Skinner said, late in life, that one of the humilities of old age was that, after having a good idea, he would realize that he’d already had that idea in 1953. One of my humilities is that, after having a good idea, I often recall that Skinner had that idea in 1953.
So the main point of my previous post (How to Tell What Someone Feels) wasn’t that many women think they’re tired when they’re angry; my main point was that you can only describe your emotions as you were taught to describe them by the people observing you (what Skinner calls the verbal community). Still, a friend asked what I think is the boys’ analogy to tired girls.
Anger is the emotional state in which observing damage (to the object of one’s anger) operates as a reinforcer. Damage doesn’t have to mean a broken arm; it can mean a loss of face, a disappointment, or a look of concern.
I think many Americans are less upset by angry boys than by angry girls, so boys are more likely to learn that they are angry when they are angry. On the other hand, society’s relative comfort with boys being angry and with being angry at boys means that many boys don’t learn to disguise their anger, and they are therefore more likely to incur punishment for anger. This in turn makes boys more likely to avoid authority figures and to express anger when they are not being watched. Women, often taught that they are tired, are therefore more likely to comfort themselves with food and napping when angry, and to hurt people while acting manifestly within social norms, while men are more likely to avoid self-monitoring when angry and to express it in ways that breach social norms. Parents who recognize, accept, and manage their children’s anger produce adults who recognize, accept, and manage their own anger.