How Anger Affects Risk-Taking Behavior

Decision making is based on myriad cognitive and emotional factors. Research has suggested that people who are angry tend to take more risks than those who are not. This could be because angry people may view the outcome as more positive and therefore are willing to take the risk. However, other research has shown that anger can elevate feelings of frustration and cause people to avoid risk-taking behaviors. The mechanisms that contribute to these decisions are both affective (HOT) and conceptual (COLD). Angry people who rely on affective/emotional mechanisms may be more sensitive to the negative consequences that can result from risk taking, while those who rely on conceptual decision-making processes may be averse to any negative outcomes and more motivated by the potential positive results. Jolie Baumann of the Department of Psychology at Northeastern University in Boston wanted to see how these unique cognitive processes influenced risk-taking behavior in angry participants.

In a recent study, Baumann recruited angry and nonangry participants and had them complete HOT and COLD risk-taking experiments to determine how anger influenced decision making. She found that when affective/emotional, HOT information was limited and only COLD, conceptual decision making was utilized, the angry participants were more likely than nonangry participants to take risks. However, when using affective/emotional HOT information, all participants took fewer risks. Baumann points out that her findings do not imply that anger predicts only hot or cold decisions—but rather that risk-taking behavior is influenced by both conceptual and affective mechanisms underlying anger. In sum, individuals with anger tend to use both processes to weigh potential rewards associated with risks. “Studying the characteristics of varying risk-taking opportunities more directly will ultimately enable increased confidence in predictions regarding how an emotion will impact any isolated case of risky decision making,” she said.

Baumann, J., DeSteno, D. (2012). Context explains divergent effects of anger on risk taking. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029788

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  • FRED


    October 5th, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    I know that for me when I am mad, I don’t really have a care in the world it doesn’t matter to me what I do because I kind of lose connection with feeling anything.

  • Rosa


    October 5th, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    I know my anger pushes me to take risks that I wouldn’t if I;m not angry. It certainly is an evil thing for me as it has landed me in soup quite a few times as I was not able to fully assess the risks in that state of anger.A calm mind is always an asset at times of decision making and risk taking.It can point you in a rational direction and you’re not a slave to on-the-spot decisions that have no real research behind them!

  • Bill R

    Bill R

    October 6th, 2012 at 6:16 AM

    It’s okay to feel angry at times, but not to the point where you just completely lose your head. Hopefully by the time you become an adult you realize that being angry and making dangerous choices is wasting far too much of life’s positive energy. I used to be like that, letting my heart rule, and when I got mad, then everything bit of reasoning would go out the window. HoweverI have learned (thankfully before I did somethignso stupid that I would pay the rest of my life for it!) that it just wastes too much of me for this type of reaction to be worth it.

  • Grace young

    Grace young

    October 8th, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    I agree with Bill R. The people who really distress me sre the ones who just lose their minds when something sets them off and they get made.

    It’s like, get over it already, grow up and learn how to manage some of this like an adult!

  • F.T


    October 8th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    Well anger and risk taking are like drinking and driving for me.I never mix the two.When I’m upset or angry about something I make it a point to keep to myself and even tell the people around me to leave me alone. I am more prone to making decisions that I may regret later and I do not even want to say something bitter to those around me when I’m angry.

    And anger does this to a lot of people I’m sure.It makes you shift towards things and decisions that may not be very rational,guiding you to take risks that you could circumvent otherwise in a calm mood.

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