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Anger and anxiety
May 18, 2011 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Anger, Politics and the Wisdom of Uncertainty - "If there's somebody or even some institution to blame, it turns out people are much more likely to get angry... anger tends to inspire individuals to engage in more political activities than they would otherwise... Without someone to blame, respondents mostly just grow fearful and anxious... A particular danger of anger seems to be closed-mindedness. Research finds that when citizens get angry, they close themselves off to alternative views and redouble their sense of conviction in their existing views. Fear and anxiety, on the other hand, seem to promote openness to alternative viewpoints and a willingness to compromise." (via)

BONUS
Sharing Information Corrupts Wisdom of Crowds - "When people can learn what others think, the wisdom of crowds may veer towards ignorance. In a new study of crowd wisdom — the statistical phenomenon by which individual biases cancel each other out, distilling hundreds or thousands of individual guesses into uncannily accurate average answers — researchers told test participants about their peers' guesses. As a result, their group insight went awry."
posted by kliuless (18 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Research finds that when citizens get angry, they close themselves off to alternative views and redouble their sense of conviction in their existing views.

LA LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU!
posted by ian1977 at 9:09 AM on May 18, 2011


Yeah? Well, fuck you!

Actually, I think the fight or flight theory explains a lot. People these days seem to be feel truly threatened by circumstances, or they have been whipped up into feeling that way. That leads to more aggressive responses, no?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:17 AM on May 18, 2011


On breaking a plate: "Damn you, gravity! Bring it! Right here, right now! I've had it with your shit!"
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:19 AM on May 18, 2011


The research also shows the stronger your partisan identity the more likely you are to get angry.

This reminds me of something my father told me years ago:

"Beware the zealots, for they know not what they think."

That' pretty much sums it up. If people haven't taken an extra 2 seconds to consider the ambiguity and fallability of virtually any viewpoint in certain circumstances, they're usually the ones who shout the loudest.

Doesn't help that caffeine intake among Americans has grown quite a bit in recent decades.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:19 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fear and anxiety, on the other hand, seem to promote openness to alternative viewpoints and a willingness to compromise

Gee, maybe invading Iraq was a good idea after all. Maybe global warming really is a myth.
posted by y2karl at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2011


Alan Gottlieb says his right-wing fundraising is all based on fear, hate and revenge. Find something that people are afraid of, make them hate it and then offer them revenge for their money.

Fear is not a good starting place if you're looking for openness.
posted by warbaby at 9:55 AM on May 18, 2011


The research also shows the stronger your partisan identity the more likely you are to get angry.

This reminds me of something my father told me years ago:

"Beware the zealots, for they know not what they think."


I wouldn't necessarily equate partisan identity strictly with ideological zeal. Partisanship is more about being for your particular team, regardless of what they do, say, or believe. It's a special case of extremism, in my take--less about ideas and more about belonging to a group with a common identity.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:02 AM on May 18, 2011


I've definitely been noticing a link between anger and blame recently, and the fact that even when there's not really anybody to blame, some people will just invent someone. I'm not talking about scapegoating - just making people up. Like, I'm a member of the facebook group for my local SPCA, and often when they post a picture of a stray dog they've rescued who's in bad shape from being hurt in a fight or falling into a hole or just some unknown reason, there are comments underneath going "Oh my god, how can people be so CRUEL, did you call the POLICE," as if every bad thing were the fault of some bad person in particular. There have been a few pictures of dogs who had ended up with faces full of spines from attacking porcupines that still elicited responses like "Who did this! I want to kill them!" Even some people who acknowledge that it's not apparent that a human hurt an animal like to bring up ways it might have been, and imagine how angry they would be if that were the case. It's like some people can't just settle for sadness, or even anger about the universe in general. It has to be rage and there has to be a target, or it's not enough.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:24 AM on May 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


This might be interesting to some of you:

Small, D. A., Lerner, J. S., & Fischhoff, B. (2006). Emotion priming and attributions for terrorism: Americans’ reactions in a national field experiment. Political Psychology, 27, 289-298
[PDF]

The terrorist attacks of September 11 elicited many forms of negative affect, including anger and sadness. They also elicited a search for explanations. A national field study that experimentally primed emotion evaluated how priming anger and sadness differentially evoked causal judgments about the attacks. It found that priming anger triggered more causal attributions than did priming sadness. Thus, specific emotions, rather than general negativity, shaped citizens’ attributions regarding September 11. In addition to its theoretical implications, the study demonstrates a method for studying ecologically valid emotions, under conditions of experimental control, with a nationally representative sample.
posted by knapah at 10:31 AM on May 18, 2011


Along with some other papers by the Emotion and Decision Making Group at Harvard.
posted by knapah at 10:33 AM on May 18, 2011


saulgoodman - I understand the distinction, but I think it's not true nonetheless. Ideas are often chosen precisely so that one can minimize the distance between oneself and some reference group. Eric Hoffer suggests this in his book "True Believer", as well as Stark and Finke in their book on religion, "Act of Faith". Ideas are just something one chooses for some selfish reason, and that reason may or may not be because one prizes some particular kind of methodology of separating fact from fiction. It could just as easily be because one wants to belong to a particular group, and membership simply requires beliefs for membership.

Studies like this always make me go "Aha! I always knew it was something like this" followed immediately by "Argh! We are doomed as a civilization!"
posted by scunning at 10:34 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:45 AM on May 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


There must be some way to take these facts, and turn them towards making the world a more just, kind, and equitable place. I've never understood this. Most psychology professors are Democrats, why not put some of this knowledge to purpose?

That is to say... It's all the fault of Wall Street Bankers and a lack of regulation! Burn the Witch!
posted by leotrotsky at 11:00 AM on May 18, 2011


Right now young people are camped out in Madrid to protest Spain's political stagnation and high unemployment, much as people camped out in Madison to protest Walker's attack on unions or camped out in Cairo to protest 30 years of tyranny and economic decline.

It is and was a healthy dose of anger in each case that motivated people to gather to protest, and I would venture that economics is at the root of most of it. Whenever and wherever people are pushed economically, there will be anger, and sometimes that anger will be organized and directed at the powers that be.

In America cynical right-wing trolls have since the time of Lee Atwater manipulated this anger so that it is directed down the economic ladder, not up--by playing on familiar resentments and stereotypes. The reason they have been so successful (in garnering attention; re: the "Tea Party") is due in no small part to the fact that many Americans have long been in denial that such a thing as economic class even exists (this is the "what's the matter with Kansas" argument); hence the tendency to "psychologize" away all conflict.

The tides may be turning (the recalls in Wisconsin this summer should be interesting), however, and the recent economic crisis represents a moment in which something like class consciousness in America has been re-awakened somewhat.
posted by Papaver somniferum at 11:12 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ideas are just something one chooses for some selfish reason, and that reason may or may not be because one prizes some particular kind of methodology of separating fact from fiction.

I don't agree. In fact what you're suggesting is just epistemological nihilism. People are getting incredible smart about being stupid these days, I'll give you that.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:21 AM on May 18, 2011


The tides may be turning...

btw, re: barkley :P
CHARLES BARKLEY: Illegal immigration to me is the easiest thing in the world to fix.

TNR: How so?

All they have to do is penalize the people they work for. You should get penalized. It's all poor people who argue over illegal immigration. They want poor people to--I call it divide and conquer. That's all they do is divide and conquer.

The rich people are trying to divide the poor people?

Yes, they got all the money, they got all the power. Whether it's that, or they divide you racially on certain things. They divide you racially, economically, and on things like that. It just splits the vote, and the rich people still end up on top at the end of the day. They control everything.

So is that what interests you primarily--economic issues?

America is divided by economics strictly. You know, people always talk about race, and we have racial problems in this country. Of course we do. But the real issue is the rich against the poor. We've got to get poor white people and poor black people and Mexicans to realize they are all in the same boat. If you in one of those three groups and you are poor, you are going to be in a bad neighborhood, you are going to go to a bad school, and you are going to have strikes against you. You can't commit crimes in good neighborhoods. They will get your ass. Their kids go to private school, or they go to school in a good economic area. But the poor people, they are all in the same boat but they divide you based on race or stuff like that. A lot of these politicians say things like "We've got to stop all these illegal immigrants." I am like, "That is so easy to stop." They are not working for other immigrants. ...
cheers!
posted by kliuless at 2:34 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am like, "That is so easy to stop." They are not working for other immigrants. ...

Mr. Barkley obviously does not get his nails done at a salon.
posted by y2karl at 3:38 PM on May 18, 2011


The Language Of Judgment - "Lena Groeger revisits the Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson 'wardrobe malfunction' of 2004":
In an amusing study, subjects ... read one of two versions of a description of the event, containing either the phrase "he tore the bodice" or "the bodice tore". People who read the first version blamed Timberlake more and fined him 53% more heavily than those who read the second version. This was true even when, in addition to reading a written description, subjects watched a video of the incident.

In other words, even after witnessing the tearing with their own eyes, subjects' judgments of blame and punishment were dependent on the phrasing used to describe it. Which raises an interesting question. Could it be that speakers of different languages dole out more or less severe punishments depending on the frequency of agentive expressions in their language?
posted by kliuless at 6:28 AM on May 20, 2011


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