Study Reports Anger Fuels Better Decisions

kellym78's picture

This is from June of last year, but this is the first I've heard of it, so hopefully everybody isn't already familiar. A scientific experiment was conducted to determine the impact of anger on decision-making and rationality. It was concluded that anger actually improves your thought processes and helps you to make better decisions which you more strongly uphold. So, take that all of you nay-sayers who constantly criticize us for tossing away the facade of propriety and demeanor of respect for others' beliefs. We're actually better off precisely because we get angry.


The next time you are plagued with indecision and need a clear way out, it might help to get angry, according to a surprising new study.

Despite its reputation as an impetus to rash behavior, anger actually seems to help people make better choices—even aiding those who are usually very poor at thinking rationally. This could be because angry people base their decisions on the cues that "really matter" rather than things that can be called irrelevant or a distraction.

Previous research has shown that anger biases people’s thinking—turning them into bigger risk-takers and making them less trusting and more prejudiced, for instance.

But little has been done to study how, exactly, anger affects a person’s thinking.

So Wesley Moons, a psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his colleague Diane Mackie designed three experiments to determine how anger influences thinking—whether it makes people more analytical or careful about their decisions, or whether it leads people to make faster, rasher decisions.

In the first experiment, 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.

The researchers later checked to be sure that the subjects were as riled up as they were supposed to be.

The two groups were then asked to read either compelling or weak arguments designed to convince them that college students have good financial habits. The strong argument cited research from numerous scientific studies, whereas the weak argument contained largely unsupported statements. The subjects were asked to logically evaluate the strength of the arguments they read and indicate how convinced they were by them.
The researchers repeated the experiment with a second group of students, this time giving the subjects an additional piece of information: who had made the arguments. Some students were told that the argument was made by an organization with relevant expertise in financial matters; others were told that the argument was made by a medical organization whose expertise was irrelevant to the financial topic being considered.

In both studies, the researchers found that the angry subjects were better at discriminating between strong and weak arguments and were more convinced by the stronger arguments. Those who were not made to feel angry tended to be equally convinced by both arguments, indicating that they were not as analytical in their assessments.

The angry students were also better at weighing the arguments appropriately depending on which organization had made them.

The researchers repeated the experiment a third time using a different argument—one that supported the implementation of a university-wide requirement for graduating seniors to take comprehensive exams. This time, they tested only those subjects who were the least analytical, or in other words, those who were the least likely to make logical decisions. This way, the researchers would be able to see whether anger also makes typically non-analytical thinkers more analytical.

Once again, they found that the angry subjects were better able to discriminate between strong and weak arguments than the ones who were not angry—suggesting that anger can transform even those people who are, by disposition, not very analytical into more careful thinkers.

Their findings, detailed in this month’s issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggest that anger helps people focus on the cues that matter most to making a rational decision and ignore cues that are irrelevant to the task of decision-making.

This could be because anger is designed to motivate people to take action—and that it actually helps people to take the right action, the authors wrote.

Atheist Books

I wish the bank was open

I wish the bank was open today because I would print this out and take it there.

Go ahead, go to the window, and yell it out... "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"





Why are atheists so angry? by Hambydammit

Damn Right I'm angry part one by Kelly

Damn Right I'm angry part two by Kelly

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Hambydammit's picture

Ooooh... I want the full

Ooooh... I want the full study.


Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin
Books about atheism

RaspK's picture

This explains a lot.

This explains a lot. Smiling

That's interesting! 

That's interesting!  Looking back, I can see a few instances where it may have been true for me.  I would like to see more though.

RaspK's picture

K9sByte wrote: That's

K9sByte wrote:
That's interesting! Looking back, I can see a few instances where it may have been true for me. I would like to see more though.

That's pretty much how I feel; what is interesting is that it explains the way many people I know have acted in the past too.



Lots of Anger stuff on line, I have an "Anger" folder I keep on this subject.

Anger is like a high alert mental alarm.
Anger as in focused Indignation is good; fight injustice.
Anger as in a Rage is dangerous; smash hand thru window.

Here are some of my thoughts in this short RRS thread, "No love, no point"

God fucking damn it I AM pissed off ! Evolution hurts but it's what we are. Fight the good fight ....

   hey, the loving

   hey, the loving atheist jesus character was way fucking pissed off too!  Yell  Smile 

Tanath's picture

I think it's important to

I think it's important to note that the subjects were angry about something irrelevant to what they were asked to think about. The study doesn't show that people think better about things that make them angry. More study needs to be done.

Faith is not a virtue.

LosingStreak06's picture

Tanath wrote:I think it's

Tanath wrote:

I think it's important to note that the subjects were angry about something irrelevant to what they were asked to think about. The study doesn't show that people think better about things that make them angry. More study needs to be done.

This is a good point. I wonder how the study would have turned out if the participants who had been made angry by being criticized were informed that one of the articles was written by the person who had criticized them.

blue_monkey's picture

Your argument is

Your argument is preposterous. You make the assumption that freethinkers who aren't "tossing away the facade of propriety and demeanor of respect for others' beliefs" aren't angry about the dark and dangerous aspects of religion.  Utilizing propriety and respect is a highly rational decision often made from a place of anger. Anger toward self-righteousness. Anger toward intolerance. Anger toward divisiveness. Anger toward those who seek to make everyone have the same worldview.


Woe are the fools who face an enemy of much greater numbers and then seek to piss off that enemy while knowing that anger will make the enemy sharper and more of a threat.  



Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.

kellym78's picture

Somebody have a messiah

Somebody have a messiah complex? Been to Jerusalem lately?

Although I may agree that some aspects of your opinion are correct for some people, your tone is positively frightening. Watch out for auditory hallucinations.

HeyZeusCreaseToe's picture


I'd say that this definitely is an interesting study into anger and its positive uses. There needs to be more study involved into exactly what type of anger they are tapping into though. I would have to say I have a separate default position about getting incredibly angry where the anger does not translate into more rational, analytical reasoning. For instance, If  a man  comes home and finds his wife sleeping with another man(assuming they are not polyamorous), and in an anger driven act kills both of them, I would say he is not weighing all sides of the issue completely. That is an extreme example, and one could call that rage, not anger, but it seems like there has to be a type of scale of anger-induced emotions running the gamut from a mild annoyance to murderous rage. I would say these fall under the anger umbrella, but to obviously varying degrees. I am not a behavioural psychologist, so maybe there are truly distinct differences between anger, rage, and annoyance, but it would be incredibly interesting to see the difference of these varying states of what I perceive to be "anger" and the effects they have on making better decisions.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda

kellym78's picture

I think that the critical

I think that the critical component that many people are forgetting is that the type of anger one experiences and personality types, the presence of behavioral disorders, etc will all influence how an individual responds when angry. Righteous indignation and explosive rage are different, and I would contend that a person prone to rage is likely not mentally healthy. At any rate, emotions evolved precisely for the purpose of helping us make decisions quickly. It's the emotion that compels one to act, not a rational thought process that would take time to consider and would have left our ancestors dead. (This is why the emotional centers of the brain are located in the most primitive parts.) Anywho...the point is that people who make the argument that emotions impede rationality are simply wrong. The have evolved to assist it, and the problem is the resulting behavior in individuals that have issues with anger.