This week, a team of Canadian psychologists published results from a study made to determine the root motives behind those who bully others. “We were hoping to apply this new information to anti-bullying campaigns, workplace ethics videos, and Boxing Day shopping,” said lead psychologist Jeff Erikson. “Our research was labour intensive, but we are happy with the results.”
The study consisted of roughly 40 self-identified bullies. “The bullies were hard to find,” Erikson said, “but once we looked in hockey arenas after pee-wee hockey games and behind local convenience stores, we were able to find who we needed.”
The study began with a short survey, and according to Erikson, the results were in-depth and insightful. “When asked how they felt their bullying affected others, the most popular answers involved my own mother and how obese she was.”
The rest of the survey was left blank, but the subjects advised researchers to fill it out for them. “They were really persuasive,” he said. “They had a compelling argument about how it was in our best interest to do the work for them.”
According to Erikson, the survey results were on track with what the researchers expected.
“100 per cent of those surveyed believed that they tend to bully others so they can keep their status while not losing the affection of the in-group,” said Erikson. “Our survey results showed that while [bullies] may be sensitive about any differences or any failings that they have, they victimize those who have failings that are more challenged in society, such as being poor at sports or being seen as physically weak.”
After the survey the subjects were then observed within a controlled group setting, which was larger than expected, as the subjects convinced the researchers to let them invite their own friends, who were also self-identified bullies, to join the observational study.
“They were very helpful and brought drinks and a sound system for our subjects,” said Erikson. “The observation room ended up getting wrecked from their interactions, but it’s worth it for the data we collected.”
Although this research study is over, Erikson is still looking to do further testing. “We still have a lot of work to do. We have so many unanswered questions raised from this study” he said, including why researchers could not stop hitting themselves, and what subjects did with the researchers’ lunch money after taking it.