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Friends Don't Pick Up On Anger

We often fail to detect concealed anger in close pals, but acquaintances spot it more readily.

Good friends aren't good at everything. If you harbor concealed anger, your close friends may not sense it as easily as mere acquaintances will, suggests research from the University of Virginia.

In a study, psychologists showed participants a videotape of a close friend or acquaintance telling a story about an irksome event, such as an incident in which he or she yelled or acted aggressively. The researchers shut off the monitor's sound to force viewers to focus only on nonverbal cues.

The researchers found that subjects often fail to detect concealed anger in their close pals. Such mistakes occur, researchers suggest, because friends misinterpret ambiguous signals of emotion, giving them a positive spin. Acquaintances, however, saw signals of anger and irritation more readily.

People may automatically cast their friends' gestures in a positive light, the researchers speculate, because aggression and anger could threaten a close relationship. Unlike acquaintances, good friends have an investment in a relationship, so they may fear that the anger is directed at them or be unwilling to see an unflattering side of their friends