It's in our nature: Verbal aggressiveness as temperamental expression

Michael J. Beatty, James C. McCroskey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Over the past ten years, a substantial body of research focusing on verbal aggressiveness has accumulated. One major observation emerging from this literature is that some people are more disposed toward aggressive symbolic action than are others. Despite this considerable research effort, why individuals vary in their predispositions toward aggressive communication in interpersonal contexts is not well understood. Current speculation about the origin of verbally aggressive predispositions reflects a long standing paradigm which assigns importance to various learning processes. However, communication scholars have ignored the work of psychobiologists that strongly points to inborn neurobiological bases for human behavior and a trivial impact of environment. In this essay, we propose a theory of verbal aggressiveness supported by the work of psychobiologists as articulated in the temperament literature. We contend that verbal aggressiveness represents expressions of inborn, biological functioning, which is antecedent to social experience and, therefore, independent of social learning processes. In formulating our position, we (1) delineate a metatheoretic rationale for a temperament-based model of verbal aggressiveness, (2) integrate neurologically-based temperament functions into an explanation of research findings regarding verbal aggression, (3) present a working model of verbal aggression, and (4) discuss the implications of our theoretical position.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-460
Number of pages15
JournalCommunication Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Communibiology
  • Genetics
  • Temperment
  • Traits
  • Verbal aggression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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