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5 Things You Didn't Know About Anger

What color fuels our anger, why we get angry at God, and more.

Lisa S./Shutterstock
Source: Lisa S./Shutterstock

Anger is a constant companion in our lives—and it influences your behavior in ways you probably never imagined.

Here are just 5 examples, all drawn from recent research:

1. People Really Do Associate Anger with the Color Red

According to a 2013 study published in Emotion (Young et al., 2013), “seeing red” isn’t just an expression. The color red really does influence whether or not we perceive anger in a particular situation. In the study, the authors found that participants were more likely to perceive anger in faces if there was a red background behind them—and that this effect did not manifest with regard to other negative emotions, like fear.

2. Feelings of Entitlement Explain Anger at God

We’ve long known that people can get angry at God but a 2013 study in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Grubbs, Exline, & Campbell, 2013) tells us who is most likely to do so. The authors found that anger at God was predicted by psychological entitlement—the belief that one deserves more than others. The authors argue that those feelings of deservingness lead to more intense perceptions of having been wronged when individuals don’t get what they want.

3. Anger Influences How We Consume Political Information

A 2012 study in the Journal of Politics (Ryan, 2012) found that people using Facebook were more than twice as likely to click on a political advertisement designed to evoke anger than one with a more neutral message. In other words, when it comes to politics, people actively seek out things that make them mad.

4. Angry People See Guns Where There Are None

In a 2010 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study on mood and gun identification (Baumann & DeSteno, 2010), angry participants were more likely to misidentify a neutral object as a gun. The researchers induced various moods and asked participants to quickly identify whether or not an object was a gun. They found that participants who were angry perceived the situation incorrectly by assuming a pictured person had a weapon when he or she did not.

5. Anger Can Make Us More Productive and Creative

Finally, a 2010 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (Van Kleef, 2010) found that someone becoming angry with you will motivate you to work harder and in more creative ways. The authors found that people would respond to another person’s anger in one of two ways: Becoming angry themselves, and using that angry information to improve their performance. The key, though, is the individual’s “epistemic motivation” (his or her motivation to reflect on the world in a deep and intense way). Those with epistemic motivation were more likely to improve their performance after experiencing someone else's anger.