Cognitive Neoassociation Model

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When an unpleasant event takes place or an aversive stimulus arises to an individual it may cause unpleasant feelings such as pain, sadness or frustration this type of feeling develops into something negative. This further explains the effects of negative feelings on the development of anger and the exhibit of emotional aggression (Berkowitz, 1990). The negative affect is likely to trigger memories and reactions which could possibly be associated with aggression as well as annoyed feelings (Berkowitz, 1990). Furthermore, as these memories trigger various “expressive motor reactions and physiological responses it associates with flight and fight”( Pedersen, Bushman, Vasquez, & Miller, 2008, 1383). These associations are based on feelings of fear and anger which further assumes that certain cues are present (Pedersen, et al.,2008). In addition, various concepts such as aggressive thoughts, behavioral trends and emotions are linked mutually to the memory (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). As an aggressive thought is being stimulated or processed it starts to link and activate other thoughts (Bushman, 2002). In the same manner, emotion and action tendencies are being linked along the same kind of concept of association (Bushman, 2002).

Depending on the individual’s feelings is how the situation would be further approached. For example, when using the concept of “the gun” of course various feelings would arise yet, depending if certain associations are stronger and activating it would further trigger such concept. (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). Furthermore, thoughts that are either activated simultaneously or that have alike meanings start to develop strong associations (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). In addition, as the individual is stimulated by experiences and feelings they may have to be motivated as well to think more extensively about the type of information beingreceived (Pedersen, 2006). According to Berkowitz, when negative affect and angry feelings arise these associations cause an individual to be likely to get angry, have hostile ideas and be aggressively inclined (1990).

Aggressive behavior could be reduced if the situation would have not occurred. If unpleasant feelings such as pain, heat or frustration would have not happened there would then be no negative feelings. As negative feelings produce, it inclines the individual to act upon those feelings. By not using the fight or flight concept and rather keeping those feelings to themselves it would possibly reduce the tension and aggression. Furthermore, if there were no actual objects or events priming aggression it would help in reducing aggression.

Example / Application - Real-Life

According to the recent news story from ABC entitled “Some Fear Kan. Ruling May Spur Abortion Violence” (Hegeman, 2010), mentions the violence between an individual named Scott Roeder and an usher named Dr. George Tiller. As Scott was in church he attacked Dr. George Tiller by pulling the trigger with a .22 caliber handgun. As discussed in the article it seems as if this atrocity was premeditated as first degree murder. Scott caused the murder to occur because he believed that by killing on that particular day he would be saving unborn children. Scott admits that he committed such crime and feels that he should be convicted. Apparently, the victim did not cause any of this to happen with his actions. I believe it was more based on the victim’s profession and his point of view in terms of abortion that lead Scott to commit such crime.

I believe the example mentioned above clearly defines the cognitive neoassociation model because of the situational stimuli which turns to negative affect and the cognitions. The perpetrator is prolife and knowing what Dr. George Tiller’s profession entails as well as his point of view towards abortion may have lead this situation to an unpleasant experience. This tension must have created negative feelings to either individuals. Yet, to Scott Roeder these negative feelings must have triggered or activated as he started to believe that killing would save unborn children. These negative feelings led him towards building aggressive thoughts and in using the fight concept. In addition, having a hand gun could intensify not only the individual’s emotions, but trigger those negative feelings and angry thoughts. In using the fight concept the individual would possibly be ready in acting upon how he felt and based on what he thought at that point. Possibly, not thinking thoroughly on the consequences of his actions and rather acting towards his feelings. Once the individual is at the fight stage it is then where the actual action would take place whether it would be physical or verbal. In this scenario, Scott Roeder attacked Dr. George Tiller during church by pulling the trigger to one of the ushers with a .22 caliber handgun. There was no verbal altercation from either party according to the article yet, the perpetrator states that he believed that by killing on that particular day he would be saving unborn children.

The Cognitive Neoassociation model could have helped in preventing the aggressive behavior from the above scenario if the situation would have never occurred. Meaning, if these two individuals would have not been at the same particular location this atrocity would have never happened. Furthermore, if the perpetrator would have not known of the victim’s profession and his inclination towards prochoice the altercation would have not happened. By the perpetrator not having these types of negative feelings and thoughts towards individuals who are prochoice it would have eliminated the idea of him acting towards those feelings. By not having objects such as handguns that would cue an individual to further attempt in harming others it would reduce the likelihood of having violence. This horrific behavior would have not occurred if the perpetrator would have not acted upon his feelings by using the fight concept.

Example / Application - Columbine

The terrifying murder occurred on April 1999 at Columbine high school located in Colorado. Two seniors named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve students as well as one teacher. Furthermore, they injured twenty- one other students directly and they both committed suicide. This all started when various students would annoy Eric and Dylan which caused them to build anger towards society and to kill those who have hurt them. This led them both in creating a blog containing thoughts of how they felt and how to make explosives. They both seemed like any regular child because of the structure of their family and how they spend their time doing activities before.

The horrific massacre of Columbine can definitely be related to the Cognitive Neoassociation model. Eric Harris, one of the perpetrators demonstrated in many various ways his anger towards society and how he wanted to kill those who have annoyed him. This type of response may have caused unpleasant experiences based on the situation. Which it further lead him in creating a blog containing jokes, thoughts on how he felt towards others, how to cause mischief, make explosives and listings of the trouble himself & his friend were involved in. All of these negative thoughts that evolved around their minds were enough to trigger more angry thoughts. Eventually they both decided to act upon their hatred by stealingequipment and tools which they were unable to complete due to getting caught. Yet, hisintentions in harming others were so strong that being arrested, attending anger management, being in therapy and in probation still did not prevent them from creating more negative thoughts. I believe the various objects and events they exposed themselves in also had an influence in priming the aggression. For example, they kept a journal and videos of their progress as they were creating an imaginative plot in destroying various areas. Furthermore,they both acquired firearms, shotguns and even built an explosive device which I believe all of these items must have created a sense of stimulation. On the day of the actual incident was where the concept of fight come in hand because their actual thoughts were placed at that point as a behavior.

This incident could have been prevented if Eric Harris would have not been annoyed by his classmates. Also, if he would have not been friends with Dylan Klebold he would have not been influenced to act or think in an angry manner towards others. If either individuals would have not attended the same school they would have not known each other or had any type of interaction. If Eric Harris would have attended a different school where his peers would have not annoyed him then the chances of him feeling this hatred towards others would have lessen. If they did not have these negative feelings it would have not caused or stimulated any further thoughts of anger. If they did not exposed themselves to handguns and the videos they made it would have not encouraged them to continue further with their plan. In addition, the behavior would have not occurred if both individuals would have not acted based on their thoughts.


Anderson, C., & Bushman, B. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53(1), 27-51. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135231.

Berkowitz, L. (1990). On the formation and regulation of anger and aggression: A cognitive-neoassociationistic analysis. American Psychologist, 45(4), 494-503. doi:10.1037/0003066X.45.4.494.

Bushman, B. (2002). Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger and aggressive responding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28(6), 724-731. doi:10.1177/0146167202289002

Hegeman, R. (2010). Some Fear Kan. Ruling May Spur Abortion Violence. Retrieved May 8, 2010 from

Pedersen, W., Bushman, B., Vasquez, E., & Miller, N. (2008). Kicking the (barking) dog effect: The moderating role of target attributes on triggered displaced aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(10), 1382-1395. doi:10.1177/0146167208321268

Pedersen, W. (2006). The Impact of Attributional Processes on Triggered Displaced Aggression. Motivation and Emotion, 30(1), 75-87. doi:10.1007/s11031-006-9002-4.

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