Anger Makes Us More Honest with Our Feelings, Study Shows

Everyone has experienced a “gut feeling” at one time or another, but not everyone voices his or her feelings. Implicit attitudes, or gut feelings, tend to guide our behaviors. However, our explicit attitudes, the way in which we give voice to our emotions, are not always aligned with our implicit attitudes. In fact, research has shown that there is quite a gap between implicit and explicit attitudes. Societal expectations and conformity could have something to do with this, causing people to stifle their true feelings in order to be socially accepted. But so could our moods. Jeffrey R. Huntsinger of the Department of Psychology at Loyala University in Chicago believes our explicit attitudes more closely reflect our implicit attitudes when we experience anger.

In an attempt to determine if anger closes the gap between implicit and explicit attitudes, Huntsinger recently conducted a study involving three separate experiments. Huntsinger assessed the association between implicit and explicit attitudes of participants after they experienced angry, sad, and neutral emotional cues. He found that anger resulted in a more authentic explicit manifestation of implicit attitudes than neutral or sad moods. Huntsinger believes anger is like happiness, which causes a similar effect, in that both happiness and anger increase confidence. People who are sure of their emotional states will be more likely to voice their true opinions, their gut feelings, than those who are less sure of themselves. When they doubt their implicit attitudes and are less confident in themselves, as is the case in moments of sadness, people are less likely to exhibit their authentic attitudes in explicit ways.

“Although this research concerned the influence of anger on agreement between implicit and explicit attitudes, these results have implications beyond this particular domain of inquiry correspondence,” Huntsinger said. In particular, the appraisals associated with anger may be associated with other emotions, such as disgust. Each of these unique emotions also influences approach and avoidance behaviors. All of these factors should be explored in more depth in future research in order to capture a more comprehensive picture of what draws our implicit and explicit attitudes closer together and what drives them apart.

Huntsinger, J. R. (2012). Anger enhances correspondence between implicit and explicit attitudes. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029974

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  • chandy

    December 6th, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Have you ever had those times when you felt like you were so not being real because you were too busy stuffing down your real feelings and emotions in an attempt to shield others from what you are really thinking?
    I find myself doing this daily because I am too afraid that if they knew what is really thinking that they would not want to be around me anymore.
    I have such fear of letting someone see the real me that sometimes I am not even sure that I know who or what I am anymore.

  • kittu

    February 16th, 2017 at 10:57 PM

    Hello chandy…. i have experienced somthing like this recently…. i have someone i truely love and is my best friend since 8 long years…. We fight alot and there is so much love too in our relationship…. But in a recent fight, she revealed somthing in text that she was not a person all these years and i always decided everything for her ….. i have ruined her life and she is recovering with her life now….. actually these words are terrible to hear…. and unbareable by me…. but i havent spoken a word about it…. she wants me to never see her and let her live…. i too want her happiness and nothing else…. so i dont want to disturb her though she is my world….. I only regret that i dint know wt she actually liked and may be i assumed she was just feeling as happy as me i felt that from my heart many times…. but now i knew somthing else which is breaking me down…. i have no idea wt and where il go with this.

  • Bev G

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    it is definitely harder for me to hide my anger than any other emotion i think it is easier to hide than being happy. sometimes i caan hide being happy but not mad.

  • Satira

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    I hear ya, Bev G! When I’m mad, I just can’t seem to tuck it away like I can other emotions. I get so inside my own head that I can’t see past it. I wonder why we are like that? In what way did anger benefit the caveman and therefore continue in our gene pool to this day? I know the author mentioned confidence, so maybe that’s it. But, it seems like there should be a little more to it.

  • Lori f

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Anger certainly is a powerful emotion and such an uncomfortable one. I wonder if we have a hard time hiding it because it is so uncomfortable, Satira? Maybe we are willing around inside so much that other people can’t help but notice that we are upset?

    Just a word of caution-be careful with anger around children. I grew up with a mom and dad who were constantly angry and their fighting really affected my view of this world. To this day, I hit the panic button whenever anyone I care about is mad at me.

    Anger is a natural born emotion and it has its place. But, we must learn to express anger in a healthy, helpful way, especially with children present.

  • edwin

    December 6th, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    anger certainly brings out honest feelings in me..when I’m angry I just don’t care about what others think or perceive things just flow.I wish I could do that more positively and without anger,I could reach for the stars with such an attitude and ability!

  • jacques

    December 6th, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    I think with any strong emotion we are less bothered about perceptions and compliance. The level of emotions control how much we are willin to compromise on our implicit feelings to confirm to those around us. With strong feelings all were really bothered about is to express ourselves be it a happy feeling or that of anger.

    I find myself doing this all the time. Extreme happiness or anger and I just don’t care about what others think I am the real me. At other times it’s not really like that.

  • cason

    December 7th, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    Anger is the one emotion that I think that most of us have a hard time faking

    Pretty hard to fake being mad at someone and pretty hard to fake being ok with them when you aren’t

  • kelby.S

    December 7th, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    I think being angry pulls away the mask we put up to remain socially acceptable.It really is our true feeling emerging out but anger is looked down upon.Guess people don’t understand why it is when they complain that most people are fake.Because being true often leads to you being looked down upon!

  • Dido

    November 7th, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    Anger is a way of expressing our emotion when we felt being oppressed, rejected pr betrayed.

    In as much as expressing it is good, we should also learn to control it so we don’t end up damaging what we can not repair

  • Hady

    March 27th, 2018 at 6:28 AM

    very true…

  • Eric.

    December 3rd, 2015 at 7:28 AM

    So when my wife calls me stupid is because deep down inside she really thinks I am stupid.

  • lou

    July 4th, 2017 at 2:31 PM

    that was funny.. however im sure she meant just at that moment

  • Stephy

    December 13th, 2015 at 9:23 PM

    Human is to err.. And to err is humans real and truest of emotions. But animals err too. Anger is primitive as a head-bashing ape. If advanced emotions and higher cognitive functions do not exist in humans, we’d be no more than other primates. Anger is a tool to guide us and help us but certainly can destroy us if we handle it like an ape. A reality like anger maybe true. But even truth mishandled is detrimental.

  • Hady

    March 27th, 2018 at 6:26 AM

    Anger, i agree with the article, is a form of:
    1. resistance to a situation
    2. it is a loud shout of disbelief; because the person (or situation) in front of us and the image we have in our minds do not match..
    3. it also could be an indirect way as pushing away someone / or an attempt at making some see our point of view…
    4. anger allows us to show our real selves, without fear. because anger is a moment of truth, although we may regret saying things we said…
    I think there’s no way to eliminate anger totally, but with some self discipline and enough awareness, and humbleness, we can control the level and duration of anger.

  • blackmonk

    April 11th, 2022 at 6:45 AM

    Anger brings out the worst in people. When I hear what my spouse says to me when he is angry, it hurts very much as I know it means he really see it that way………

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