Tuesday Tip: Be Aware of the Catharsis Myth

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The “Catharsis Myth” is the idea that venting anger is good for you.  The idea is that by acting aggressively, viewing aggressive content, etc. we release our anger in a way that is healthy and safe.

The problem, of course, is that catharsis doesn’t work. In fact, the research on catharsis shows that it increases anger rather than decreases it.  According to Bushman and colleagues (1999), it increases cardiovascular disease risk and increases the likelihood you will become aggressive toward those around you (including innocent bystanders).

To learn more about the “Catharsis Myth,” see Four Questions on the Catharsis Myth with Dr. Brad Bushman.

 

Fact Check: Do women use gossip as a form of aggression more often than men?

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indexWe have likely all heard people say that men typically express their aggression physically while women express their aggression indirectly using gossip. Gossip, or talking about people without their knowledge, is something that surrounds us every day. It starts in the hallways of middle school, follows us through college, and is present in our workplaces; it is nearly impossible to escape. That said, gossip isn’t always bad, as researchers often talk about “positive gossip.” Positive gossip helps individuals understand peer groups, learn who to trust, and build social connections by sharing personal information. It can sometimes, however, become a tool for aggression.

But do women gossip more often than men? To answer that question, we’ll turn first to a 2014 study conducted by Dr. Francis McAndrew, who investigated the distinct way women express aggression. McAndrew found that gossip was used in an effort to eliminate, damper, or constrict the social network of others. McAndrew also discovered that women were more likely to gossip about other women rather than men and he argued this was because women are seen as more direct competition.

Another study that looked for a concrete difference in aggression between males and females was a 2006 study by Dr. Nicole Hess and Dr. Edward Hagen exposed men and women to the same aggression-evoking stimulus. Specifically, participants were told that their group members had reported that they had not done any of the required work on a group project. Hess and Hagen found that women, in response to this provocation, had a stronger desire than men to aggress indirectly through gossip. One other interesting aspect of this study is that they controlled for social norms and approval and still concluded, “Young adult women reported a significantly stronger desire than men to retaliate with gossip against a reputational attack, even after controlling for social norms and approval” (p. 242).

Anger and aggression can be expressed in many different ways. The studies presented here don’t suggest that women are more angry, temperamental, or aggressive than men. However, they do seem to confirm the idea that compared to men, women use gossip more frequently as a form of aggression.

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.

On Being Hangry

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We’ve all been there. We haven’t eaten all day, so we try and grab a quick bite only to find out there’s a wait at our favorite restaurant. BAM, we snap.

Jimmy Johns

YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, JIMMY JOHNS!

You’ve been struck by “hanger,” the combination of hunger and anger, an insidious little monster that works its way into our lives and destroys relationships with both our loved ones…

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and our favorite fast-food employees.

Mcdonalds

YES I WANT FRIES WITH THAT!

No one should be surprised by the existence of hanger. In fact, we should be surprised that we took so long to come up with a word for it.

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COME ON!

We recognize hanger in kids with no problem. In fact, a cursory glance at most parenting books will tell you that the vast majority of child crabbiness is explained by sleeplessness, hunger, or both.

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So what causes hangriness? Well, unlike shark anger, which remains a mystery despite my efforts, scientists actually know the answer to this one.

Here’s the key. Comparatively, food is fairly important when it comes to sustaining human life. We don’t live very long if we don’t eat, so our evolutionary history has provided us with a fairly simple set of eating reminders (stomach contractions and growling, low energy, difficulty concentrating, headaches, etc.). These reminders get more extreme the longer we go without food and feeling cranky, irritated, or frustrated falls in that moderate to severe food deprivation range.

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Don’t Make Me Hangry…. You Won’t Like Me When I’m Hangry.

More specifically, it has to do with blood sugar. When our blood sugar gets too low, we get anxious, uncomfortable, and irritable. Ultimately, glucose helps regulate self-control in the brain. Without it, we have a more difficult time controlling our emotions and behaviors.

This means that hunger affects anger on both the front end and the back end of the experience. People get angry when they appraise a situation as unfair or unpleasant. They get even angrier, though, when they’re in a negative state (tense, anxious, hungry, etc.) right before the unfair or unpleasant event (the front end). But, since glucose helps us regulate our behavior, hunger also makes it harder for us to control that anger, and we’re more likely to lash out (the back end).

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Can someone get Bill a sandwich or something?

So, can we avoid it? Yes, by eating.

Maya Cooper Michele Perchonok

I’ve cured hunger!

If you’re looking for more than that, here are some helpful resources.

If none of those work, though, there’s always this:

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Texas Standard: Online Outrage Over Racism at Fraternities

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On March 11th, 2015, I did an interview with Texas Standard on “Online outrage over racism at fraternities – how much are official responses dictated by social media?”  For some background on the story, read University of Oklahoma Expels Two Leaders for Racist Singing.

You can listen to the show at Listen: Texas Standard for March 11, 2015.

Survey: How Angry Are You Online?

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Do you ever wonder if you vent online more than others?  Do you ever ask yourself how you compare to others when it comes to sending angry emails, calling people names, or even using social networking sites as a way of getting revenge on people?  Find out by taking the Online Anger Consequences Questionnaire, where you answer just 12 questions about how you express your anger online.  We’ll give you your scores and provide you with information about how those scores compare to others who took the test.

Tuesday Tip: Imagery

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Learning to relax is obviously a useful strategy for dealing with unwanted anger.  There are lots of ways to relax, however (see here for examples of mediation, deep breathing, and taking timeouts).  One of the best is to use visual imagery where you visualize a relaxing experience from your memory or your imagination (a trip the the beach, a hike in the woods, etc.).

In fact, if you’re not good at coming up with visualizations on your own, you can even find a few websites with free visualization scrips for you to practice with (see here for an example).

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.

Psychology Today: Opportunities to Feel

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tumblr_m1p3j9qln51qa5woeThis morning, before I had my first sip of coffee, I had learned the following: (1) my friends’ daughter was sick, (2) another friend, more distant, was pregnant, and (3) that legislators in my state have been embracing all sorts of policies I find harmful. That’s right, within ten minutes of waking up, Facebook had provided me with opportunities to feel sadness, joy, and anger. Contrast that with ten years ago, pre-Facebook, when I would have spent that time… staring out the window, probably. Honestly, what did I do while waiting for my coffee to brew before I had Facebook?

Read at Psychology Today

Tuesday Tip: Consider Alternative Interpretations

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Anger isn’t caused directly by things that happen around us.  It’s caused by our interpretation of those things that happen around us.  Imagine if someone cuts in front of you in line at the grocery store.  You can interpret that a couple of different ways: intentional (“he saw me and just didn’t care that he was cutting in front of me”) or unintentional (“he must not have seen me”).

Sometimes, considering alternative interpretations of the provocation can be a nice way to alleviate anger.  Ask yourself what evidence you have to support your angering interpretation.  Try to consider other ways of looking at the situation and maybe even try to test those alternative interpretations.  What would happen if you, for example, were to say politely to the person that they accidently cut in front of you?