Mind & Body

The Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire Can Tell You How Aggressive You Are

We all get a little angry from time to time. That's normal. But how do you know when your irritability has crossed the line into problem territory? If you've ever wondered how your typical levels of aggression stack up against those of other people, there's a test you can take to find out.

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Don't Get Mad — Get Even(-Tempered)

The Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ) is a self-report test meant to tell you where you rank on different factors of aggression. In general terms, it's supposed to give you an idea of how hostile, angry, and/or violent you are. The BPAQ, also known simply as the Aggression Questionnaire or AQ, was developed in 1992 by psychology professors Arnold Buss and Mark Perry at the University of Texas at Austin and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. High levels of aggression are related to low self-esteem, antisocial behavior, and delinquency, according to a 2005 study. Being aware of your aggression level and that of those close to you, then, may help reveal other underlying negative traits.

Testing, Testing

The BPAQ is comprised of 29 statements, and the questionnaire asks you to rank each one on a five-point scale based on how true you think it is. If you can relate, you'd respond "extremely characteristic of me," but if it's not even close, you'd rank it "extremely uncharacteristic of me." Here are some examples of the statements you'll be asked to rank:

  • I tell my friends openly when I disagree with them.
  • I flare up quickly but get over it quickly.
  • I can't help getting into arguments when people disagree with me.
  • Some of my friends think I am a hothead.
  • If I have to resort to violence to protect my rights, I will.
  • When people are especially nice to me, I wonder what they want.

After you rank all 29, your scores are normalized on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 being Mel Gibson-level hostile. The questionnaire will give you a score for four factors of aggression: physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger, and hostility. Ready to give it a try and see your score? You can click right here to take the questionnaire on Psychology Tools.

Y U Mad Tho?

If you find that your score suggests you're a little more aggressive than you wish you were, there are ways to help rein it in. For example, Tom G. Stevens, Ph.D., psychologist and professor emeritus at California State University, Long Beach, breaks down useful tips in his book "You Can Choose To Be Happy: 'Rise Above' Anxiety, Anger, and Depression." Here are a few of his most actionable suggestions to cut down on your anger:

  • Take a time-out if someone gets too upset. Even if it's just five minutes, a time-out can be a useful period for calming down, thinking about the conflict, and regaining your control.
  • Write a list of your self-destructive expressions of anger. What thoughts make you angrier? What behaviors are harmful to you or others? What other things could help when conflicts arise? Find ways to replace harmful actions with constructive expressions.
  • Find energetic activities that can help release anger's arousal. Maybe you need to go for a run around the block or spar with a punching bag. The high-energy state of being angry can last for hours, so if you tire yourself out, you may reduce anger's hold on you.
  • Develop a plan for assertive (not aggressive or passive) conflict resolution. Focus on maximizing everyone's happiness and trying to find win-win solutions. That means trying to understand the other side's point of view.

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Written by Joanie Faletto May 25, 2018

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