).
One of the most earnest and empathic efforts to understand the
subjective experience of committing crimes was that of Katz
(1988). Homicide as well as assault emerged in his study as typically
caused by threats to the offender's public image. In Katz's
view, the offender privately holds a positive view of self, but the
eventual victim impugns that view and implicitly humiliates the
offend~ often in front of an audience. The response is unplanned
violence resulting in injury or death. Katz insisted that feelings of
being humiliated are quickly transformed into rage. Katz argued
that many men feel that almost anyone can judge them and impugn
their esteem, whereas for women self-esteem is most heavily
invested in their intimate relationships---with the result that men
will attack strangers whereas women mainly just murder their intimate
partners, because only the partners can threaten their selfesteem
to a sufficient degree to provoke such a violent response.
Furthermore, Katz ( 1988 ) argued that many youthful circles
and street subcultures extend substantial respect to the "'badass"
sort of person who transcends the pressures to conform to
societal norms, rationality, and ideals. This prized identity is
cultivated in part by creating the impression of being unpredictably
prone to chaos and irrational violence. More generally,
street violence, whether by individuals or gangs, often revolves
around competing claims to hold a special, elite identity.
Concern over respect is hardly limited to modern lower-class
youths. Upper classes often have had just as much appetite for
egotistical gratifications. Wyatt-Brown (1982) said that the
slave codes and other racial practices of the antebellum South
all had the fundamental theme that Black people should show
sincere respect for all Whites. Moreover, he said that in the
Northeast, given the open industrial economy and abundant
universities, self-worth could be established through scholarly
erudition or financial success, but such means were largely unavailable
to Southern men, who therefore resorted to violence
instead. Accordingly, murder rates in the South were many
times higher than property crimes and many times higher than
the corresponding murder rates in the Northeast.
The violence proneness of the American South has been elaborated
by Nisbett (1993). His work emphasized the point that
Southern Americans are more inclined than Northerners to endorse
violence in response to insults. In laboratory and other
studies reported by Nisbett, Southern participants were more
angry in response to insults than were Northerners, and they
advocated more severe and violent solutions to scenarios involving
conflicts and insults. The Southern "culture of honor"
is an important cause of this tendency toward violence. A similar
conclusion was reached by Ellison ( 1991 ), who found that
Southerners are more likely than others to condone defensive or
retaliatory forms of violence. Violence is therefore instrumental
in enhancing one's honor or reputation.
Dueling is a traditional and widely disseminated pattern of
violence that is similar to the way Nisbett (1993) and others
have portrayed the violent honor culture of the South. Dueling
provides a ritualized form of aggression that can be regarded
simply as a formalized, systematic form of ordinary fighting.
According to Kiernan's ( t 989) account of dueling in European
history, dueling was intimately tied to highly favorable views of
self and to threats to such esteem. Dueling was mainly practiced
by the upper classes, who (back when no egalitarian ideologies
diminished their sense of being innately superior people) cultivated
their inflated notions of honor, virtue, and entitlement to
respect. Minor acts could be construed as insults, prompting
the offended person to insist on fighting on the so-called field of
honor. Thus, this visible and durable form of violence sprang
directly from inflated notions of personal (and familial) superiority
and from ego threats.
Indeed, Wyatt-Brown's (1982) history of the culture of honor
in the American antebellum South noted that dueling was common
and felt by many to be an obligatory response whenever
one was insulted. However, Wyatt-Brown's comments could be
construed to fit either the high self-esteem or the low self-esteem
theory. In favor of the latter, he said that winners and sometimes
even losers of duels gained esteem in the eyes of others, and he
speculated that some duelists suffered from an "inner sense of
worthlessness" (p. 360) that prompted them to fight as a way of
gaining public esteem. Still, that remark was overtly speculative
and may be a concession to the conventional wisdom that low
self-esteem causes violence. In contrast, Wyatt-Brown's fundaEGOTISM
AND VIOLENCE 17
mental analysis of honor began with "the inner conviction of
self-worth" (p. t4), to which public validation must be added,
and so fighting duels was a means of publicly defending one's
claims to a positive identity against external doubts or slights.
In Our view, the weight of evidence presented by Wyatt-
Brown (1982) supports the view that upper-class Southern men
generally held favorable, rather than humble or unfavorable,
views of themselves, even ifthere might be some uncertainty or
instability attending their egotism. The role of ego threat is
clear, in any case, insofar as duels were nearly always initiated
in response to derogatory comments by another (about oneself
or one's family).
Critique. Again, the convergence across many studies is far
more conclusive than the individual results themselves. In all
studies of violent populations and samples of offenders, it must
be acknowledged that they may be atypical of the broader population.
Hence, although studies have consistently characterized
offenders as egotistical, one cannot assume that all egotists
have violent tendencies.
Conclusion. Multiple studies of murder and assault have
found threatened egotism to be a significant factor. In some
spheres, such as dueling, the link is explicit and formal, whereas
in most others it emerges as a common factor. The view that low
self-esteem leads to violence appears contradicted by studies on
offenders, from childhood bullies to convicted murderers.
Many of the studies reviewed here included observations as
to how seemingly trivial the provocation was. This is consistent
with the view that such aggression has an anticipatory nature,
designed to head off possible losses of esteem. The pattern of
responding violently to slight or incipient threats suggests a hypersensitivity
to bad feedback, and this could well signify anticipatory
emotional responses and some tentativeness about the
favorable self-appraisals that are questioned.
We can thus see a consistent pattern across cultural, historical,
situational, and class boundaries. Many violent acts by individuals
occur in response to derogatory remarks or acts by
others, including ones that seem minor or trivial to observers.
In most cases, the perpetrators appear to be men who privatel3;
believe in their own superior worth but who encounter others
who impugn or dispute that belief. Violence may be especially
likely when the individual lacks alternative means to prove or
establish his superiority.
Rape
Rape is a complex crime, and there is considerable controversy
about its definition, causes, and meanings. Some apparent
causes, such as displaced revenge for prior mistreatment and
belief in rape myths, seemingly have little relevance to selfesteem,
but there is some evidence that self-esteem can be involved
in rape.
An eminent book on rape by Groth (1979) reported that in
one major pattern rapes were often preceded by various blows
to the rapist's self-esteem, causing him to feel that he "'had been
wronged, hurt, put down, or treated unjustly" (p. 16), usually
by some woman. In the other major pattern Groth identified,
either a woman or a man does something to the rapist that "undermines
his sense of competency and self-esteem" (p. 30), and
raping is a means of "restor[ing] his sense of power, control,
identity, and worth" (p. 31 ).7 Although Groth did reiterate the
standard line of interpreting the rape as reflecting low selfesteem,
his argument that the rape "'restores" positive views of
self contradicted that analysis, because it implies that positive
views of self exist to be restored. It would perhaps have been
more precise to say that rape tends to result from a favorable
view of self that has recently been impugned by another person
or situation. Groth's observations generally seem most consistent
with the view that high but unstable self-esteem is the cause
of sexual violence. Groth insisted further that the appeal of rape
is not sexual release but rather enjoyment of the victim's helplessness
and thus of one's own superior power (the rapist
"thrives on a feeling of omnipotence;' p. 47). He added that
participation in gang rape is often motivated by "an effort to
retain status" (p. 80), and that the leader of a gang rape enjoys
both control over the victim and over his cohorts.
Over 100 convicted rapists were interviewed by Scully and
Marolla (1985) to ascertain their motives and rewards. The enjoyment
of power over one's victim was cited by many. A number
of respondents made the comment, also found in Groth's
(1979) interviews, that one raped a particular woman to disabuse
her of her sense of superiority. That is, the woman gave
the man the impression she thought she was better than he was,
and so he raped her as a way of proving her wrong. The implications
for self-esteem are quite apparent: Rape is motivated by
the man's belief in his own superiority, which has been challenged
or disputed by the woman (or occasionally by someone
else). The selection of victim on the basis of her own apparent
self-esteem is consistent with the zero-sum view of self-esteem,
in which one can only gain esteem at the expense of others.
In a later work, Scully (1990) reported ample signs of egotism
among many of the convicted rapists, especially those who denied
their guilt. She said many of these men spontaneously bragged to
her about their sexual prowess and about their other attributes and
accomplishments, even claiming to be "multitalented superachievers"
(p. 112). It seems fair to regard these as inflated selfappraisals,
especially when one considers that all the men were in
prison at the time. A large minority even thought their victims
would regard them favorably afterward. She too found evidence of
selecting a victim on the basis of the victim's perceived high selfesteem,
such as the case of the rapist who described his motivation
and satisfaction by saying "I felt like I had put her [the victim] in
her place" ( Scully, 1990, p. 134).
Marital rape is likewise a controversial issue (even to define),
and its causes are poorly understood, but again there is some
evidence of issues of self-esteem and control. Finkelhor and Yllo
(1985) cited a common masculine belief in entitlement as a
cause of marital rape. Husbands rape their wives to prove their
sexual ownership and rights over their wives, as well as to demonstrate
superior power and achieve a victory over the wife. The
surprisingly high rates of anal intercourse (which is linked to
dominance; see Baumeister, 1989a) and forced sex in front of
witnesses both suggest that marital rape often is essentially an
effort to achieve symbolic proof of the husband's superior status.
This brings up the broader issue of domestic violence, to
which we turn in the next section.
Critique. The studies reviewed in this section suffer from
Groth did identify a third type of rape, based on sadism, but he said
that was statistically a very small and rare pattern. It is irrelevant to our
hypothesis.
18 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
limitations in sampling, measurement, quantification, and basis
for comparison. Research into the psychology of rapists remains
in a preliminary state, partly because researchers have
focused mainly on victims, and in many cases strong ideological
commitments may have complicated the development of empirically
based theory. The studies cited here are valuable
sources of observations and impressions, but the evidence is not
strong enough to justify sweeping generalizations or firm causal
conclusions,
Conclusion. Preliminary evidence portrays rapists as having
firm beliefs in male superiority and often elaborate beliefs
in their own individual superiority, all of which is contrary to
the low self-esteem view. Some observations support the view
that ego threats figure prominently in the events leading up to
rape. In many cases, however, the victim was not the source of
the ego threat. Additional observations by several researchers
did, however, fit the pattern we noted based on the zero-sum
view of esteem, namely that some offenders choose a victim
simply because her own apparent self-esteem somehow constitutes
a threat to the rapist's belief in his superiority, even though
she never evaluated him directly.
Domestic Violence Between Partners
We proposed that domestic violence was the one sphere in
which there would he extra reasons to expect that low selfesteem
might predict violence, insofar as unconfident people
might select safe, relatively helpless targets for their aggressive
impulses. As it happens, researchers have devoted more effort
to measuring and studying the effects of self-esteem on domestic
than on other forms of violence.
Despite frequent portrayals of wife beaters as having low selfesteem
(e.g., Walker, 1979), the evidence has not provided
much support for this view. Stets ( 1991 ) found no link between
self-esteem and inflicting violence among men; among women,
there were weak correlations between inflicting violence, being
the victim of partner violence, and having low self-esteem.
Burke, Stets, and Pirog-Good (1988) found "that self-esteem
was not related directly to either physical or sexual abuse for
men or for women" (p. 283), although there were some "spurious"
correlations as a result of shared variance with gender
identity measures. This conclusion seems consistent with Kernis's
(1993) position that measuring self-esteem (as opposed to
looking for the pattern of high but unstable, or variable, selfesteem)
alone may be of little help in determining the causes of
violence.
Even studies that have found low self-esteem correlated with
inflicting violence suffer from ambiguities that have caused the
researchers to question the traditional view that low self-esteem
causes violence. Goldstein and Rosenbaum (1985) found significantly
ltr, ver levels of self-esteem among physically abusive
husbands than among happily married husbands or among unhappily
married but nonviolent husbands. They observed, however,
that the correlational findings were inconclusive and that
it is "probable" that "abusing one's wife is self-esteem damaging"
(p. 427); thus, low self-esteem may be the effect rather than
the cause. Their sampling method may also have contributed to
this, because it consisted of men who had referred themselves
for therapy as wife abusers. As Holtzworth-Munroe (1992) has
noted, studies of domestic violence typically find severe differences
between the minority of abusers who admit to being abusers
and the majority of them who tend to minimize or deny their
violence and who lay blame for violent incidents on external
factors, such as the victim's provocations. It does seem that voluntarily
identifying oneself as a wife batterer and reporting for
therapy would be incompatible with furnishing a highly favorable
rating of self on a self-esteem scale.
One other study that found correlations was done by Russell
and Hulson (1992). They used a nonstandard self-esteem measure
that they thought would he especially relevant to domestic
violence and an unorthodox sample to find several correlations
suggesting that low self-esteem among wives was linked to both
perpetrating and receiving both psychological and physical
abuse and that low self-esteem among husbands was correlated
with inflicting psychological abuse (e.g., insulting the partner)
but not physical abuse. A multiple regression analysis eliminated
most of their effects, although they did find that wives low
in self-esteem were still more likely to physically attack their
husbands.
Thus, repeated efforts to link measures of low self-esteem to
self-reported physical violence have not yielded much. Possibly
clearer evidence comes from studies concerned with understanding
the motives and circumstances that lead to wife heating.
Gelles and Strans (1988) summarized a common provocation
to domestic violence by saying that people tended to hit
their spouses and children "after they felt that their self-worth
had been attacked or threatened" (p. 35). They noted that the
threat to self-worth may be external, such as at work, or it may
originate in the family itself. In the latter case, family members
know what others are sensitive and vulnerable about and may
say cruel or disparaging things, which elicit physically violent
responses. This pattern was found "over and over again" (p.
79) in interviews. Similarly, Gondolf ( 1985 ) characterized wife
beaters in his sample as men who strongly endorsed traditional
views about family and gender roles, particularly the "male expectation
of privilege" (p. 82 ) and an exaggerated sense of responsibility
for the family. When family events failed to follow
their cxpectations or jcopardizcd their sense of privilege, they
turned violent.
A historical study of physically abusive husbands around the
turn of the century by Peterson ( 1991 ) is typical and relevant.
Peterson characterized the typical wife beater in his sample as
"not an all-powerful patriarch but rather a husband with but
marginal resources" (p. 12) insofar as these husbands tended to
lack money, education, and other signs of status, especially in
comparison with their wives. Peterson inferred that the lack of
status would translate into low self-esteem and was consequently
quite puzzled by the signs that these men believed
strongly in male superiority. Indeed, in discussing the findings,
Peterson cited what he regarded as an inconsistency in the literature,
namely evidence that wife beaters were men who lacked
status and power but who nonetheless held traditional views
about male dominance in marriage. To Peterson, these findings
seemed to suggest contradictory conclusions about the role of
self-esteem.
Such findings are only conflicting, however, if one subscribes
to the theory that low self-esteem is the cause of family violence.
To us, the findings aptly capture the prototypical cause of violent
aggression: threatened egotism, or in this case the man's
firm belief in his own superiority coupled with the threat (due
EGOTISM AND VIOLENCE 19
to some status superiority enjoyed by the wife) that others may
not share that belief. Men who regarded themselves as superior
but who saw that their wives had surpassed them on some important
dimensions seemed quite likely to feel this insecure,
threatened egotism, which may have led them to strike out
against their wives. From our perspective, this pattern confirms
that a crucial cause of the violence was the men's beleaguered
belief in their own superiority.
Similar findings have been reported by Gelles and Straus
(1988), who noted that "status inconsistency is an important
component of the profile of the battering husband" (p. 88).
They said the typical wife beater feels obliged to hold down the
traditional male role of superiority and family dominance but
feels undermined by having less economic or social resources
than his neighbors and often even his wife. Clues and Rosenthal
(1990) likewise found that wife abuse was positively correlated
with the husband's perception of the wife as having high reward
power. Gelles and Straus reported that many wife beaters spoke
to them of "needing" to strike their wives to show them who
was the boss (e.g., p. 92 ). Once again, this view precisely fits the
formula we have proposed: The man regards himself as superior
but fears that others do not sufficiently endorse that view.
Another methodologically strong and often cited study of
spouse abuse was done by Hornung, McCullough, and Sugimoto
(1981 ). They found that, contrary to conventional wisdom,
working wives are attacked by their husbands more than
wives who stay at home, presumably because of status inconsistency:
The wife who remains at home does not implicitly
threaten her husband's superior status in the family. Thus,
again, it is the pattern of beliefs in one's (the husband's) superiority,
coupled with circumstances that seem to contradict or
undermine that superiority, that is most conducive to violence.
Indeed, many of Hornung et al.'s ( 1981 ) findings support the
view that a threatened sense of male superiority is an important
cause of domestic violence by men. Hornung et al. studied only
reports by wives and emphasized violence by husbands. Some
oftbeir specific findings seem internally inconsistent unless one
assumes that educational level sets expectations and occupational
level is perceived as the actual achievement outcome. In
that view, domestic violence was most common when men held
high but frustrated expectations. Highly educated men with relatively
uneducated wives were violent, which is consistent with
the view that seeing oneself as superior is a cause of violence.
Yet when the woman's occupational level was higher than the
man's, the man tended to become violent. Wives in the top occupational
stratum were subjected to high violence; men in the
top stratum were relatively nonviolent. Indeed, when the woman's
job was higher in status than her husband's, the likelihood
of life-threatening violence was six times higher than when the
pair's occupations were similar or compatible.
Above all, men who had been highly educated but had not
attained high-status occupations were particularly violent, and
this was intensified if the wife had achieved high status. Men
who were overachievers, however, in the sense of enjoying occupational
status and success above and beyond what their educational
level would normally predict, were significantly less violent
than control participants. In other words, when men's expectations
exceeded their outcomes, they were highly violent,
but when their outcomes exceeded their expectations, they were
exceptionally nonviolent. This finding shows that not all status
inconsistencies are equally likely to lead to violence. Threatened
egotism increases the risk of violence, whereas the opposite
form of inconsistency (success despite humility) reduces it.
All of these findings suggest that men beat their wives to
maintain the superiority of the husband role that has been
threatened or jeopardized. When the man's outcomes fall short
of his expectations, he is vulnerable to feeling that his wife will
not respect him, and he may be especially prone to reassert his
superiority with physical violence. When the wife has reached a
level of occupational success that is higher than her husband's,
he is again more likely to beat her, presumably again as a way of
enforcing his sense of superiority.
Related to this is a finding by Goldstein and Rosenbaum
(1985), which suggests that abusive husbands are more likely
than others to interpret a wife's behavior as threatening or damaging
to the man's favorable image of self. A man who feels
his superior status is tenuous, possibly because his occupational
success has not measured up to his or his wife's expectations,
may be extra sensitive to comments or actions by her that might
imply a disparaging or disrespectful attitude.
To be sure, not all domestic violence is perpetrated by men.
Straus (1980) and others have noted that most researchers began
with the assumption that spouse abuse is mainly perpetrated
by men, yet often objective data fail to confirm that. Two
reasons that have been suggested are that men tend to not report
being physically abused by their wives (because they would be
ashamed at being physically bested by a woman) and that the
superior size and strength of men typically mean that they inflict
greater harm on their wives than wives can inflict on husbands.
Straus's own data found approximately equal rates of
domestic violence by both genders, which surprised him and his
colleagues, leading to a series of supplementary analyses aimed
at finding the ballyhooed preponderance of male violence. Several
analyses (e.g., analyzing frequency rather than mere incidence
and restricting analyses to severe violence) failed to yield
any difference, but finally one pattern emerged in which men
were more violent: In cases in which there was mutual, escalating
violence, husbands escalated to higher levels of violence
than their wives.
This lone finding may be suspect because so many analyses
were done before something could be found to fit the researchers'
preconceptions, but if we assume that it is nonetheless correct
and valid, it seems to fit very well the notion of threatened
egotism as a cause of violence. Mutual violence presumably
means that the couple is prone to engage in physical fighting.
Assuming, again, that the majority of men are physically superior
at fighting and that they would regard being beaten by a
woman as a disgrace, it may simply be that when a man finds
himself in a physical battle with his wife he escalates to a level
of brutality at which he is sure to win the fight. In other words,
the inclination to beat one's spouse may be equally distributed
across men and women, and men are only more violent toward
their spouses when their egotism (i.e., their sense of superiority
and immunity to embarrassment) is jeopardized.
Renzetti (1992) studied partner abuse in lesbian relationships,
which provides a valuable complement to the studies that
have focused on male perpetrators of domestic violence. Her
data, along with several other studies she cited, confirmed the
contribution of status inconsistency to domestic violence. Batterers
wanted to be the decision makers, but the victims tended
20 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
to have more money and other resources (according to victims'
reports, which were Renzetti's sole source of data).
The two largest direct causes of violence in Renzetti's (1992)
data, however, were dependency and jealousy. She noted that
equality and independence are particularly strong ideals in lesbian
communities because of feminist ideology and other reasons;
the more one woman felt dependent on the other, the more
violent she was likely to be, and her violence seemed to signify
power and autonomy that contradicted the implication of her
apparent dependency. Meanwhile, Renzetti noted that jealousy
is strongly blended with envy in homosexual relationships, thus
adding a significant element of ego threat, because the outside
person who pursues one's partner would also be an eligible partner
for oneself, and so apparently the person has chosen one's
partner over oneself, suggesting that the interloper has judged
oneself as somehow less attractive than one's partner. Thus, the
ego threat of partner infidelity is doubled in homosexual as
compared with heterosexual triangles.
Critique. Consistent with our prediction that the low selfesteem
view would fare best in studies of domestic violence,
there have been some findings supporting that theory. However,
these effects are weak and small and have often failed to replicate.
Several of the studies contained multiple and fundamental
flaws. Problems of sampling are crucial, because the most conveniently
available sample usually consists of people who identify
and reproach themselves as violent spouses (such as those
who have sought therapy), but these are a seriously atypical minority
(Holtzworth-Munroe, 1992). The possibility that low
self-esteem was a result of abuse, or especially that low selfesteem
causes women to stay in mutually abusive relationships,
has been advanced as a likely explanation even when findings
have found low self-esteem to correlate with violence. Indeed,
one ought to expect considerable self-deprecation among people
who have acknowledged beating their wives or partners, given
the stigma. The findings that women with low self-esteem aggress
against their partners are complicated by the reciprocal
nature of much marital violence: If a battered woman strikes
her husband in self-defense (as many researchers propose is
common), it is misleading to depict her act as a result of her low
self-esteem. Larger, more careful, and more systematic studies
have found no direct link between self-esteem and domestic violence,
and presumably for that reason researchers have recently
shifted emphasis to status inconsistency. The link between
status inconsistency and domestic violence appears to be
reasonably well supported, although not all inconsistencies are
equally productive of violence.
Conclusion. Much research on domestic violence has been
shaped by the traditional belief that low self-esteem is a major
cause, but repeated efforts have yielded at best weak and ambiguous
findings consistent with that view. When preliminary
findings have linked low self-esteem with violence, the evidence
has usually disappeared under the influence of statistical controis,
rigorous sampling, or prospective methods. It does not
appear that low self-esteem causes domestic violence. Meanwhile,
evidence of egotism among physically abusive husbands
is abundant. Studies of these men repeatedly portray them as
believing strongly in male superiority, especially in the face of
circumstances that might question their own superiority over
their female partners.
Research has shown strong support for the hypothesis that
status inconsistency is a major cause of domestic violence, especially
violence against women. Male perpetrators apparently
believe themselves as being entitled to superior regard but find
that circumstances fail to confirm these inflated notions of self,
and so they attack their partners. Often the attack is a direct
effort to reassert the superiority they believed themselves entitled
to enjoy, such as the men who beat their wives to show them
"who's the boss," in their common phrase. Still, it is important
to note that not all forms of inconsistency produce violence,
and so it is slightly misleading to assert status inconsistency as
a cause. Violence seems to arise when circumstances question
favorable assumptions about the self; in contrast, when circumstances
provide equally inconsistent but highly favorable implications
about the self, violence is low. Thus, only some forms
of inconsistency are relevant. The evidence thus points to
threatened egotism as the decisive cause of domestic violence
between adult partners.
Other Domestic Violence: Parents and Children
As we suggested, child abuse may be the form of violence
most likely to yield evidence of low self, esteem, because people
who happen to feel violent while lacking self-esteem would be
most likely to choose relatively helpless targets such as children.
A series of studies has indeed suggested that child abusers have
low self-esteem (S. C. Anderson & Lauderdale, 1982; Evans,
1980; Melnich & Hurley, 1969). More recent work has begun
to question that conclusion, however. Shorkey and Armendariz
(1985) replicated the lower self-esteem found among child
abusers (from a sample in counseling) but concluded that it is
not the main causal factor.
One of the most important studies, however, was done by
Christensen et al. (1994). They suggested that previous studies
may have been misled by reliance on samples of incarcerated
abusers or abusers in therapy, because being publicly identified
as a child abuser may well lower self-esteem (especially on measures
that emphasize getting along well with others). They
therefore conducted a prospective study and found no difference
in self-esteem between the eventual abusers and the comparison
group. They concluded that low self-esteem is not a risk
factor for potential physical abuse.
One other prospective study, by Altemeier, O'Conner,
Vietze, Sandier, and Sherrod ( 1983 ), also provided relevant
evidence. They found that abusive mothers differed mainly
in that they were more likely to endorse the statement "I'm
usually unsuccessful in life" than others. This statement
could indicate low self-esteem, but it could also indicate experiences
that threaten high self-esteem. A more recent study
by Dutton and Hart (1992) found that high levels of narcissism
(particularly narcissistic personality disorders) were associated
with violence against family members. Thus, there
is evidence to support the view that excessively favorable but
threatened views of self lead to violence.
Elder abuse is another form ofdomestic violence that is often
perpetrated by women, although both genders are well represented
among such batterers. Pillemer's ( 1985 ) findings contradicted
the traditional stereotype of elder abuse as caused by
helpless dependency of the victims and by the perpetrator's resentment
of the victim's neediness. Pillemer found that the victims
of elder abuse tended to be more independent than control
EGOTISM AND VIOLENCE 21
participants. The abusers, however, tended to be dependent on
the victims for money, transportation, or other resources. The
abusers apparently were embarrassed by and resented their own
dependency. Thus, the refusal to accept an inferior or dependent
role appears to be a major cause of elder abuse, which fits the
pattern of ~gh but threatened Self-esteem.
The most common but ironically least studied form of domestic
violence is between siblings. Wiehe ( 1991 ) conducted a
victim survey but noted that almost nothing is known about
perpetrators, except for the cases in which victims become perpetrators.
The systematic selection of weaker, vulnerable targets
was confirmed in their findings, according to a general pattern
in which abusers tended to be older, stronger, and male, and
victims tended to be younger, ~veaker, and female. Whether low
self-esteem dictated the preference for weaker victims is quite
unclear, however. All that was clear was that the most common
situation to produce sibling violence was when older siblings
were left in charge of younger ones who then defied their authority
in some way, and so the older siblings used violence to
assert their authority, gain compliance, or simply intimidate the
younger ones. This finding seems most consistent with the pattern
we have already seen multiple times of threatened but favorable
(in this case situational) views of self. The older, abusive
sibling presumably feels entitled to superior status and authority
(as conferred by the parents) and feels this superior status is
threatened when the younger sibling fails to obey or comply.
Still, this pattern is merely situational, and one cannot draw
any clear conclusions about the trait levels of self-esteem among
abusers. It is plausible that abusers regard themselves as superior
and hence entitled to hit or hurt their weaker, supposedly
inferior siblings. It seems less plausible a priori to suggest that
older siblings left in charge by their parents feel inferior to their
younger siblings (as the low self-esteem view might suggest),
but it cannot be ruled out empirically.
Critique. Many studies of intergenerational domestic violence
are methodologically weak, and very little evidence of any
sort exists with regard to sibling violence. Still, some fairly rigorous
work has been done, particularly with regard to parents
who abuse children. These studies have found no link between
self-esteem and violence.
Conclusion. Early studies found occasional support for the
traditional hypothesis of low self-esteem as a cause of domestic
violence, but that support has eroded in recent years as methodologically
better studies have examined the issue. More recent evidence
seems to be moving toward a status inconsistency explanation
instead of a low self-esteem explanation, which would parallel
the evolution of empirically based theory with regard to domestic
violence between adult partners. People become violent because
they refuse to accept a dependent role or because they feel that
their superior role has been challenged or questioned. Some evidence
has begun pointing to narcissism (i.e., inflated love of self)
as a cause of violence against family members. All these findings
seem best characterized as indicating that domestic violence arises
when privately favorable views of self are impugned by external
circumstances or by other people's particular, disrespectful actions,
but given the present state of the literature on intergenerational
abuse that conclusion must be regarded as quite tentative.
Violent Youth Gangs and Juvenile Delinquency
The classic study of juvenile delinquency by Glueck and
Glueck (1950) compared juvenile delinquents against a
matched sample of nondelinquent boys. Although the study was
an early one and has been criticized on methodological grounds,
it benefited from a large sample and extensive work, and according
to the focused review by Wilson and Herrnstein (1985)
nearly all of their findings have been replicated by subsequent
studies. The Glueck and Glueck study did not measure selfesteem
directly (indeed it antedated most modern self-esteem
scales), but there were plenty of related variables. The pattern
of findings offers little to support the hypothesis that low selfesteem
causes delinquency. Delinquent boys were more likely
than control boys to be characterized as self-assertive, socially
assertive, defiant, and narcissistic, none of which seems compatible
with low self-esteem. Meanwhile, the delinquents were
less likely than the comparison group to be marked by the factors
that do indicate low self-esteem, including severe insecurity,
feelings of helplessness, feelings of being unloved, general
anxiety (a frequent correlate of low self-esteem), submissivehess,
and fear of failure. Thus, the thoughts and actions of juvenile
delinquents suggested that they held quite favorable opinions
of themselves.
As Sampson and Laub (1993) noted, it is useful to look for
convergences between the Glueck and Glueck (1950) study and
more recent studies of youthful violence, not only because of
the seminal nature of the Gluecks' work, but also because their
data were collected several decades ago and on an almost entirely
White sample, unlike more recent studies. Converging
findings thus confer especially high confidence in conclusions
that can be supported across time and ethnicity.
One of the most thorough research projects on youth gangs
was that of Jankowski ( 1991 ), whose work involved I0 years,
several cities, and 37 gangs. Although as a sociologist he was
disinclined to use self-esteem or personality factors as explanatory
constructs, his study did furnish several important observations.
Jankowsld specifically rejected the notion that acting
tough is a result of low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy. In
his words, "There have been some studies of gangs that suggest
that many gang members have tough exteriors but are insecure
on the inside. This is a mistaken observation" (p. 27). He said
that for many members, the appeal of the gang is the positive
respect it enjoys in the community as well as the respectful
treatment from other gang members, which he found to be an
important norm in nearly all gangs he studied. He said most
gang members "expressed a strong sense of self-competence and
a drive to compete with others" (p. 102). When they failed, they
always blamed something external rather than personal inadequacy
or error. This last observation is especially relevant because
several controlled studies have shown that such behavior
is characteristic of high self-esteem and contrary to the typical
responses of people with low self-esteem (Fitch, 1970; Ickes &
Layden, 1978; Tennen & Herzberger, 1987; see also Kernis,
Brockner, & Frankel, 1989).
Jankowski's ( 1991 ) characterization of the personal attitudes
and worldviews of gang members likewise contains indicators
of egotism. He said gang members tended to believe that their
parents had capitulated to accept a humble life of poverty and
failure, which they refused to do themselves. Mainly, he found,
gang members were violent toward people "whom they perceived
to show a lack of respect or to challenge their honor" (p.
142). Another main cause of gang violence is personal ambition:
People behave violently to enhance their status in the or22
BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
ganization (and harm or discredit, their rivals). The conclusion
that the more ambitious people become the more violent ones
is difficult to reconcile with the view that violence arises from
low self-esteem.
Another sociologist, E. Anderson (1994), summarized his
observations on Black street gangs by noting that the code of
the streets centers around "respect," which gangs regard as an
external quality involving being "granted the deference one deserves"
(p. 82 ). Thus, his analysis indicates that gang members
believe they deserve to be treated as superior beings--that is,
their self-esteem is high--but they are constantly vulnerable to
external circumstances that may dispute or fail to recognize
their superiority. He said that gang members learn early in life
that humility (which is one of the concepts linked to modesty
and low self-esteem) is not a virtue, whereas people who win
lights also gain the admiration of others. In fact, gang members
have often been socialized with lessons that underscore the necessity
of correcting someone who shows disrespect.
The high level of violence among modern youth gangs is
partly due to what E. Anderson (1994) described as a zero-sum
aspect, such that prestige and respect are gained by depriving
others of them, and so people may look for fights or conflicts as
a way to assert their superiority over others. Anderson also said
that respect is enhanced by what he calls "nerve" which is essentially
a matter of acting as if oneself is above the rules that
apply to others and as if one disregards the rights of others. In
our view, both of these elements of nerve imply a view of one's
own superiority and thus should be linked to high self-esteem.
In a similar vein, Katz (1988) noted that many youthful circles
and street subcultures afford respect mainly to the "badass"
sort of person who transcends the pressures to conform to societal
norms, rationality, and ideals. This prized identity is cultivated
in part by creating the impression of being unpredictably
prone to chaos and irrational violence.
The zero-sum hypothesis may help explain the frequent provocations
that lead to violence; after all, if showing disrespect
often elicits violence, why would people ever show disrespect to
youthful gang members? Yet it is clear that many people do,
and in particular gang members insult members of other gangs.
According to Horowitz and Schwartz (1974), most of what
passes for gang violence is actually a matter of conflicts between
individuals, and full-scale gang battles are quite rare (see also
Jankowski, 1991 ). Still, the group is the operative unit in many
cases. Violence is typically precipitated when one person impugns
the honor or dignity of the other, most commonly by an
insult, but also by any violation of etiquette. The code of honor
is central to gang life, and gang members regard their own group
as superior; the insults are often spoken as a way of asserting the
superiority of one's own group, to which the insulted party
must respond by defending the esteem of his ( or sometimes her)
group. If the zero-sum view is correct, then derogating rival
groups would be perceived as an effective way of asserting and
boosting the esteem of one's own group.
Indeed, one of Katz's (1988) most provocative arguments is
that youth gangs, which bring early deaths to so many of their
members, actually have a positive investment in sustaining
community violence, because that violence offers them a respectable
justification for existence (as protection against the
dangerous urban environment), without which the gang would
seem a mere childish association. The pervasiveness of violence
thus helps support the gang members' egotism by transforming
them from a club of trouble-making boys into a prestigious
corps of warriors defending their community.
In any case, intergang violence thus comes to revolve around
competing claims to be members of a privileged elite, and the
occasion for violence is often a merely symbolic aspersion that
the rival group's claims are unfounded (such as by making a
humorous verbal insult or writing the name of one's gang in the
home territory of the other gang). The gang members' preoccupation
with respect (as in the common neologism dissing) reflects
the ongoing tension between private, exalted views of self
(which are shared and supported by the gang) and public perception
of themselves as potentially falling short. McCall's
(1994) recent firsthand account of his own violent youth emphasizes
the concern with maintaining respect by putting down
others and violently preventing others from showing disrespect
to oneself, and other accounts make similar points (Bing, 1991;
Currie, 1991 ).
Studies of adult gangs show similar patterns. Members of organized
crime tend to regard themselves as superior beings and
to command deferential, respectful treatment from others
(Anastasia, 1991; Arlacchi, 1992). Likewise, studies of prison
gangs have observed that they form along racial and ethnic lines
and hold explicit ideologies of their own racial or ethnic superiority,
which is intensified as they come to operate as an elite
group within the prison (Camp & Camp, 1985; Lyman, 1989).
Critique. Studies of juvenile delinquents and youth gangs
have generally lacked the rigor of experimental studies, but they
have used a variety of observational and occasionally quantitative
measures. Researchers from different disciplines concur in
depicting these young men as egotistical in several ways, and
they concur emphatically on the apparent preoccupation with
respect and self-assertion. They also agree that insults or other
disrespectful treatment tends to lead to violence. In view of this
convergence, it seems reasonable to accept these conclusions,
until or unless contradictory evidence can be marshaled. The
evidence about organized crime and prison gangs is largely exploratory
and impressionistic and should be regarded as
preliminary.
Conclusion. Although standardized measures of self-esteem
have generally been lacking from studies ofjuvenile delinquents and
gang members, there are ample indications of egotism from those
studies. Gang members apparently think, talk, and act like people
with high self-esteem, and there is little to support the view that they
are humble or self-deprecating or even that they are privately full of
insecurities and self-doubts. Violent youths seem sincerely to believe
that they are better than other people, but they frequently find themselves
in circumstances that threaten or challenge these beliefs, and
in those circumstances they tend to attack other people. It also appears
that they sometimes manipulate or seek out such challenges
to their esteem, in order to enhance their esteem by prevailing in a
violent contest. Similar patterns have been observed in adult criminal
gangs, but more research is needed.
Political Terror (Government Repression, Terrorism, and
War)
Political organizations perpetrate a great deal of violence. In
this section we shall examine terrorism, government repression,
assassination, and war. Genocidal activities may also be considEGOTISM
AND VIOLENCE 23
ered as political violence, but they will be covered in the following
section.
An immense amount of suffering has resulted from internal repressive
campaigns mounted by tyrannical governments. Chirot
(1994) provided an authoritative global survey of 20th-century
tyrannies. As a political scientist, his primary interest was in polkieal
structures and developments as causes of tyranny, but he conduded
that threatened collective egotism was often an important
factor in leading to tyranny. In case after case he examined,
nations or national groups developed a strong ideology that emphasized
their own superiority to other nations and groups. Tyrannies
typically emerged when the ideology of superiority was accompanied
by the perception that they did not receive the respect
that was due them. As a fairly extreme example, prior to the Communist
takeover Russians felt themselves culturally and morally
sui~ior to the decadent nations of Western Europe, but they believed
that accidental advantages of material wealth and military
innovation had given the Westerners the edge and prevented Russia
from taking its rightful place of leadership. This made Russians
receptive to the emer~ace of a strong government that took the
form of the Communist tyranny and whose internal terrors and
purges still hold the record for the most killing by any government.
Similar conclusions have been suggested by Staub ( 1985, 1989)
and Ford (1985).
It is also useful to examine the motives and beliefs of the individuals
who carry out repressive policies, although such information
is relatively difficult to obtain. In particula~ the psychology of
the individuals who administer torture for repressive regimes has
received only intermittent study for various obvious reasons, ineluding
the secrecy surrounding the activities and the reluctance
of former torturers to participate in research or tell their stories
after the regime has been discredited.
The methods used to train torturers should have considerable
theoretical interest for the present debate. If low self-esteem
leads to violence, then one would presumably train torturers by
instilling feelings of inferiority and humility in them; in contrast,
if high self-esteem facilitates violence, then the most
effective training would instill attitudes of elitist superiority.
The evidence appears to favor the latter. Gibson and Haritos-
Fatouros (1986; see also Peters, 1985) described procedures
used to train torturers during the military regime in Greece
in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Relevant aspects of training
included telling the trainees that they were special and fortunate
to be included in this elite corps, s The sense of superiority was
buttressed after the training by conferring many special privileges
and marks of status on these men, such as allowing them
to wear their hair long (unlike most soldiers) and wear civilian
clothes, lending them military cars for personal use, and allowing
them to eat free meals in good restaurants instead of dining
on military fare. The authors noted that this instilling a sense of
elitism and privilege was not unique to these groups, because
other programs designed to train especially violent individuals
(such as the U.S. Green Berets) do the same.
In particular, torturers are apparently strongly indoctrinated
with the view that the superior culture (as embodied in,their
nation with its current regime) is threatened by evil forces, of
whom the torture victims are representatives. Thus, the ideology
of inherent but jeopardized superiority is acutely emphasized
among the people who must carry out the violence. Conquest's
( 1986, 1990) observations about Russian terror and repression
present a similar picture, although no systematic or
quantitative study was involved.
Whereas repressive governments have all the forces of laws,
police, and state bureaucracy on their side, terrorist groups typically
lack all of these. Most commonly, terrorists are campaign,
ing for radical political change and thus must live outside the
law and in opposition to state institutions. Despite the opposite
situation, they seem to share some important characteristics
with tyrannical governments. In particular, they seem to cultivate
the same attitude of moral superiority over their victims
and enemies (e.g., Reich, 1990). Hee's (1993) detailed account
indicated that her training as a terrorist in North Korea emphasized
the pervasive belief in the moral superiority of North Korea
in all nonmaterial aspects over everyone else in the world.
The backwardness and poverty and other disadvantages of
North Korea may have constituted some ego threat, and indeed
Hee reported how much dissonance she suffered during her espionage
and terrorist missions abroad, which showed her how
much better off the citizens of other countries were than North
Koreans. Still, she and her peers were quite willing to perform
violent acts even against unsuspecting, noncombatant citizens
because of their belief in their own moral superiority. Post
(1990) made a similar argument, which he exemplified with a
story in which a new recruit objected to innocent people being
killed if the terrorist group carried out its plan to bomb a department
store; the group leader patiently explained that anyone
shopping in such a store must be a capitalist and hence was
not innocent.
We already mentioned that Long (1990) said that terrorists
had low self-esteem but then provided evidence suggestive of
high self-esteem (e.g., terrorists raise aspirations after failure, as
do people high in self-esteem). Later in his book, Long partly
contradicted his own assertion about low self-esteem by describing
terrorist leaders as narcissistic (p. 18 ). If the leaders--
those who are most responsible for the terrorist violencemhold
the grandiose and inflated views of self that are the hhllmark of
narcissism, it is hard to regard terrorism as deriving from low
self-esteem.
Two additional forms of political violence, namely assassination
and warfare, deserve brief mention. Assassination has always
been quite unusual, but its importance makes it worth
considering despite its rarity. Ford's (1985) history does not,
however, provide much indication of either high or low selfesteem
as a prominent characteristic of assassins. This form of
violence may well be a product of concerns and causes that do
not include self-esteem.
Unlike assassination, war has been extremely common; indeed,
Sluka (1992) summarized various estimates that there
have been approximately 14,000 wars since 3600 B.c., and the
four decades following World War II contained only 26 days of
s To be sure, during the training phase there was a period during
which the initiates received humiliating treatment, but this appears to
be standard for many military training regimens and indeed has been
proposed by Aronson and Mills (1959) as an effective aid toward building
strong emotional ties to the group. It is perhaps most precise to say
that a preparatory phase of humility during training is followed by a
more permanent phase of belonging to a superior elite. In any case, what
matters is that by the time these men began their duties as torturers they
had been led to regard themselves as special, superior individuals.
24 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
world peace. 9 Generalization is therefore quite hazardous. Still,
recent and salient evidence seems hard to reconcile with the
view that low self-esteem (as in lack of national pride) prompts
nations to go to war. It is difficult to characterize imperial Japan,
Nazi Germany, or Hussein's Iraq, for example, as suffering
from low self-esteem; rather, such cases seem to fit the pattern
of excessively favorable views of self that produce dreams of
glory and anger that the rest of the world fails to pay sufficient
respect. Staub ( 1985 ) concluded that cultural attitudes of superiority
are important causes of warfare and other violence.
If we examine war from the perspective of the individuals who
carry it out rather than from the perspective of national ideology,
once again there seems ample evidence of egotism. Keegan
(1993) has concluded that professional soldiers, from the Romans
to the present, were not generally attracted and sustained
in military life by financial gain but rather by pride in belonging
to a valued group, concern over winning admiration and fellowship
of colleagues, accumulation of honor, and largely symbolic
recognitions of success.
Recent efforts to understand the attitudes that make people
favorably inclined toward war have been summarized by Feshbach
(1994). In his research program, two sets of attitudes
stood out (see Kosterman & Feshbach, 1989). He called the
first of these patriotism, which he explained chiefly in terms of
attachment feelings, although some element of pride is involved.
The second attitude he referred to as nationalism, which
he explicitly defined in terms of belief in the superiority of one's
nation over others. Both of these attitudes are positively related
to militaristic attitudes, but nationalism shows much stronger
relationships to prowar and pronuclear attitudes. Nationalism
is also positively correlated with individual aggressive tendencies.
These results indicate that feelings of collective superiority
are linked to violent, militaristic inclinations, ranging from personal
conflicts to nuclear war.
Critique. Most of the work reviewed in this section was
done by historians, sociologists, and political scientists. When
judged by psychologists' standards of methodological rigor, this
work is relatively weak, but when judged on its own terms it
fares better. Moreover, the convergence of evidence across
different disciplines helps rule out the danger that disciplinary
biases or methodological artifacts have shaped the conclusions.
Conclusion. Except for assassination, it appears that political
violence is often correlated with ( and preceded by) strongly
favorable self-regard and the perception that these views are
threatened or disputed by others. In most cases it is the collective
self-perception of superiority that is involved. Some signs
indicate that individuals who carry out political violence are
either indoctrinated with the view of their own superiority or
marked by narcissistic traits. Psychologists may question the
methodological rigor of these studies, but the conclusion does
seem consistent with the general patterns we have already seen
in other spheres, and interdisciplinary convergence is itself a
persuasive indicator. The only contrary view was Long's (1990)
characterization of terrorists as having low self-esteem, but as
we noted his elaboration seemed to indicate high self-esteem
after all.
Prejudice, Oppression, and Genocide
It would seem that the argument in favor of high self-esteem
would be relatively easy to make in the case of prejudice and OPpression.
Thus, in the United States, there was until recently a long
tradition of general discrimination and oppression against Black
citizens, and it would be difficult to argue that these things occurred
because White people believed they were inferior to Blacks.
By the same token, the most discussed and sensational pattern of
genocide in the modem era was the extensive murder of Jews by
Nazi-dominated, traditionally Christian Germany, and it would
require some rather severe stretches of the imagination to contend
that the Nazis believed themselves inferior to the Jews (whom they
denounced as "vermin" ). Indeed, the Nazis styled themselves the
"master race," a label that seems hard to reconcile with a theory
that they held a low opinion of themselves.
Racist prejudice in the United States appears to have had its
major origin in the period during which the majority of Black
Americans were slaves. In nearly all societies that have practiced
slavery, slaves ranked at the bottom of the social hierarchy of selfworth,
and the lowest ranking flee people (including freed slaves )
were oRen very concerned to establish their superiority to slaves
(Patterson, 1982). Indeed, in America's Civil War, a problem
faced by the southern aristocrats was how to enlist the support of
the poor White population for a war that offered it little in terms
of economic or political benefits, and the main solution was to
appeal to these people's sense of self-esteem by pointing out that if
the South were to lose the war, the Black slaves would be freed
and would become the equals of these poor Whites (McPherson,
1988). Apparently the poor Whites agreed with that argument
sufficiently to enroll and fight in the Civil War.
The loss of the Civil War constituted a double blow to the
immense pride of the southern aristocrats: First, they had been
unthinkably defeated by the despised Yankees, and second, the
Reconstruction governments sought to make the Blacks fully
equal to all other citizens. The infamous Ku Klux Klan was
founded and spread in response to these ego threats, stimulated
by the perception that "insolent" Blacks now refused to treat
Whites as inherently superior beings (e.g., by stepping out of
the way on the sidewalk). Initially Klan activities were designed
to play humiliating but otherwise harmless pranks on Blacks,
as if simply to prove White superiority. Soon, however, the Klan
began to become violent against two groups of targets: Black
people who seemed upwardly mobile (thereby refuting White
supremacy) and White people who helped Blacks or otherwise
treated them as equals. Although leadership and initiative came
from the upper classes, most Klan violence over the years was
perpetrated by lower-class White men who presumably had the
most to fear in terms of loss of status from the notion of Black
equality (Wade, 1987 ). Thus, the emergence and history of the
Ku Klux Klan seem consistent with the notion that threatened
egotism (in this case, firm beliefs in White supremacy that were
undermined by political and socioeconomic changes) is a powerful
cause of prejudice and related violence. Indeed, at the congressional
hearings on the Klan in 1921, the Imperial Wizard
testified that the doctrine of White supremacy was not intended
as a matter of"race hatred" but rather of"race pride" (Wade,
1987, p. 164).
Although the Klan has been largely discredited and driven
underground, the 1980s witnessed a resurgence of racially mo-
9 Even that estimate is high, because it is based on only international
wars. If civil wars were counted too, there probably would be no days of
peace at all.
EGOTISM AND VIOLENCE 25
tivated group activity, most notably among disaffected young
White men who formed neo-Nazi groups ("skinheads").
Hamm (1993) noted the irony of such groups emerging during
the 1980s, because that era was marked by high graduation
rates and low unemployment rates among young White men.
Moreover, Hamm found that even within such groups, the
members who participated in violent activities had higher career
aspirations and higher levels of education than the nonviolent
members. The members did, however, frequently express
that they resented the advances by and preferential treatment of
minorities. To integrate these observations, we would suggest
that the high aspirations and sense of entitlement reflected favorable
views of self, and these increased the vulnerability to
disconfirmation and threat, as symbolized by the perceived
gains by non-White minorities. Levin and McDevitt's (1993)
recent work on hate crimes paints a similar portrait of young
White men as disaffected by their own eroding entitlements and
resenting the gains made (presumably at their expense) by
minorities.
Slavery itself was a major form of oppression, and indeed, it
probably exceeded most other forms of prejudice and discrimination.
Although there were often economic motives for slavery,
Patterson (1982) concluded that slavery in the American South
was atypical of most slave systems in several respects, including
the relatively high financial rewards it brought to slave owners.
In the history of the world, Patterson said, slave owning was
neither vital nor particularly helpful for the accumulation of
wealth. Instead, the major appeal of slavery was that it increased
the honor and prestige of the owners. (Indeed, he said that
whenever the practice was allowed, slaves liked to own slaves
themselves, because to do so conferred prestige on them--and
slaves generally had few means of gaining such prestige.) Thus
egotism rather than greed may often have been the major force
behind the institution of slavery.
Imperialism has been a major form of international oppression
for many centuries, although it reached a peak late in the
19th century as most of the main Western industrial nations
sought overseas colonies. Although there were clearly economic
motives for imperialism, motives of national pride and selfesteem
were also relevant. We assume it will not be controversial
to point out that the nationalistic attitudes supporting imperialism
were essentially those of high collective self-esteem and
even narcissism. One place to look for evidence would be in the
so-called scramble for Africa during the 19th century, which
formed a kind of climax to European imperialistic projects
(and indeed the subsequent decolonization of Africa signified
the end of the imperialistic era). Pakenham ( 1991 ) provided a
detailed account of this conquest of Africa. On the one hand,
economic greed was undoubtedly a factor; but the economic
promise of many colonies was never entirely spelled out, and in
retrospect it is clear that most colonies brought net financial
losses (often severe) rather than gains. Pakenham concluded
that national prestige was often associated with size of empire,
and people wanted their nation's empire to expand regardless of
financial prospects. Several of the military confrontations over
obscure swamps or disease-infested wastelands can hardly be
explained on any basis except national pride. In particular, territorial
acquisitions by one of the principal rivals (especially
France and England) often produced consternation among the
others, who felt that their collective self-esteem was in jeopardy
unless they could match or surpass them.
Dower (1986) provided considerable historical evidence that
the Pacific segment of World War II was seen by both sides as a
race war. This racial dimension to the conflict led to more extreme
derogation of enemies and much higher levels of atrocity
(on both sides) than were seen in the European war. (A parallel
pattern can be found in the European war, however, insofar as
the Germans treated captured British and American soldiers,
whom they regarded as fellow Aryans, much better than the
Russians and other soldiers, whom they regarded as inferior
races.) The role of collective self-esteem in the Pacific war was
quite clear: Both sides (i.e., the United States and Japan) regarded
themselves as racially superior but as threatened by the
successes and evil intentions of the others. As evidence that the
collective superiority went deeper than mere rhetoric, Dower
cited multiple examples of strategic errors that were based in
underestimating the enemy because of the assumption that the
enemy, as an inferior race, would be militarily stupid and incompetent.
For example, the United States did not believe the
inferior Japanese capable of the strike on Pearl Harbor, and
even after the fact it was often assumed that the Germans must
have planned the attack for the Japanese! On the other side, the
Japanese thought that the decadent Westerners would not be
willing to endure the hardship of a protracted war and so would
give up easily, perhaps even right after Pearl Harbor.
Genocide is undoubtedly the most sinister form or manifestation
of prejudice. Staub's (1989) psychological analysis of
four major genocides repeatedly referred to the aggressor's sense
of being superior and being better, which is often aggravated by
threatening conditions. In each of the four cases, the genocides
were perpetrated by nationalities and regimes with strong beliefs
in their own innate superiority but that had suffered some
threat or blow to their sense of superiority. (Moreover, within
the society, those responsible for the killing, such as Hitler's SS
in Germany and the military in Argentina, constituted a privileged,
respected elite.) Large-scale mass murder emerged as a
means of cleansing the body politic of impure, evil, decadent
influences as well as a means of satisfying the wish to blame
one's misfortunes on a scapegoat who could then be punished.
Indeed, Staub's general conclusions point directly to threatened
egotism: "When a sense of superiority combines with an underlying
(and often unacknowledged) self-doubt, their contribution
to the potential for genocide and mass killing can be especially
high" (p. 19). The combination of high collective selfesteem
(and the resulting "sense of entitlement") with the recent
threats, blows, or losses provides a "belief in unfulfilled
greatness" (p. 234), which constitutes an important precondition
and motivation for genocide.
There have been some controlled studies of the relation of
self-esteem to prejudice. The traditional theory was, as usual,
that low self-esteem causes prejudice, and so it was assumed
that people who lack self-esteem would be the most prejudiced
against others. Preliminary work seemed to fit this pattern (e.g.,
Stephan & Rosenfield, 1978; see Wills, 1981, for review), although
the evidence was limited, indirect, or ambiguous.
Crocker and Schwartz ( 1985 ) showed, however, that this semblance
of derogating others reflects the general negativity of peopie
with low self-esteem: Although they may rate out-groups
negatively, they rate other people (and themselves) negatively
26 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
too, and so it is misleading to say that they are prejudiced
against out-groups.
A more precise picture of the role of self-esteem in prejudice
has emerged from more recent work by Crocker and her colleagues.
Crocker, Thompson, McGraw, and Ingerman (1987)
showed a pattern of responding to ego threats by showing more
in-group bias (i.e., rating one's own group more favorably in
comparison to other groups). Only people with high self-esteem
showed this pattern. Likewise, Crocker and Luhtanen (1990)
showed that people who scored high in collective self-esteem
(i.e., favorable self-evaluation based on one's memberships and
affiliations, as opposed to individual self-esteem) showed the
same pattern of derogating out-groups in response to threats to
their egotism (in this case, being told that the group to which
they belonged had performed poorly on a test and was therefore
insensitive, immature, and suffered some cognitive and alfective
deficits). Although the effects in these studies were not uniform
across all measures and conditions, the bulk of their findings
suggests that prejudicial responses may be strongest among people
with high self-esteem and particularly when such people are
subjected to ego threats.
Critique. As already noted, early studies suggested that low
self-esteem was linked to prejudice, but more recent and careful
studies have reached the opposite conclusion, and the early work
appears to have suffered from methodological and interpretive
flaws. The studies on prejudice and violence come from
multiple fields and point to similar conclusions.
Conclusion. Current research has suggested that racial and
ethnic prejudice accompany favorable views of self. Meanwhile,
abundant evidence from across several disciplines confirms the
view that intergroup violence is often linked to prejudiced views
that typically depict the in-group as superior to the out-group.
Furthermore, some evidence suggests that the most severe violence
occurs when a group perceives that its superior position is
being eroded or threatened by the rise of a rival group.
General Discussion
Several main conclusions can be drawn from our survey of
relevant empirical evidence. It must be noted that direct, prospective
studies linking sophisticated measures of self-appraisal
to real violence have been quite rare, and so it has been necessary
to look for converging evidence from diverse sources and
multiple methods. The volume and diversity &the evidence are
necessary to compensate for the lack of unambiguous, rigorous
work focused on the hypotheses. With a topic as full of ethical,
practical, and theoretical complexities as violence, this problem
may be inevitable.
The traditional view that low serf-esteem is a cause of violence
and aggression is not tenable in light of the present evidence. Most
studies failed to find any support for it, and many provided clear
and direct contradictory findings. Aggressors seem to believe that
they are superior, capable beings. Signs of low self-esteem, such as
self-deprecation, humility, modesty, and self-effacing mannerisms,
seem to be rare (underropresented) among violent criminals and
other aggressors. The typical, serf-defining statements by both
groups and individuals who aggress indicate a belief in their superiority,
not inferiority. Violent and criminal individuals have been
repeatedly characterized as arrogant, confident, narcissistic, egotistical,
assertive, proud, and the like. By the same token, violent,
aggressive, and criminal groups tend to share beliefs in their own
superiority, ranging from the "man of honor" designation of Mafia
initiates to the "master race" ideology of the Nazis. Also, from
individual hate crimes to genocidal projects, violence that is linked
to prejudice is ~erally associated with strong views that one's
own group is superior and the out-group is inferior, even
subhuman.
We suggested that domestic violence might be the one sphere
in which the low self-esteem view would fare best. That sphere
was indeed the only one in which supportive findings (i.e., linking
low self-esteem to violence) were reported, but even those
tended to be weak, exceptional, and contradicted by the findings
of more careful and systematic studies. The possibility that people
with low self-esteem may sometimes choose relatively weak
and helpless targets as victims remains plausible although even
it cannot be asserted as correct at present.
The rejection of the low self-esteem view does not mean, however,
thathigh self-esteem is a cause of violence. Most bullies,
violent criminals, and other aggressors seem to think highly of
themselves, but it is not true that most people who think highly
of themselves are violent. The most precise conclusion appears
to be that violence is perpetrated by a small subset of people
with favorable views of themselves. Or, to put it another way,
violence is produced by a combination of favorable selfappraisals
with situational and other factors.
The most important situational factor that interacts with favorable
self-appraisals to cause violence is an ego threat. The
evidence conformed broadly to the view that violence is often
caused by an encounter in which a favorable self-appraisal is
confronted with an external, less favorable evaluation. In all
spheres we examined, we found that violence emerged from
threatened egotism, whether this was labeled as wounded pride,
disrespect, verbal abuse, insults, anger manipulations, status inconsistency,
or something else. For huge nationalities, medium
and small groups, and lone individuals, the same pattern was
found: Violence resulted most commonly from feeling that
one's superiority was somehow being undermined, jeopardized,
or contradicted by current circumstances.
We do not wish to claim that threatened egotism is the sole
cause of a~ession, and indeed there is ample room to discuss
biochemical or genetic causes, modeling effects, instrumental aggression,
and other factors. But in terms of the potent link between
self-appraisals and violence, the discrepancy between favorable
self-views and external threats is the most important cause.
The theory that the discrepancy between self-appraisals and
external evaluations causes violence led to the further prediction
that violence would be increased by anything that raised
the frequency or impact of such discrepancies. We proposed
that inflated or unrealistically positive self-appraisals would
tend to lead to violent responses, because to the extent that feedback
clusters around accurate, realistic appraisals, it will tend
to contradict such unrealistically favorable opinions of self.
There was moderate support for that view, including evidence
about tyrants, career criminals, psychopaths, and convicted
rapists. Also, some of the most effective direct predictors of violence
were narcissism scales, particularly subscales for grandiosity
and exhibitionism. It remains to be determined how these
self-enhancing illusions compare with the positive illusions of
nonviolent people and how widely disseminated they are. For
the present, however, it seems reasonable to accept the view that
EGOTISM AND VIOLENCE 27
inflated, overly positive self-appraisals are associated with
violence.
Another moderator we proposed was that unstable or uncertain
beliefs about the serf's good qualities should be especially vulnerable
and sensitive to external ego threats. Again, a broad assortment
of evidence fit this view, but further work is needed. There
was direct evidence that unstable, high self-esteem is most closely
linked with hostility (Kernis, Grannemann, et al., 1989).
The affective component of the theory is relatively straightforward.
It is clear that ego threats elicit negative affect and that
negative affect can lead to violence. The evidence is less clear as
to whether anger represents a defensive effort to ward off other
forms of negative affect that might follow from accepting the
bad feedback, but that hypothesis remains plausible. Meanwhile,
we predicted from the affect theory that severely violent
reactions would sometimes follow from seemingly minor or
trivial ego threats, and this prediction was confirmed by
multiple observations in various investigations.
The interpersonal framework offers relevant insights. It
would be misleading to suggest that the experience of discrepant
self-appraisals causes an aimless eruption of aggressive impulses.
Rather, aggression is most commonly directed at the
source of the unflattering evaluation, and so it makes sense to
regard many aggressive acts as communicative responses to unwelcome,
disputed appraisals. Also, some sources provided direct
confirmation of the view that aggression is a means of dominating
another person and hence symbolizing one's superiority
over that person.
On the basis of the zero-sum view of self-esteem, we predicted
that one person's positive self-assertions could constitute a
threat to (and elicit a violent response from) others, and there
was some evidence consistent with that view, especially in the
selection of targets based on their presumptive feelings of superiority.
Still, this seems to be an unusual pattern rather than the
norm. The view that zero-sum esteem pressures are exceptional
and circumscribed phenomena would be consistent with Feather's
(1994) conclusion about the "tall poppy" effect, namely
that it too only occurs under specific, limited, and unusual
circumstances.
Is It Really High Self-Esteem?
A reevaluation of the relationship between self-appraisals and
violence is clearly warranted. Indeed, it seems overdue: It is surprising
that the low self-esteem view has survived so long, and
one wonders if there were not something correct about it to allow
it to endure with so little direct support. Is there any way to
salvage the view that low self-esteem contributes to violence?
And do narcissistic, inflated, arrogant self-appraisals really constitute
high self-esteem?
To be sure, definitions of self-esteem may vary. We have used
the term in a broad and inclusive sense to encompass all favorable
self-appraisals, including confidence and self-respect as
well as arrogance and narcissism. In contrast, some might prefer
to define self-esteem in a way that would eliminate all distasteful
and problematic forms, and if this were possible then it
might be plausible to deny that high self-esteem leads to violence.
It is difficult to see, however, what basis other than the
mere value judgment itself might be used to differentiate benign
from malignant self-esteem. (Obviously, if high self-esteem is
defined in a way that stipulates that it can only produce positive,
desirable consequences, then it cannot lead to violence or aggression,
but this is circular.) In our view, the heavily positive
connotation that self-esteem has acquired in recent American
thought is partly a result of biased and wishful thinking that
simply refuses to acknowledge the darker side. If one remains
with the simple, literal definition of self-esteem as a favorable
appraisal of oneself, than arrogant narcissists and conceited,
egotistical bullies do indeed have high self-esteem.
A more subtle line of reasoning might propose that the superficially
favorable self-views of conceited and other violent individuals
are actually defensive reactions that are designed to conceal
unfavorable self-appraisals. Possibly these are defensive
versions of high self-esteem, underneath which lies a hidden but
truly low self-esteem. Theorists wishing to make this argument
might be encouraged by the evidence we have reviewed suggesting
that not all people with high self-esteem are violent. If only
a subset of people with high self-esteem are violent, might this
subset consist of people for whom high self-esteem is a false veneer
to cover up low self-esteem? If so, then one might yet find
a way to argue that low self-esteem is a cause of violence. In
other words, perhaps some people who regard themselves unfavorably
become self-assertive and violent as a result, possibly as
a way of compensating for this sense of inferiority. Because this
theory enjoys the luxury of being able to interpret contrary evidence
as meaning the opposite of what it literally signifies, it is
difficult to disprove. In other words, if favorable self-assertions
are taken as signs of low self-esteem, then the hypothesis of low
self-esteem is difficult to falsify.
Still, there is some relevant evidence. The pattern of responding
to bad feedback with defensively positive assertions about
the self--which Long (1990) observed among terrorists and
Jankowski (1991) mentioned with violent gangs--has been
shown in laboratory studies, but it is characteristic of high
rather than low self-esteem (Baumeister, 1982; Baumeister et
al., 1993; McFadin & Blascovich, 1981 ). A method of distinguishing
high from merely defensive high self-esteem was published
in 1975 (Schneider & Turkat, 1975), but researchers
have not identified very many patterns in which the two groups
differ, and the lack of such findings seems to indicate that the
pattern of positive self-assertion despite privately low selfappraisal
is relatively rare.
Moreover, as we noted, a number of researchers specifically
contradicted the view that the violent individuals they studied
were secretly suffering from inferiority complexes or self-loathing
(e.g., Jankowski, 1991; Olweus, 1994). The basis for these
conclusions was not reported, but then again one wonders what
sort of basis might be fully satisfactory, given the difficulty of
falsifying such a hypothesis. Still, one researcher who made
such an assertion (Jankowski, 1991 ) had spent over a decade
living among gangs and getting to know hundreds of gang members,
and it seems fair to assume that he would have seen ample
evidence of their inner low self-esteem if it existed.
There is also a fundamental conceptual problem with the approach
of saying that low self-esteem is often concealed beneath
a veneer of high self-esteem. Even if one believes that some people
who assert high self-esteem actually have low self-esteem,
low self-esteem cannot be regarded as the true cause of violence.
There are plenty of people who do clearly have low self-esteem,
and as we have shown, they are generally less violent than others.
28 BAUMEISTER, SMART, AND BODEN
It is quixotic to assert that egotists are actually self-doubters as a
way of salvaging the hypothesis that self-doubters are the violent
ones, given the nonviolence of most self-doubters.
At best, one would have to concede that individuals with overt
low self-esteem are nonviolent and therefore only those with
covert low self-esteem are violent. But if one accepts that only
the covert version of low self-esteem leads to violence, then
seemingly one has already conceded the role of high self-esteem
as decisive. In other words, the crucial distinction is between
people who admit to having low self-esteem and those whose
(putative) low self-esteem is concealed by some veneer of high
self-esteem. Insofar as only the latter group are violent, then
the decisive factor would be the veneer of high self-esteem. The
favorable self-appraisal would thus still be the cause of violence,
even if it did coexist with some hidden, unfavorable selfappraisal.
We have seen that violence is most common when favorable
self-appraisals are threatened, and such episodes might cause
the individual to entertain doubts (at least temporarily) about
the favorable self-appraisals. We have proposed that violence is
a means of evading such doubts and affirming the favorable
views of self, but it is plausible that the aggressors did suffer
doubts at least momentarily, and some might propose that the
doubts were the impetus for the violence. If one can refer to
these self-doubts as low self-esteem, then perhaps a very watered-
down version of the low self-esteem theory might be upheld
after all.
Yet that conclusion would be seriously misleading. The operative,
indeed decisive beliefs about the self are the highly favorable
ones. Self-doubts only lead to violence in the context of
some commitment to highly favorable self-appraisals. The selfdoubt
point is perhaps best understood in the context of the
repeated evidence that inflated or uncertain views about the self
were the views most strongly linked to violent action. The composite
prototype of the aggressor that emerged from our review
of the literature is a man whose self-appraisal is unrealistically
positive. His exaggerated impression of his superiority is prone
to encounter contrary feedback, which may cause him to doubt
himself momentarily but to which he soon responds with violence.
It would be quite appropriate for him to feel such doubts,
because after all the self-view in question is inaccurate. In the
end, however, he preserves the unrealistically favorable selfappraisal
by attacking the source of the ego threat. To say that
he was violent because of low self-esteem is a serious distortion
of the episode. Indeed, his momentary doubts seem better described
as the disturbing voice of reality than as low self-esteem.
On both empirical and theoretical grounds, therefore, we
must reject the view that low seif-esteem causes violence. Aggressive,
violent, and hostile people consistently express favorable
views of themselves. And even if one could document hidden
low self-esteem beneath the surface of apparently high selfesteem
(for which empirical support is scant), it would still be
necessary to regard the surface egotism rather than the hidden
self-doubts as causally crucial.
Why, then, has the low self-esteem theory persisted? One
likely answer is that social scientists have failed to distinguish
adequately between internal and external appraisals. Violence
does ensue on receipt of bad evaluations from other people; it is
only the negative self-evaluations that fail to lead to violence.
Symbolic interactionism (e.g., Mead, 1934) proposed that selfviews
are principally derived from the feedback one receives
from others, and this style of thought may have encouraged
many thinkers to ignore the distinction and assume that people
who are criticized by others must consequently have low selfesteem.
It has taken decades for the accumulation of evidence
to show that self-appraisals are only weakly related to external
appraisals and that in many cases people overtly resist revising
their self-appraisals in the face of external feedback (Crocker
& Major, 1989; Shrauger & Schoeneman, 1979; Swarm & Hill,
1982). For present purposes, the crucial point is that threatened
egotism is something quite different than low self-esteem.
Another possible reason for the persistence of the low selfesteem
view is that a broad reaction against blaming the victim
(dating back to Ryan's, 1971, critique) may have encouraged
writers to phrase the causes of violence in terms of self-evaluation
rather than in terms of provocative, evaluative acts by the
future victim.
It may seem that confusing public esteem with self-esteem is
a small error or technicality. However, the result of this error has
been to promote a view that is precisely the opposite of the correct
one. The reason that disrespectful treatment sometimes
leads to violence is that the aggrieved individual regards himself
or herself quite favorably and hence is unwilling to tolerate being
treated in a way that fails to confirm this favorable selfregard.
It is thus the favorable views of self that foster violence.
Implications for Future Research
Several suggestions for further work emerge from this review.
Most pressing is the need for direct and careful study of the ways
in which egotism leads to aggression and violence. We recommend
that laboratory researchers turn some attention to the
role of views about the selfin producing retaliation. In particular,
the mediating roles of emotional states and particular interpersonal
contexts deserve further study.
As we noted, it is simplistic to assume a direct and unmoderated
link between self-esteem and aggression, so further experimentation
may need more than a self-esteem scale and a bogus
shock generator. The causal power of ego threats has been well
established (although rarely discussed as such) in laboratory
work as well as in nonlaboratory research into violence. What
is needed, therefore, is systematic exploration of how particular
views about the self interact with ego threats to increase aggression.
Both situational factors and individual differences may
moderate the tendency of ego threats to produce aggression. Regarding
the latter, it may be desirable to give careful thought to
how views about the self are to be assessed. As already noted,
self-esteem measures alone may be less successful than measures
of narcissism (e.g., Raskin et al., 1991; Wink, 1991 ), stability
of self-esteem (Kernis, 1993), or defensive self-esteem
(Schneider & Turkat, 1975 ).
Another potential problem may lie in the fact that most standard
self-esteem measures were designed with the assumption
that high self-esteem indicates healthy adjustment and good adaptation
to life, and indeed high self-esteem scores are sometimes
used as a criterion measure of adjustment (e.g., Heilbrun,
1981; Kahle et al., 1980; Whitley, 1983). In our view, selfesteem
should be a relatively value-neutral construct referring
to positive evaluation of self, and so an effective and valid scale
would identify the arrogant, conceited narcissist just as well as
EGOTISM AND VIOLENCE 29
the person who holds an unbiased appreciation of his or her own
well-recognized good qualities. Not all scales may be effective
in this regard, however. One apt approach may be to focus on
variance shared between measures of high self-esteem and narcissism:
Both concepts imply favorable self-appraisals, but the
underlying evaluative bias about the desirability of these selfappraisals
pushes in opposite directions, and so the shared variance
might be what remains after these opposing biases are
removed.
A potential complication that may obscure the relationship
between egotism and violence is that most people who have generally
low self-esteem nonetheless have highly favorable views
about themselves in certain limited domains, as Pelham (1993)
has recently shown. Moreover, these individuals seem to be especially
sensitive and defensive about these positive self-conceptions.
Pelham's work has not examined the role of these selfconceptions
in aggressive responses, but it is quite plausible that
such responses would parallel the high defensiveness shown by
these individuals in other domains of response. Thus, it could
happen that even when people with low global self-esteem respond
aggressively, the cause is still egotism.
Further study to refine the concept of ego threat may also
be warranted. We have used the term loosely to refer to any
evaluation that is noticeably less favorable than the recipient's
prior self-appraisal, but this may be too extensive a definition.
Moreover, in many circles, ego threats are common whereas violence
is rare, io and so one must conclude that violence is only
one among many possible responses to ego threats. Further
study of what determines whether threatened egotism leads to
violent or alternative responses is therefore warranted.
The implication that overly favorable self-appraisals may lead
to violence is relevant to recent debates over the desirability of
such inflated views of self. Taylor and Brown (1988) amassed
considerable evidence that positive illusions (i.e., favorable and
possibly distorted views of self) are correlated with mental
health and good adjustment. Others have suggested that this evidence
is limited to fairly small distortions and that such illusions
may chiefly be beneficial when kept within narrow limits
(Baumeister, 1989b) or when confined to certain circumstances
(Gollwitzer & Kinney, 1989). Colvin and Block (1994) disputed
the entire argument and suggested that positive illusions
are not adaptive. Although a full consideration of all the costs
and benefits of positive illusions is beyond the scope of this article,
we do note that positive illusions may be costly in terms of
increasing vulnerability to external disconfirmation and hence
resulting in violence. We concur with Taylor and Brown to the
effect that high self-esteem does have important benefits, but
to the extent that inflated self-appraisals lead one into violent
encounters (with risks of injury, death, and imprisonment),
they cannot be assumed to be an unmitigated good.
Although we are not clinicians, it seems necessary to point
out that the theoretical understanding of the causes of violence
does have implications for interventions as well. If low selfesteem
were really the cause of violence, then it would be therapeutically
prudent to make every effort to convince rapists,
murderers, wife beaters, professional hit men, tyrants, torturers,
and others that they are superior beings. From our reading of
the empirical literature, however, these people are often violent
precisely because they already believe themselves to be superior
beings. It would therefore be more effective to direct therapeutic
efforts elsewhere (e.g., at cultivating self-control), and if any
modifications to self-appraisals were to be attempted, then perhaps
it would be better to try instilling modesty and humility.
Conclusion
As compared with other cultures and other historical eras,
modern America has been unusually fond of the notion that
elevating the self-esteem of each individual will be best for society
(e.g., see Huber, 1971 ). America is also, perhaps not coincidentally,
one of the world's most violent societies, with rates
of violent crime that far exceed even those of other modern,
industrialized nations. The hope that raising everyone's selfesteem
will prove to be a panacea for both individual and societal
problems continues unabated today (e.g., California Task
Force, 1990), and indeed the allusions in the mass media to the
desirability of self-esteem suggest that it may even be gaining
in force. In this context, the notion that low self-esteem causes
violence may have been widely appealing as one more reason to
raise self-esteem.
Our review has indicated, however, that it is threatened egotism
rather than low self-esteem that leads to violence. Moreover,
certain forms of high self-esteem seem to increase one's
proneness to violence. An uncritical endorsement of the cultural
value of high self-esteem may therefore be counterproductive
and even dangerous. In principle it might become possible
to inflate everyone's self-esteem, but it will almost certainly be
impossible to insulate everyone against ego threats. In fact, as
we have suggested, the higher (and especially the more inflated)
the self-esteem, the greater the vulnerability to ego threats.
Viewed in this light, the societal pursuit of high self-esteem for
everyone may literally end up doing considerable harm.
~o For example, among authors of rejected manuscripts!
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95 comments:

marga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marga said...

According to the Sun GM is frustated by the refusal of some MEPs to sign the written declaration proposing their "original" project.They are lacking understanding in what they want to achieve and so they are going to use some good "moral arguments" to convince them. (?!)

IMO this is another strategy to publicize them even before they travel.

According to 24 horas the secrecy period ends on 14th July. However, as courts close on the 15th it is probable they'll only have access to the process a month later.
The GP, Pinto Monteiro states that the fact the process is going to be known will not interfere with the investigation which will not be stopped as long as there is no decision by the MP to make an accusation or shelve the case.The PJ's mission to solve the case will also continue.
"We will not rest/give up until we find the child".

At the bottom of the same page there is also an atricle about the former Benfica president who has run to London before the EU warrant arrest was issued.

Have a nice day!

nancy said...

Thanks Marga for that interesting bit of news from the Sun - I knew they would have to come out with something for the press to use before going off on their mission!

Have a nice day yourself and see you later!


Nx

nancy said...

Hi Viv -

Very interesting piece today thanks; both by you and all the theories and precedents quoted by experts in the field. I didn't actually read the whole lot because it's longer than a book but certainly got the gist of what they were saying.

The fact is that so often cases of aggression leading to violence, whether from low or high esteem, is due to the parents treatment of the child from the very beginning of his or her life and the treatment that those parents in turn received from their parents.
Unfortunately, it's very difficult to stop the progression which just perpetuates.

I also think the gene's factor is a lot to do with how people behave. It's not just one single thing that causes people to behave aggressively and without thought to others but many things. Also I think that every case is different and has to be looked at differently.

You would know that more than most of us on here because you were a Probation Officer and must have seen so much of this sort of anti-social behaviour in many people.

Very sad indeed that we aren't all kind and caring parents but it's been that way since life began.

For instance, as you can take half a dozen animals and they will all behave differently - some show violent traits, haughtiness, shyness, affection, greed, you name it!

Anyway, that's my thoughts and thanks for the thread which would have brought an interesting response from those on the 3A's I'm sure!


Nx

PS. I had a good laugh at last night's posts - it's not only good to talk, it's good to laugh too!

Meanwhile, JUSTICE FOR MADELEINE!

nancy said...

Maddie process becomes public in July reports 24 hours!!

That was on the McCann files this morning!

Let's hope they are right!

docmac said...

Morning Viv

You need to head on over to ST to see the results of some fish baiting. I'll just respond to a couple of things as I'm rather busy. You should read the full posts though.

chinadoll said...
"Does you wife wear a nursie outfit to satisfy your needs?"

Occasionally, but I prefer a chef's outfit to be honest.

Anonymous said...
"This is hilarious! regarding Stella By Starlight's (Chimp) Viking Buriel."

Wots a buriel?

Anonymous said...
"Ooooops Stella is really in for it now, she knows that Vile is suppoter of the government!"
Wots a suppoter?

Sass said...
"Who cares what his wife looks like? Who needs to see a picture of a woman who was obviously desperate?"
You're single, right? lolol!

docmac said...

Oooohh!

The Madeleine section of the pro Gerald and DeliKate forum has gone private. Must have had some bad news then.

Cláudia said...

Doc, that's good news! If they turn it all private I may even go on holiday sooner! :-) Except for the Big Brother thread, of course. If they make that private, I will have to kill myself. lololol

Cláudia said...

Doc, we both know how intelectually stimulant BB is. Moreover, my English was improving so much since I started reading Sian, ClareSomething et al. It was so 'intresting'... ;-)
How is the weather in your corner of the universe? Here the weather is great. Summer has arrived, it seems. And I'm almost done...

nancy said...

Hi Claudia -

Glad the weather is good there, as it is here - have had my first swim in the pool today (a communal pool I might add; I'm not that rich)!!

I think that some of those on the troll and sassy sites could do themselves a favour and read your blogs and all those who are not English speakers on here, to see what can be achieved by a bit of effort!

Off for a siesta - see you later!


Nx

Di said...

Viv

I have just read the posts from last night.

My post 20.06, I was not calling you vile Viv or suggesting 3A's posters came here. I was suggesting the troublesome posters on 3A's went to the Trolls site where they belong. Their site is often referred to as Viles on 3A's. I have never visited the site and from the snippets that posters put on here I think I am wise.

Sorry you got the wrong impression from my post, no offence was intended.

Cláudia said...

Nancy, if they aren't willing to acknowledge that a child has been neglected and that neglect is a crime which should be punished; if they are the kind of people who defend convicted child murderers and call them victims; if they are the ones who tell jokes a few hours after receiving the news that Mari Luz had been found dead: we can't expect too much from people (???) like that.


Enjoy your weather and siesta. :-)

xxxx

marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
marga said...

Hi Claudinha!

marga said...

"We will not rest/give up until we find the child".

Cláudia,

what do you think of this statement from P. Monteiro?

Enjoyed reading last nights chat!
Do you think the little fish would be able to translate it into Portuguese? Reminded me of old times with belita and dear lady dosuli...

Cláudia said...

Hi, Marga!

Cláudia said...

I think that Pinto Monteiro has the kind of speech a man in his position needs to have. And I think he means the body which I, personally, believe will never be found for obvious reasons.

Marga, I don't even tkink the little fish is able to recognise yesterday's conversation as English! lololol

marga said...

Cláudia,

my thoughts, too.
Again a wise man coming from your region:-)

The next weeks will be hot, not only concerning OUR weather but also further developments.

Do you think you will read a super bombastic book in your holidays??!

Di said...

Marga

Oh dear I feel terrible, I really will have to think more carefully before I type.

I apologise to everyone, you all must have thought I was being terribly rude to Viv, which I assure you I was not. I obviously do not know Viv personally, but I can assure you all I have the greatest respect for what she believes in, which, is why I am here.

I do hope Viv, you will continue to allow me to post, and accept my apologies.

marga said...

Di,

I beg your pardon! Have just noticed my typo concerning your name...

What a disaster am I when my instinct is so low due to the hot weather and blood pressure.

Pardon, my dear.

Cláudia said...

Marga, I believe Pinto Monteiro is from Guarda.

As for my summer, yes, I think it will be hot and that I will have a nice birthday present. :-)

Cláudia said...

Di, I'm sure Viv wii see what you meant. The negative side of writing instead of talking is that it's easier to misunderstand things! :-)

marga said...

Cláudia,

Kumoseinfiltramaki is going to play against Portugal or not? I mean the day after 2morrow?

I hope not all German players have such long names.
BTW, will it be difficult for you to decide which team you are gpoing to support?

marga said...

Cláudia,
are you a Weihnachtskind?

You know I don't celebrate birthdays, but it would be interesting to know the date!

mariana said...

Hello everyone,

I haven't managed to read through the whole thread yet, it sounds more than interesting.

Here is another tragic abuse case in Brisbane.
It seems to me that when I am tired I don't see well and I have placed the above link two threads before this one.

marga said...

Cláudia,

tava a falari da bixinha branca.

Cláudia said...

Marga, I don't know.
How can it be difficult for a Portuguese national to decide what team to support? Germany is like any other team to me. Especially when they're playing against us. Germany isn't even my favourite team in this tournament. And as I said before, not my favourite type of football, although I know they are physically very strong.

Cláudia said...

The 3rd of July, Marga. Just like Tom Cruise! :-)

Di said...

Claudia

Thanks for that, I hope Viv will understand.

Cláudia said...

Di, :-)

Di said...

Have you seen this posted by Drachensachen on 3As's

Unbelievable..




Today the Daily Mirror starts this year's campaign to find the winners of the Pride of Britain awards 2008. May I suggest all those who support Kate and Gerry nominate them for the 'special' category. I suggest this, because despite the unbearable burden of uncertainty over the fate of their daughter, Madeleine, Kate and Gerry still have the courage and dignity to do what they can to raise the profile of all other missing and abducted children, and help other parents in similar situations. They have put in place the Youtube 'Don't you forget about me' project, and are campaigning to have the Amber Alert system implemented across Europe, to help prevent other parents suffering the same ordeal as themselves. I feel their courage, dignity and bravery while suffering the still unsolved abduction of their daughter is an example to us all. I realize this may be a controversial post, and that some may foam at the mouth at the very idea, but this is a free country, no one is having their arms twisted to act either way. If you agree their efforts deserve some sort of recognition, go to the Daily Mirror website or the Pride of Britain site. If you think it's a bad idea, then just don't nominate/vote for them. It's that simple.

mariana said...

Hi Di

This person ought to get the Stupidity award.
Do they have one in the Stupidity category?

marga said...

Cláudia,

I will support the best one according to their performance.

Mariana,
what a sad case.

if they couldn't feed them,
why not ask for help?

Crazy world.Selfish people.
What will the other children feel and their reaction?

But could it be possible that it is more than it meets at first eye?

Their excuse seems to be silly to me.

Cláudia said...

Marga, I could be given all the money in the world and I could never support any team other than my own, even if it was the worst team of the planet.

marga said...

Die

Welt ist upsidedown.

Di said...

Sorry the first bit did not copy.

Written by Nigel Nessling.

marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cláudia said...

The world has no fault. The world would be a great place if humans did not exist.

mariana said...

Marga

Absolutely not. I am referring to the person who has even suggested the McCann's.

mariana said...

Marga
There are child abusers in Australia. We are not free of them.

marga said...

Cláudia,

world= synonym for people

Mariana,

I believe in this case 1+1=1 ( the same)


Bye,

with respect to you both, I have my dogs waiting to be feed. They are worse than trolls.

Marian, Cláudia

xo

Cláudia said...

Mariana, there are child abusers everywhere. The shocking part is seeing people defending them.

marga said...

I meant
BETTEEEERRRRRRRR

mariana said...

Claudia
Exactly. Them two will have good character witnesses and so on.

Cláudia said...

Bye, Marga.
I'm also waiting for the cleaning lady to finish because I have an 'appointment' with a beautiful and loving family of three under 6 year old children, who are treated like the most precoius things in their parents and grandparents' lives.

Cláudia said...

Mariana, exactly.

marga said...

Mariana,

they are everywhere and in all social classes.:-((

marga said...

Cláudia,

it should always be that way.

Jinhos,

Cláudia said...

Marga, most of the times, fortunately, it is.

Beijinhos!

viv said...

Hi All

Of course I did not expect people to read every word of the above but it is a handy source of reference for people who want to understand the behaviour of Gerry McCann in particular, but it also applies to his followers. They react with aggression and bullying to negative feedback from their own egotistical view of themselves, Rosie clearly fits this with her constant rants against anyone who dares to challenge her.

It is good news indeed that they have now decided to make the Madeleine thread private, they clearly realise there is nothing left to say to try and defend the indefensible and so seek to protect their self-esteem by having to stop posting altogether to stop people from seeing them for what they are. Too late! People who, as Claudia says, even seek to suggest convicted murderers are innocent, people who say a conscious and wilful decision to just dump tiny children both day and night was not emotionally or physically abusive to those children, as it so clearly was, no it was a mistake they will have to suffer for the rest of their lives. This is typical of the mentality, still unable to adopt the true victim's perspective, the children, only able to adopt the perpective of the perpetrators in an attempt to make them appear right. No reasonable person is ever going to adopt that role.

I am also delighted the PJ have clearly stated they will not shelve this enquiry, they will continue until they have found Madeleine. I think this is symbolic, as finding her will be nigh on impossible, by find her they mean bring her killers to justice. In that way they will find her. I believe she is most likely in the Atlantic Ocean as other officers in the case have stated. Hence Gerry was able to state "well find the body and prove we killed her". A very wicked and self-serving comment, in my view confirming he has not the slightest concern about his "beautiful daughter". Her beauty is just a materialistic factor, he can sell. The police know exactly what they are dealing with and will never give up on making this man and his wife, pay for what they did.

Di,

Thanks for the explanation and of course apology accepted.

Viv x

Di said...

Hi Viv

Many thanks, your comments are much appreciated.

Would it be possible for you to remove my post from last night, so that it does not cause any more offence, or am I able to do it myself.

Thanks.

viv said...

Hi Di

You can remove the posts yourself if you want to by clicking on the dustbin.

Viv x

Di said...

Viv

Thanks will do.

x

nancy said...

Hello Di -

I understood what you were saying to Viv last night because I have seen the troll site referred to as vile too, whereas I've never seen this site referred to in an insulting way on the 3A's. The experts at that are on the Sassy and Troll sites.

As for Drachensachen - I think the name says it all!! I don't think she will last long on the 3A'somehow with a post so blatantly pro-McCann! Could be a friend of the McCanns of course!

We are all entitled to our views of course, but to not even acknowledge that this couple are child neglecters who went out on the town leaving three tiny children on their own, shows just how pig headed some people can be.

I personally am sure they did much worse than that, but anyone who has followed this case must surely not think that just because the McCanns are attempting to look like good samaritans, we are all going to forget what they did. If so, they are very much mistaken!

Nx

nancy said...

Viv -

That picture of Kate and Gerry at the top of your thread today says it all - the way Kate is looking at Gerry, as if she was wondering what the hell he was talking about!

I've always thought that many of those who post on the Sassy/Rosie and the Troll 'rant and rave' blogs must have a lack of self esteem to be so aggressive to everyone on here. None of us escapes their loathsome views.

I think the Rosie site has decided to go private members only because they are worried that soon the s... will hit the fan and they are going to look a bit silly trying to continue with their wholehearted support of the McCanns and their tapas pals!! It was bound to happen!

Nx

viv said...

Hiya both

I am not aware of what is generally said on 3 As because I just find it too vast and time consuming to read, but of course I am aware of what Supertroll, Sassy etc say about me and keep records of this, for legal purposes. No one in the UK has the legal right to stalk, bully and harass on the internet and determine they are going to close someone else's blog down.

They have, on their own clear admission, absolutely nothing relevant to say about the McCann case and I think the only thing they are a good source of is some light-hearted good humour!

If both British and Portuguese Police were not absolutely certain of the McCanns criminal conduct in this matter there is no way on earth they would be continuing to waste precious resources in pursuing them. They pursue them because what they did was so terribly serious and clearly has an impact upon other abusive parents' perception of whether they can get away with such behaviour. The trolls have stated they could not understand why in the pictures I posted of the Americans parodying their conduct in a very explicit way a picture of Karen Matthews suddenly appeared. This shows one of two things, either they do not want to see what is staring them in the face because they support a couple of serious child abusing criminals or, they do not have the capacity for lateral and intelligent thinking, the global impact of the conduct of Kate and Gerry McCann upon the welfare of Britain's children, so many of whom are very seriously abused, even killed, just like Madeleine was, by the parents.

Viv x

nancy said...

Viv -

There is an article in the Daily Mail today - I'm no good at doing a proper link but the address is:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article...-them.html


Big L has posted a thread today which is interesting and gives a link to a Sky article about the McCanns and you can post a comment to them, which I did. Whether it gets posted or not who knows, but at least it will be read by Sky administrators. I posted it under Wooram.

Nx

nancy said...

Di -

Do you recall the thread that Drachensachen posted on the 3A's - I'd like to see the reactions!


Nx

viv said...

Hiya Nancy

I followed your link to the Daily Mail but it says article deleted or no longer available! Do you have a copy of it you could post?

Viv x

Di said...

Nancy

This is the link..




http://www.the3arguidos.net/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15246

hope4truth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hope4truth said...

Hi Di Hope you are well...

Thanks for your earlier post featuring the idea of Drachensachen...

MMMM Mabe they should be nominated...

After all they only Abandond their children most of the holiday in the daytime at least they left them in the creche but at night time when the same Nanny's cost money they just left them home alone..

Oh yes and Kate did the right thing when her daughter told her she and her little brother had been crying she thought about taking them out but in the end it did not suit her to do so ..

Neither of them bothered to look for their daughter as people had to believe she had been taken it did not suit them to think she may have gone looking for them (maybe her little brother was crying again and she went to get help?)...

They wont answer questions or return to PDL but want to protect other children with the help of Amber Alert which has nothing to do with them. Hire a spin Dr and a fraud investigation firm.

I can see why Drachensachen thinks this is a good idea lets hope they win and set an example to all the other discusing people out there who think more of their social life than their children. Karen Mathews and her sicko partner have already put Shannon in terrible danger hopeing for a bit of cash like the McCanns by jolly if they win an award for being the worse parents of the year a lot more children will be in danger of neglect...

How about an award for Madeleine 3 years old and left alone to take care of her younger siblings show her beautiful face and ask a very simple question...

"Was this beautiful 3 year old little girl worth love care and protection or are her parents more important?"

Sickening...

viv said...

New thread up guys - it is in the Times the McCanns and their lawyers will have access to all evidence against them in July and after that the press and public will be able to read it all too!!

This is clearly a dramatic and welcome development and no doubt explains why the little McCann coven decided to "go private".

Viv xxxx

JUSTICE FOR MADDIE!!

Di said...

Nancy

I have just seen your earlier post to me, you cannot know how much that has meant to me, thank you.

I am also glad that you confirmed what is said on 3A's. I agree, this site has never had bad publicity

I don't post as many as others on either site, I wish I had the time, but I will be more thoughtful with my words in the future. :o))

nancy said...

Hi Viv -

That's typical - clunk whoosh!!

No, I didn't take a copy but wish I had now. I think it more or less echoes what the Times article does.

Things are moving and some people must be starting to feel rather uncomfortable!!

Nx

nancy said...

Di -

Glad it got sorted out alright, and that I was of some help!

Thanks for the link to the 3a's thread - I'll go and have a look.

Don't worry about being unable to post as often as you'd like. You obviously have a lot less time than some of us to spend on the forum.

See you later!


Nx

marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nancy said...

Hope -

A heartfelt post from you as usual - it doesn't matter how many times you think about what happened on that holiday in PdeL, it still brings a lump to your throat to think about those little children left all alone! And these people have the nerve to put themselves at the forefront of a campaign aimed at saving children from harm!

nancy said...

Viv -

I think if you just type in Daily Mail you can look for the article in the newspaper on line. That's if it hasn't been pulled already of course.


Nx

viv said...

Hi all

I am going out now and am very content with the news that we have. The PJ have been accused of just wanting to cover up, well now they are going to put up and I think the McCanns will want to go and hide somewhere!


Future developments will be very interesting and I think we should just wait and see!

Viv x

marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nancy said...

The celebrity couple were just on Sky News sitting at the top table with Clarence at the Strasbourg Conference.

I'm astonished that Kate is seen sporting a red blouse with white spots on - the least she could have done is wear something a bit more subdued until she knows for sure what has happened to Madeleine!

They are just loving all the publicity, you can see that.

I hope that with the evidence to come out shortly, they will be taken down a peg or two and the smirks will disappear from their faces.

If not, there will be no justice for Madeleine.

nancy said...

Marga -

Di may have gone already.

What makes you think that she is not genuine?

She is certainly not toeing the pro-line towards the McCanns so what would be the point of her coming on here?

Nx

marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nancy said...

Marga -

Thanks for your quick response and kind words.

I will wait until Di comes back with a reply before giving any opinion about her being genuine or not. As I said, I would find it very difficult to spot a clone.

Have an enjoyable dinner and see you later.

Nx

nancy said...

I think I did 'Drachensachen' of the 3A's a disservice thinking he/ she had written the article about the McCanns being given an award for their services to Britain!!!
It was actually written by some sycophant who goes by the name of Nigel Nessling!

So apologies to Drachensachen for being a bit quick to judge - you only printed the offending article!

docmac said...

Marga

For what it's worth I think you're wrong about Di.

marga said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Di said...

Hi Viv & All

I have just looked back in.

What is going on, what have I done now. Will someone please help me out here I just do not understand what is happening.!!

Marga if you are still there PLEASE help, I must have hit a raw nerve with my post last night, this is beyond me.

Di said...

Marga

What have I done to upset you, please tell me as I just do not know!

I have always had pleasant conversations in the past with you. What have I done, please explain.

Di said...

Docmac

Thanks for that, I am really upset at a loss, I have never upset Marga as far as I am aware.

Marga I just don't understand!!

docmac said...

Hi Di

Dunno what got to Marga, I have not read everything that led her to that conclusion.

Nancy, you can read Nigel the Vee8 fan Nessling at katiesmith.wordpress.com, a fantastically strange site.

Di said...

Hi Doc

My husband has just read the posts and he is livid, Marga has twice today called me DIE obviously deliberatly and has also said justice is coming to me slowly slowly.

This sort of thing should not be happening on this site. I am not a clone and I am sure Viv can prove to you all that I am not. Thank you to all that believe me.

The question is Why? should I even have to put up with these disgraceful comments.

My husband has told me to just give up and not post anywhere anymore. I agree with him I should, it would be much easier than having to defend myself against someone I do not even know!

But, do you know what I won't, because that is exactly what people want us to do.

I am here for Madeleine and justice for her, so sorry Marga you won't get rid of me for something I am not!!!

docmac said...

Di

I hope that you and Marga can sort it out. You are both here for the right reason.

I have respect for both of you too, so I don't want to be caught up in the middle of this.

Di said...

Doc

Sorry, I will leave you out of it.

Di said...

Nancy

Your post re Drachensachen

When I posted the article from 3A's
Nigel Nessling did not copy onto the post. I did explain immediately.

Sorry if it caused a problem.

It looks like I am in the doghouse tonight :o(((

For someone who hardly posts it is quite sad.

nancy said...

Docmac -

Thanks for the link to Katiesmith.
I'll take a look.

I hope that Di and Marga can sort things out because I have always respected both of them as co-bloggers.

Perhaps it's better to let Viv sort this out when she comes back on.

What the pros would like is for us to start attacking each other which is a shame because we've always go on well, apart from the odd contretemp.

docmac said...

No worries Di

I'll stick up for both of you any day.

nancy said...

Di -

I'm sure things will get sorted out so try not to worry too much.

I'm sure you are the same Di who has always been on here, but I suppose we have to let Viv make up her own mind.

Surely there are ways of finding out who is being cloned and who isn't - for instance how do they get anyone's password? It beats me!

Nx

Di said...

Thanks Nancy & Doc

I appreciate your support.

I am off now, I know it is stupid to let these things upset you, but Marga's words have.

To be called a troll, is perhaps the most offensive.

Enjoy your evening everyone.

viv said...

Hi All

I am unhappy about what has been going on here, Di made an unfortunate remark and apologised. I accepted that. As far as I am concerned the subject is closed.

Unpleasant posts to other posters will be removed. Please stop this and remember why we are here. Justice for little Madeleine, not to attack other posters.

Viv x

Di said...

Viv

Thank you

x

viv said...

Di,

That's Ok darling and I hope you will feel able to post on the current thread. I will always remove unpleasant posts because that is not what this blog is about!

I certainly do not want people to be upset when posting on here as I can see that you were.

Luv Viv x