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Why when we are angry we are not ourselves

Why when we are angry we are not ourselves

November 27, 2021

It happens many times that, when we are in a bad mood, we see ourselves in situations in which, we do not know how, we end up arguing with someone. Anger is a magnet for this kind of situation ; At the minimum that we notice that the intentions or points of view of others rub against ours, there is an exchange of arguments that normally leads nowhere.

This fact in itself seems annoying, but there is something worse about this tendency to get into trouble: when we are in a bad mood we are significantly worse reasoning and making decisions. And no, this does not happen with all the emotions.

Anger makes us take a more aggressive approach to expressing our point of view rather than maintaining a discreet attitude, but at the same time it distorts our way of thinking, so what we say and the way in which we act it does not reflect who we really are; our identity is totally distorted by a flurry of emotion. Let's see what this curious psychological effect consists of.


  • Related article: "Are we rational or emotional beings?"

Emotions mixed with rationality

Decades ago, research in psychology has shown that when we learn about the environment, from others or from ourselves, we do not do it simply by accumulating objective data that reaches us through the senses.

What happens, rather, is that our brain is creating explanations about reality using the information that comes from outside. Acts, more or less, as the viewer of a film, who instead of memorizing the scenes he sees builds a meaning, imagine the plot of it and from that he foresees what can happen in future scenes.


In short, we maintain an active role building in our imagination an explanation of the facts that goes beyond what we see, touch, listen, etc.

This idea, which was already investigated in the first half of the twentieth century by psychologists of Gestalt, means that in our analysis of situations influences everything that is happening in our brain; instead of relying solely on sensory data.

That is our emotions are mixed with those mental processes that we usually consider rational: the creation of arguments with which to refute the point of view of a partner, the decision-making when choosing a new car ... and also the interpretation of what others do, for example.

Emotions and moods totally influence the cognitive processes that theoretically are based only on logic and reason. And anger and anger, in particular, have a great capacity to interfere in these phenomena, as we will see.


  • Related article: "" Heuristic ": the mental shortcuts of human thought"

When anger controls us

Different investigations have shown that a few drops of anger are enough to distort our ability to use reason , even if we compare this with what happens when being under the influence of other emotions.

For example, being in a bad mood makes us much more likely to perceive a strange and ambiguous behavior as a provocation towards us, or it can even make a neutral explanation of some events seen by us as an attack on our ideology or opinion.

Similarly, being in a bad mood will make it easier for us to remember past experiences in which we were also angry, and at the same time it will be easier for us to attribute bad humor to others . To put it in some way, when we are angry we tend to interpret reality in a manner congruent with that emotional state, with glasses of bad mood.

Even if we do not realize it, the anger totally conditions our social life, and significantly increases the possibility that we react in an unsound way, even betraying our ethical values ​​and our convictions. Let's see some examples.

Bad mood takes over

A US researcher welcomes a series of volunteers who have volunteered to participate in their project and then asks them remember an experience that made them feel very angry and explain in detail how it happened. To another group of participants, the researcher asks for something similar, but instead of remembering and explaining an experience that provoked anger, they must do it with one that is very sad. The members of a third group are asked to remember and explain any experience, at their choice.

Then, the investigator asks the volunteers to imagine being in a jury that will decide the guilt of some people in cases of bad behavior.For this, they are provided with detailed information about these fictitious people and what they did, and from that data they must give a verdict. However, in half of the cases the person to judge the guilt has a Hispanic name, while in the rest of the cases the name has no relationship with a minority.

Well, the results show that the people who had remembered the experiences that produced anger, but not the other two groups, were significantly more likely to see guilt in the person with a Hispanic name. The fact of having revived part of the anger that one day they experienced it had become xenophobic for a few minutes .

The explanation

The experiment we have seen and its results were part of a real investigation whose conclusions were published in the journal European Journal of Social Psychology.

The team of researchers explained this phenomenon by pointing out that anger is an emotion that has an extraordinary power to make rationality become dominated by the irrational, unfounded and intuitive beliefs and, in general, biases that include stereotypes about each person's race and cultural origins.

Thus, while emotions such as sadness have a more cognitive and dependent component of abstract thinking, anger is more primary, depends less on mental processes linked to abstractions and depends more on the amygdala, one of the brain structures of the limbic system , the part of our nervous system that generates emotions. Somehow, the power of influence of this emotion is more powerful , and can interfere in all kinds of mental processes, since it acts "from the root" of our brain.

This is also why, when the same team of researchers that conducted the previous experiment made a similar one asking participants to think about an article that advocated a concrete political measure, they saw that people who had been led to a slightly mood Sadly, they decided their opinion about the article based on the content of the article, while the angry people let themselves be influenced rather by the authority and the curriculum of the supposed authors of the text.

So, when you notice that the bad mood takes hold of you, keep in mind that not even your rationality will be saved of the influence of this emotion. If you want to maintain a constructive attitude in the face of your social relationships, it is better that you avoid arguing for unimportant details with others.

  • You may be interested: "Parts of the human brain (and functions)"

Don't Compare Yourself to Others (November 2021).


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