Impact of effort–reward imbalance on undergraduates’ aggressive behavior: The mediating role of perceived justice and hostile attribution

Kequn Chu1, Fengshu Zhu2
1College of Physical Education, Yangzhou University, People's Republic of China, and School of Educational Science, Guangxi Science & Technology Normal University, People’s Republic of China
2College of Physical Education, Yangzhou University, People’s Republic of China
Cite this article:  Chu, K., & Zhu, F. (2022). Impact of effort–reward imbalance on undergraduates’ aggressive behavior: The mediating role of perceived justice and hostile attribution. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 50(5), e11414.

Volume 50 Issue 5 | e11414 | Published: May 2022 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.11414

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Effort–reward imbalance can predict aggressive behavior, but the mechanism of its influence is not yet clear to researchers. Thus, in this study we explored the mediating roles of perceived justice and hostile attribution in the relationship between effort–reward imbalance and aggressive behavior in an educational setting. Using the Effort–Reward Imbalance Scale for University Students, the Chinese version of the Perceived Justice Scale for College Students, the hostile attribution subscale of the Social Information Processing Attribution Bias Questionnaire, and the Chinese version of the Buss and Perry Aggression Questionnaire, we conducted a survey with 1,660 Chinese undergraduates. The results show that perceived justice played a mediating role in the relationship between effort–reward imbalance and aggressive behavior, as did hostile attribution. In addition, perceived justice and hostile attribution had a chain mediating effect in the link between effort–reward imbalance and aggressive behavior. Thus, effort–reward imbalance affects aggressive behavior not only directly but also indirectly through perceived justice and hostile attribution. Our findings enrich the literature on aggressive behavior by helping to understand how individuals become aggressive after the frustrating experience of receiving insufficient reward for their efforts.

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