One might not be tempted to call anger the most open-minded of the deadly sins; it strikes one more as the most pig-headed and self-righteous of the seven. However, recent work by Maia Young of UCLA and her colleagues, casts anger in a much more flattering light.
In one study, Young explored what psychologists call the confirmation bias – the pervasive tendency we all have to search for information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Much research shows that when given a choice between reading arguments that firm-up their most cherished beliefs versus those that undermine them, people often opt for the former; this is why Democrats watch The Daily Show and Republicans watch Fox News.
Young was interested in what anger would do to the confirmation bias. Intuition might lead you to speculate that anger would amplify the confirmation bias – guiding the self-righteous, anger-fuelled individual to selectively process belief-consistent information. Young thought that anger might actually have the opposite effect – opening rather than closing the mind.