Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Anger Managment

We often hear the advice not to act when angry to avoid making a rash decision. This may seem reasonable, but in reality is not good advice. Researchers at the Univeristy of California, Santa Barbara conducted a study conducted a study on how anger affects decision making and found that anger helped people make more rational decisions. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it actually makes sense. Armed with heightened skepticism, people when angered will tend to ignore pleas to emotion, irrelevant statements and other hallmarks of a weak argument. Unencumbered by these distractions, they can hone in on the stronger arguments and make better, more analytical decisions.


Bayman said...

"the researchers induced anger in a group of college students by either asking them to write about a past experience that had made them very angry, or by having their stated hopes and dreams harshly criticized by another participant. In a second group of students, anger was not induced".

To me, remembering anger, or having it "induced" in a lab full of scientists who you know are studying you is not the same as an emotional reaction happening in real-time in real life. A better experiment in theory would be to present rational or irrational arguments to people in the midst of a road rage incident. The subjects would probably just ignore the silly test altogether and carry on with their highly irrational behavior.

I also disagree with the scientist's interpretation that the angry people were acting more rationally. My interpretation would be that angry people simply have a generally tendency to dismiss the needs of anyone except themselves, therefore in the experiment they dismissed as many arguments as they could, leaving only the most credible ones. In effect, angry people are less open-minded and quicker to judge.

I think it's pretty irresponsible for scientists to promote anger as an approach to problem solving based on the results of such a contrived and meaningless experiment. I think it's obvious that while anger is a natural human response that can prompt us into action, over-indulgence in anger at an emotional level is destructive and counter-productive to pretty much any endeavor.
Just ask Yoda.

kamel said...

I would definitely be interested to see the actual paper (which I couldn't find) as well as the arguments they were being asked to choose between.

I would also love to see your proposed experiment using road rage. "Excuse me sir, I just noticed you flipped that driver off. Would you mind answering these questions about graduate comprehensive exams?"

Finally, I would really love to be in the group asked to criticize the hopes and dreams. That just sounds like fun.