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?


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

Do Feelings of Entitlement Lead to Anger at God?

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According to 2013 study in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality anger at God is tied to entitlement. The study, titled I Deserve Better and God Knows It! Psychological Entitlement as a Robust Predictor of Anger at God, was conducted by Dr. Joshua Grubbs and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Georgia.

They argue that people get angry at God in response to negative events like natural disasters, diseases, and deaths of loved ones. While these experiences differ in important ways, they have a common trigger. According to Dr. Grubbs and colleagues, “Perceptions of divine injustice are often associated with anger at God, as are perceptions of being wronged or unfairly victimized by a deity.” Such anger is not unimportant as it is associated with depression, anxiety, and poor physical health.

They predicted that anger at God would be tied to psychological entitlement, which they defined as “the belief that one deserves or is entitled to more than other people.” In fact, that is exactly what they found with anger at God being associated with psychological entitlement. As for why, they write that “entitled individuals carry with them an attitude of deservingness. This predisposes them to greater perceptions of being wronged when they are denied those things they think that they deserve.”

For other research on anger at God, see Anger at God.

By Ryan C. Martin

Why an Anger Researcher Decided to Make a “Happy” Video

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Over the last month, my coworkers, students, and I filmed one of the MANY “Happy” videos inspired by Pharrell Williams’ song and video  (watch it here). Capture

We had a lot of fun and the responses from other coworkers and students have been really positive.  This particular response from a friend stood out, though: “I love the fact that anger specialist Ryan Martin frames the happiness.”

I too noticed the juxtaposition of having the “anger guy,” as I’m often called, featured in a happy video.  The truth is, though, that it isn’t a coincidence.   My interest in anger and my awareness of anger problems really did feed into my desire to make this video.

First, by way of a backstory, here’s how the video came to be.  A few months ago, a student told me that she saw me in the hallway most days but never said hi because I always seemed like I was in a bad mood.   I knew exactly what she was talking about.  I tend to be a little bit type A at work and had been accused of scowling in meetings or on my way to class in the past.  The next morning, I thought it would be funny to post a Vine- a six-second-video of me walking extra-happily to class.  I got a friend to tape me whistling, smiling, and pointing at people as I walked to class.  We tweeted the video out from the department twitter account and people seemed to love it.  For a few days, whenever I walked to class, students would see me, start whistling, laughing, pointing, etc.  A few weeks later, we decided to do the “Happy” video as a follow-up to the “happy” vine we had posted and feature the rest of the psychology department and lots of students.

In other words, the video was borne out of the fact that the “anger guy” also had a reputation, at least amongst some, of being the “angry guy.”   There’s a bigger connection than that, though.  My campus has been host to a fair amount of frustration as of late.  Like many public institutions, low pay, rising tuition, difficulty finding work after graduation, etc. have given my colleagues and students a lot to be angry about.  I consistently find students who wonder if college is worth it or who have to make tough financial decisions that students just ten years ago didn’t regularly have to make.  Those are real problems and work has been a little less fun for many of us because of them.

I can’t fix those problems, though.  So, instead, I wanted to do something fun for all of us; something the brilliant and talented people I work with and teach would remember for a long time.  I wanted to give them a present.

So we made this video.  We got the psychology faculty, our provost, our social media director, and about 60 students involved to make our version of the video that, admittedly, has been made over and over again by colleges and universities across the country.

To make it our own, we loaded it up with references to famous psychologists and psychology research.  If you look closely, you’ll find Little Albert, Milgram, the invisible gorilla, a couple of famous happiness researchers, and a lot more.  In fact there are twelve references to psychology research along with twelve Sigmund Freud action figures hidden throughout.

In the days since it went live, I’ve seen a lot of nice posts about it on Facebook from our current students and alumni.

This made my night.  Cannot believe I get to learn from the amazing psych professors at UWGB.

This makes me love my psychology professors even more than I already do.

This is amazing!!!! My professors at UWGB were the best and obviously are still awesome!!

Why did they wait until after I left to do this?!?!?!?!?!?

Regarding this last one, I have two thoughts on this: First, I wish we had done this earlier.  It would have been a lot of fun.  Second, I’m not going to make that mistake again.  We’ll do more stuff like this.

Finally, I’m not ignorant of the fact that some people think I have too much time on my hands and should just get back to work.  I have two thoughts on this as well.  First, if that were true, I wouldn’t be writing this at 4:00 am.  Second, and much more importantly, my job is to create an inspiring, engaging, and fun environment that my students and colleagues are excited to be part of every day.  Creating this video was an attempt at doing just that.  Every minute I spent on this was work… and like any good project, it was also a lot fun.

By Ryan C. Martin