Empathic inaccuracy in husband to wife aggression: The overattribution bias

William E. Schweinle, William Ickes, Ira H. Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

Is husbands' wife-directed aggression related to unusual accuracy (hypersensitivity) or to bias (being likely to inappropriately infer criticism or rejection) when they infer women's critical/rejecting thoughts and feelings? Results of a study using the empathic accuracy paradigm and signal detection analyses revealed that the greater the husbands' bias to overattribute criticism and rejection to the thoughts and feelings of women they had never met, the more the husbands reported behaving in a verbally aggressive way toward their own wives. This finding discourages the conclusion that maritally aggressive men are uniquely provoked by their own female partners, and instead suggests that they are biased to overattribute criticism and rejection to women in general. The strength of this overattribution bias correlated negatively with the men's accuracy in inferring the actual content of the women's thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, the husbands' thematic accuracy (their ability to accurately specify which of the stimulus women's thoughts and feelings really were critical or rejecting) was associated with their self-reported marital satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages18
JournalPersonal Relationships
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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