Catharsis hypothesis is a popular theory in social psychology that suggests that expressing one’s emotions can lead to a release of negative feelings and reduce aggressive behavior. This hypothesis has been studied extensively over the years, and while there are some who support it, there are also those who question its validity.

What is Catharsis Hypothesis?
The catharsis hypothesis proposes that expressing one’s emotions, particularly negative emotions such as anger or frustration, can lead to a release of these feelings and reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior. The idea is that by “letting it all out,” individuals can rid themselves of pent-up emotions and feel better as a result.

However, this theory has been challenged by researchers who argue that expressing negative emotions may actually increase aggression rather than decrease it. This is because when individuals act on their negative emotions, they may become more entrenched in their anger or frustration, leading to further aggression.

Research on Catharsis Hypothesis
Studies on the catharsis hypothesis have produced mixed results. Some studies have found evidence to support the idea that expressing negative emotions can be cathartic and reduce aggression.

For example, a study conducted by Bushman et al. (2002) found that participants who wrote about their anger towards another person experienced less aggressive thoughts and behaviors than those who did not write about their anger.

However, other studies have found no evidence to support the catharsis hypothesis. For example, a study conducted by Stucke and Baumeister (2006) found that participants who expressed their anger through physical activity actually became more aggressive than those who did not engage in any expression of anger.

Alternative Theories

Given the mixed results of research on the catharsis hypothesis, some researchers have proposed alternative theories to explain why expressing negative emotions may or may not reduce aggression.

One such theory is called the “reappraisal theory.” This theory proposes that rather than expressing negative emotions, individuals should instead try to reappraise the situation that is causing their negative emotions. By reframing the situation in a more positive light, individuals may be able to reduce their negative emotions and avoid aggressive behavior.


The catharsis hypothesis is an intriguing theory that suggests expressing negative emotions can be cathartic and reduce aggressive behavior. However, research on this hypothesis has produced mixed results, and alternative theories have been proposed to explain why expressing negative emotions may or may not reduce aggression.

As with many theories in psychology, it is likely that the truth lies somewhere in between. While some individuals may benefit from expressing their negative emotions, others may find it more beneficial to reappraise the situation. Ultimately, the best approach will depend on the individual and the situation at hand.