Getting angry is a risky business – on the one hand, it can (sometimes) get you what you want, but on the other hand it can damage other people's opinions of you.
That might not be the case for men, however – in a study of the impacts of anger on reputation, a group of US psychologists showed that when they lose their temper during a group discussion, men are perceived as more “influential and intimidating” than they would otherwise be.
For women, there was no such positive response. Instead, angry women were considered “emotional and irrational” if they expressed a higher-than-usual level of anger in a group.
The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal American Psychological Association, made the distinction by observing the way 210 undergraduate students reacted to each other during a mock jury debate.
The students were shown a 17-minute presentation about a real case in which a man was on trial for murdering his wife, and then had to debate whether they thought he was guilty or not guilty. It turned out that when a male juror disagreed with other participants in an angry way, the other people were much more likely to doubt their own opinions than when a female participant showed anger.
“Analyses revealed that participants drew different inferences from male versus female anger, which created a gender gap in influence during group deliberation,” the researchers write.
The current study has implications for group decisions in general, and jury deliberations in particular, by suggesting that expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments).
These diverging consequences might result in women potentially having less influence on societally important decisions than men.