Taken from Medical News Today
In the US and many Western countries, people are urged to manage “negative” feelings of anger or suffer its ill effects. But new research published in Psychological Science suggests that anger may actually be linked with better, not worse, health in certain cultures. The findings are based off research conducted with participants from the US and Japan.
“Many of us in Western societies naively believe that anger is bad for health, and beliefs like these appear to be bolstered by recent scientific findings,” says psychological scientist Shinobu Kitayama of the University of Michigan. “But our study suggests that the truism linking anger to ill health may be valid only within the cultural boundary of the ‘West,’ where anger functions as an index of frustration, poverty, low status and everything else that potentially compromises health.”
“These findings show how socio-cultural factors go under the skin to influence vital biological processes,” explains Kitayama.
In other words, it’s the circumstances that elicit anger, and not anger itself, that seem to be bad for health. In previous work, Kitayama and colleagues found that anger can function as a signal of high status and privilege in Asia — drawing on this, they hypothesized that greater expression of anger might be associated with better health among Asian participants.
To explore the link, the researchers examined data from American participants drawn from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) survey and data from Japanese participants drawn from the Midlife in Japan (MIDJA) survey.
To measure health, the researchers looked at biomarkers for inflammation and cardiovascular functioning, both of which have been linked to anger expression in previous research. The combination of these two factors served as a measure of overall biological health risk.
The researchers also looked at measures that gauged various aspects of anger, including how often participants expressed angry feelings through verbally or physically aggressive behaviors (e.g., “I slam doors,” “I say nasty things”).
The data revealed that greater anger expression was associated with increased biological health risk among American participants, as previous studies have shown.
But greater anger expression was associated with reduced biological health risk among Japanese participants. And the association was not explained by other potentially related factors — such as age, gender, chronic health conditions, smoking and alcohol consumption, social status, and experience of negative emotions more generally.
“The association between greater anger and compromised biological health, taken for granted in the current (Western) literature, was completely reversed so that greater anger was associated with better biological health among Japanese,” explains Kitayama.
The researchers did not find a link between other facets of anger, such as chronic propensity toward anger or the extent to which participants suppressed feelings of anger, and health outcomes.
Together, these findings suggest that the link between anger expression and health reflects different experiences across cultural contexts. In the US, expressing anger seems to reflect the degree to which people experience negative events, while in Japan it may reflect the degree to which people feel empowered and entitled.
“Our point is that anger expression is a complex phenomenon likely motivated by a variety of factors, many of which could be culture-specific. These cultural factors must be taken into account to achieve a full understanding of the link between anger and health,” the researchers write.
Kitayama and colleagues hope that future longitudinal research that follows participants over time will help to shed light on the relationship:
“Such research will help us address whether improving personal and social life styles so as to reduce anger may entail long-term health benefits.”
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An article on Inc. written by Hitendra Wadhwa, a professor at Columbia Business School explores how MLK wrestled with anger and what we can learn from his example.
He says “Average leaders focus on results, and that’s it. Good leaders focus also on the behaviors that will get the results. And great leaders focus, in addition, on the emotions that will drive these behaviors. One emotion that shapes our behavior is anger, and Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we commemorate today, knew of the power that came packed in this emotion.”
Dr. Martin Luther King was provoked time and time again, not only by being physically attacked and threatened, but by being harassed and even vilified by fellow black leaders.
Wadhwa says that “great leaders often have a strong capacity to experience anger” but that they “also know the downside of anger, and wage a firm battle to tame it within themselves.”
He concludes his article by stating “Great leaders do not ignore their anger, nor do they allow themselves to get consumed by it. Instead, they channel the emotion into energy, commitment, sacrifice, and purpose. They use it to step up their game. And they infuse people around them with this form of constructive anger so they, too, can be infused with energy commitment, sacrifice and purpose.”
New research, published in Organisational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, suggest feelings of disgust lead to increases in deceitful behavior that would benefit the self.
In their first experiment, researchers had participants rate consumer products that are known to elicit a disgust response – such as diapers and diarrhea medicine – or neutral consumer products – such as vitamins and pens. They were then tasked to flip a coin. If it landed on heads, the participants could earn $2. If it landed on tails, there was no promise of money. Some participants were told the reverse. The coin flip was committed alone and participants were later asked to report the result. This presented a dilemma of sorts: the participants could lie, get the US$2 and never be found out.
So what happened when participants were left alone to flip the coin? 63% of the disgusted and 52% of the control participants reported a favorable coin flip. Remembering that odds are 50% for a favorable outcome, researchers concluded it’s clear that the disgusted participants were engaging in higher levels of deception.
In a second experiment, participants were asked to describe either their most disgusting experience or a typical uneventful evening. Those who described their most disgusting experience were nearly twice as likely as the others to lie about solving anagrams in order to obtain more credit for completing a survey. How did the researchers know participants were lying? One of the anagrams was impossible to solve.
The researchers also ran two other experiments to test their theory with the same result: those who felt disgust were more likely to participate in deceitful behavior.
In general, we tend to think it’s best not to insult your host country when traveling abroad. So before you may unintentionally offend someone in another culture, take a look at this guide to hand gestures around the world.
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