Anger is one of the most powerful and least understood of
all emotions. Researchers who study anger have come to some surprising
conclusions. Here’s the truth about angry drunks, grumpy old men, and bickering
Myth: Alcohol turns hotheads into barroom brawlers.
Reality: It’s no surprise that overindulging in alcohol increases
the risk of violence. However, a study of teens and young
adults in Norway found that the effect was most pronounced in those who were
inclined to suppress their rage when sober.
In fact, psychologists say that people who always try to hold
in angry feelings may become like walking sticks of dynamite, and alcohol can
act like the flame that lights the fuse. It’s healthier to find ways of expressing
anger as it arises, such as stating what’s bothering you in a calm, direct,
non-aggressive way or venting about it to a third party.
Reality: Drawing on national survey data from more than
1,000 U.S. adults, University of Toronto sociologist Scott
Schieman found that younger people experience anger more often than
According to Schieman, that may be because younger people
are often affected by time pressures, economic hardships, and workplace
conflicts. These three major stressors can trigger anger in people, especially
those who haven’t learned effective ways of calming down and countering stress.
Reality: Anger is unpleasant. But unlike fear, it can motivate
you to go after a reward. Consequently, associating anger with something viewed
as a reward can make you want it more—a tendency that could explain a lot about
the allure of make-up sex.
In a fascinating
study from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, people viewed images of
common objects, such as a mug or a pen, on a screen. What they didn't realize
was that, immediately before each image appeared, the screen briefly flashed a
subliminal image of an angry or neutral face.
Afterward, when given a chance to squeeze a handgrip to win
the objects, study participants put more effort into it getting objects
associated with angry faces. Yet when asked why they worked harder for a particular
object, they simply said that they liked it more. They had no idea that their
motivation was rooted in anger.