One More Reason Why Suppressing Anger is Bad For You

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Anger suppression, when we feel angry but don’t express it, has long been associated anger_mainwith a variety of psychological and physical health problems.  Recent research, though, shows that it also might be associated with aggression and violence. A 2015 study in Psychology of Violence looked at 64 criminal offenders who were asked to complete measures related to anger, other emotions, verbal attention, and past aggression.  The findings showed “that participants reporting difficulty attending to their emotions had more extensive histories of aggression than those who did not report such difficulties” (Robertson, Daffern, & Bucks, 2015, p 74).  In other words, those participants who suppressed their anger rather than finding some healthy outlet were more likely to be aggressive or violent.

According to the authors, a failure to attend to emotions (what they call “overregulation”) leads to violence in several ways including an increase in general negative affect, encouraging a more superficial thought process, decreasing the quality of interpersonal relationships, preventing resolution of any problems, and leading to an increase in physiological arousal.

What then is the solution?  The authors suggest that an important way to control aggressive behavior while angry is to attend to the anger rather than attempting to avoid it.

Hunger, Anger, and Intimate Relationships

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voodoo-dolls-largeCan being “hangry” (hungry and angry) have an effect on intimate relationships? In a recent study done by Bushman and colleagues (2014), researchers looked at glucose levels and aggression levels. Their research suggests that glucose levels affect aggressive impulses and behaviors. Over the course of 21 days, 107 couples took part in a four part experiment. Initially participants took a 10 item questionnaire. Then for 21 consecutive days, the couples measured the glucose levels before breakfast and before bed. The participants were also given a voodoo doll that represented their spouse along with 51 pins. After the 21 days the couples returned to the lab to compete against their spouse, actually a computer; in this competition the winner got to blast their spouse with loud uncomfortable noises, in which they controlled the intensity and duration.

Their findings: lower levels of glucose predicted and increase in aggressive impulses (i.e., more voodoo doll pins and louder and longer uncomfortable noise). Ultimately, this has to do with self-control, the ability to resist an urge or desire.  Self-control is a limited resource that depletes over time when you have to resist or override aggressive impulses.  One way to prevent depletion of this self-control tank is to keep your glucose levels up.

By Katie Bright
Katie is majoring in Psychology and Human Development. A senior, she plans on graduating in Spring of 2015 and taking some time off school before returning to earn a Masters degree.

Midwestern Psychological Association: Honor Student Research

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My three honors students, Kayla Hucke, Olyvia Kuchta, and Sarah Londo, presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago last week (April 30th and May 1).  They did brilliantly.

Here’s a sample of their work:

HuckeKayla Hucke: Emotions in Sports Performance

KuchtaOlyvia Kuchta: The Influence of Free Will, Politics, and Religion on Attitudes about Mental Illness

LondoSarah Londo: Locus of Control and the Stress Response

A Look Inside: Anger From an Athlete’s Viewpoint

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People think of anger as an emotion athletes often feel and even “use” during competition as a way to get pumped up, increase aggressive play, and even outperform others with the “angry edge”. Well, why not ask athletes themselves how they view anger the day of, immediately before, and during competition? Is experiencing anger seen as beneficial? Are sports an “outlet” for releasing anger in an acceptable way? Desired AngerStudents who competed in a varsity level sport in high school and some current college athletes participating in an online survey say that YES anger may be beneficial. Athletes actually desire to experience increased levels of anger as competition nears and hope to feel at their angriest during competition. On the other hand, athletes view anxiety as harmful to performance and strive to experience less of it as competition nears. Could it be that athletes actually strive to enter into a competitive scenario feeling angry?

AngerInterfered

Part of a bigger study looking at emotional intelligence in sports, the findings regarding anger were striking. As mentioned above, athletes want to feel angry, but the opposite seems to be true of anxiety. Athletes were asked to share personal examples in which anger helped and interfered with performance.  Athletes reported anger as a distraction as the biggest reason for it interfering with one’s performance. For example, say an athlete was angered by foul play from the opposing team, a poor call made by the ref, or a careless mistake he/she made a few moments earlier…this was oftentimes seen as interfering with performance. On the other hand, athletes associated increase in adrenaline as a positive component of anger. Athletes Anger Helpedthat felt angry indicated that their adrenaline was pumping, they felt more motivated and excited leading to increased levels of performance. Interestingly, athletes were also asked to participate in a questionnaire looking specifically at emotional intelligence.  Participants who scored higher on emotional intelligence considered themselves to be more successful in their sport when comparing their abilities to others they compete against. This suggests that athletes view emotions, or more importantly their understanding and ability to manage such emotions, as playing a role in sports performance.

What does this research suggest for athletes and their emotional experiences during sports competition? Athletes view anger as a beneficial emotion surrounding sports. This may suggest that athletes should incorporate feelings of anger into their sport routine and competition prep. Findings also suggest that athletes need to learn how to recognize, manage, and understand their emotions in order to reap the benefits of experiencing them surrounding a competition. Future research could look at sport type and see whether athletes involved in sports that are considered more aggressive in nature (e.g., football) view emotions such as anger as more beneficial to performance outcomes. Being able to recognize such emotions could lead athletes to better be able to use such emotional experiences, in turn, leading to increases in ability and performance in a sports context.

HuckeBy Kayla Hucke
Kayla is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She will graduate with honors in May 2015 and plans to take some time off of school to gain experience before attending graduate school. She will present her honors project, Emotions in Sports Performance, at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago in April 2015.

Anger Experienced by Returning Veterans

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Due to the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are many veterans returning homeCapture and experiencing anger problems during reintegration into civilian life.  A recent study done by Miranda Worthen and Jennifer Ahern, published in the Journal of Loss and Trauma in 2014, investigated how veterans understood the causes, process, and social impact of their anger issues during reintegration.  In this study, the researchers had an open interview with each veteran in order to further understand the individual and the reasons causing the anger problems.

The researchers found three distinct patterns of anger problems: (1) loss of structure during reintegration (i.e., living in a less predictable and organized environment), (2) moral injury from being exposed to acts that disagree with one’s moral beliefs, and (3) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is triggered by a traumatic experience (National Center for PTSD, 2012).  While veterans reintegrate into civilian life, PTSD and moral injury caused persistent anger problems.  These anger problems can lead to marital issues, social isolation, and issues holding a job.

There is specialized help available for veterans who suffer from moral injury and PTSD.  These feelings are common and seeking help is highly encouraged.  It is important for each veteran to find what process or method works best for them to reintegrate into civilian life.

For those veterans who are looking for help, here are two useful resources:

By Gretchen Klefstad
Gretchen is a a sophomore majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Administration. She plans on graduating in May 2017 and continuing on to graduate school.

The Science of Bitchy Resting Face

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Bitchy Resting FaceWe have all heard the jokes about “bitchy resting face” and what it means for women who have naturally angry looking faces. But, as it turns out, there may actually be some science behind the joke. A recent article by Mareike Jaensch and colleagues, published in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, investigated how facial expression would play a role in whether or not men would maximize their viewing time of attractive vs. unattractive female faces. In the study, they exposed male participants to both attractive and unattractive female faces, varying whether those faces were expressing happy, neutral, or angry emotions.

The researchers found that while males still rated the angry, “attractive” faces as more attractive, on average, than the “unattractive” faces, they actively worked to reduce the amount of time they spent viewing them and increased viewing time of the happy and neutral attractive faces. Past research suggests that because an angry expression is an “aversive stimulus,” it indicates potential harm, thus encouraging avoidance. In other words, if males sense no chance of a reward, they move on quickly.0

By Allie Nelson
Allie is a senior with Psychology and Human Development majors. She plans on graduating in May of 2015 and attending graduate school.

Seeing Red?

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4800831_ccc91cf769_qWe’ve all heard the expression “seeing red.” As it turns out, though, it’s not just a metaphor. People really do associate the color red with anger and, according to a 2013 article in Emotion, the color red influences whether or not we perceive anger in a particular situation.

The authors conducted two experiments to test the hypothesis that “the psychological meaning implied by the color red biases the processing of anger expressions” (Young et al., 2013, p. 380). In the first experiment, they found that participants were more likely to perceive anger in faces that were viewed on a red background. In the second, they found that the color red did not generalize to other negative emotions like fear. In other words, the emotional impact of the color red was unique to anger.

Photo Courtesy: Lorentey