Skin Conductance, Heart Rate and Aggressive Behavior Type

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The current study tested the association between physiology and aggressive behavior type in a large sample of University students (N = 509). Measures of aggression were gathered with the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questionnaire. Analyses used raw aggressive behavior type scores and residualized measures of aggressive behavior type, which account for the overlap between reactive and proactive aggression. Measures of physiology included skin conductance and heart rate, both at rest and in response to a minor social stressor. Analyses assessed the association between aggressive behavior type and measures of physiology in the full sample and in sex specific sub-samples. Results indicated that resting skin conductance was positively associated with proactive aggression in the full sample and among females. Skin conductance in response to stress had a positive association with reactive aggression both in the full sample and among males. Skin conductance responsivity was negatively associated with proactive aggression among males. Findings further strengthen previous work suggesting that the etiologies of reactive and proactive aggression are distinct and may vary across sex.