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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