Randy McCarthy

Research Interests

There is a large body of literature examining when and for whom aggression is likely to occur. My research examines the cognitive processes and cognitive structures that contribute to individuals’ aggressive behaviors and to how people communicate about their aggressive behaviors.

Recently, my lab has been studying people’s “folk explanations” for their aggressive interactions. Sure, there are several factors that can actually cause aggressive behaviors (e.g., an aggressive personality, hot temperatures, consuming alcohol, being insulted, etc.), but explanations are not about what actually caused aggressive behavior. Explanations are about which factors people refer to when communicating about why somebody behaved aggressively. These explanations can reflect access to information about the causes of aggressive behavior. Explanations also can be used strategically to, for example, portray a behavior as sensible, express regret, dodge responsibility, etc. Because there are so many nuances to how people choose to explain aggressive behaviors, we find these explanations to be fascinating.

Representative Publications