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A study has shown that anger can help people achieve their goals

  • Lifestyle
  • Sunday, 05 November 2023 16:07

More than desire or amusement, anger can help people overcome difficulties standing in the way of their ambitions.

If you want to achieve your goals, get angry.

A new study suggests that anger can help people overcome problems and obstacles that may hinder their ambitions.

The research, published this week in the journal "Personality and Social Psychology," found that participants who performed various challenging tasks while in a state of anger performed better than those who experienced other emotions such as sadness, desire, or joy.

Heather Lench, the lead author of the study and a professor of psychology and brain sciences at Texas A&M University, said the results show that people can use anger as a motivator.

"We found that anger leads to better performance in difficult situations and inhibits goal achievement," Lench said. However, according to the study, anger did not improve people's performance on simpler tasks.

The study consisted of six experiments, each testing whether anger could help people achieve specific tasks. Lench said the most interesting result came from the first experiment, which measured the number of verbal puzzles participants could solve in different emotional states.

In this experiment, 233 Texas A&M students participated. Each student was randomly assigned one emotion: anger, desire, sadness, joy, or a neutral state. To induce emotions, they were shown a series of images, each lasting five seconds. For example, those induced with anger were shown insults directed at a school football team.

Participants were then given 20 minutes to decipher as many words as possible from four sets of seven anagrams displayed on a computer screen. The sets varied in difficulty, and once participants moved on from a puzzle, they couldn't return to try again. A computer program recorded how much time participants spent on each puzzle.

The results showed that angry participants solved more puzzles than those in other emotional states. Specifically, angry students solved 39% more puzzles than those in a neutral state. According to Lench, participants experiencing anger also demonstrated greater persistence, spending more time on puzzle-solving.

"When people got angry and persisted, they were more likely to succeed," she said. "But in all other emotional states, when they persisted, they were more likely to fail. So it's possible that people show greater persistence when they're angry."

Other experiments tested whether anger could motivate students to sign a petition, help them earn high scores in a video game, or encourage them to manipulate logic and solve puzzles to win prizes. In all challenging situations, participants in an angry state were more likely to achieve their desired goals.

Is anger always beneficial? According to experts in psychology, not all forms of anger are helpful in achieving goals.

HEALTH NEWS Why do we lose consciousness? A recently discovered connection between the heart and the brain provides clues. Strong anger is sometimes associated with physical reactions such as sweaty palms, rapid breathing, and a racing heart. A 2022 study published in the European Heart Journal found that anger could contribute to the development of certain cardiovascular diseases, particularly heart failure in men and people with diabetes. A 2021 study from the same journal found that acute anger is associated with an increased risk of stroke.

During a lovers' quarrel, anger can lead to aggressive and humiliating communication, which can harm relationships, according to Lench. However, it can also help someone articulate their needs if their goal is to feel heard and supported by their partner.

"Anger can be motivating. But that doesn't mean we turn off our thinking," Lench said. "So when we feel angry, stopping and reflecting on why we are angry is probably an important step."

If taken too far, intense bouts of anger can impair a person's ability to perform tasks, said Raymond Tafrate, a clinical psychologist and professor of criminology and criminal justice at Central Connecticut State University.

"There's a kind of middle ground. Some anger is helpful, but there's another side we need to talk about as well," said Tafrate, who was not involved in the new study. "Anger that is mild or moderate is likely to improve life for many people."

According to Tafrate, the key is to embrace anger as a potentially useful emotion rather than trying to avoid it.

"Anger can be an important signal that things aren't going well and that you need to make a change," Tafrate said.