Anger and Snap Judgments

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Anger can make a normally unbiased person act with prejudice, according to a study in the Journal of Psychological Science.

Assistant psychology professors David DeSteno at Northeastern University in Boston and Nilanjana Dasgupta at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, randomly divided 81 study participants into two groups and assigned them a writing task designed to induce angry, sad or, neutral feelings. In a subsequent test to uncover non-conscious associations, angry subjects were quicker to connect negatively charged words—like war, death and vomit—with members of the opposite group—even though the groupings were completely arbitrary.

“These automatic responses guide our behavior when we’re not paying attention,” says DeSteno, and they can lead to discriminatory acts when there is pressure to make a quick decision. “If you’re aware that your emotions might be coloring these gut reactions,” he says, “you should take time to consider that possibility and adjust your actions accordingly.”

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