There are many reports about the effects of anger on our lives. Expressing anger can up the risk of heart attack eight fold, while anger and the temper tantrums that may come with it have been linked to a smaller brain volume. If you know about these effects but still decide to let your anger out, then remember it might also affect those around you. According to a new study, being angry (somewhat obviously) can lead to hostile behavior toward those you disagree with.   

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, comes from San Francisco State University and is, according to the researchers, the first of its kind to prove a connection between people showing anger, contempt, and disgust (collectively known as ANCONDI) and hostility. The researchers believe their findings could be of specific use to those in fields like politics and law enforcement, where anger should not influence the way one person treats another.

"Once we are able to identify the specific emotional mix that leads to aggression, we can do something about it," said lead author David Matsumoto, a professor of psychology at SF State, in a press release. "Now we know what to look out for when we're trying to monitor and/or prevent other people's aggression."

For the study, researchers recruited 278 Bay Area residents who said they were members of an ideologically motivated group — whether political, religious, or otherwise. Each person was asked to name an opposition group, such as Republicans or Democrats. They were then asked to rate on a scale of 0 to 8 (none to extremely strong amount) how strongly they felt each of 14 emotions toward the opposition: guilt, fear, anger, embarrassment, worry, contempt, excitement, disgust, amusement, nervousness, surprise, interest, sadness, and pride. Ratings were taken before the experiment, at the midway point, and afterward.

The experiment involved randomly assigning participants to one of three groups: one saw images meant to stir ANCONDI emotions, another saw images meant to provoke fear or sadness, and the last saw images that weren’t supposed to elicit any emotions at all.  

To measure hostility levels following the experiment, the researchers gave all participants a brick and asked them to describe both their opposition group and a neutral group, as well as how they would use the brick. Those who saw the ANCONDI images were most likely to say they’d throw the brick through an opponent’s window. They also used more personal pronouns, like “they,” “them,” “him,” and “her”; fewer social words, like “family” or “friends”; were more forceful when placing the brick down on the table; and walked faster from one room during the study to the next.

Though one might assume anger, contempt, disgust, fear, and sadness all belong in the same realm, the researchers noticed all emotions have different functions. It’s only when anger, contempt, disgust mingle that hostility is created, they said. In the future, the team hopes to discover whether a person with neutral feelings toward a certain group can be made to feel hostile. They are also interested in finding ways to reduce ANCONDI behavior, which in turn may decrease the the probability of politicians and policemen, among other people, becoming hostil toward others.

Source: Matsumoto D, Hwang H, Frank M. The effects of incidental anger, contempt, and disgust on hostile language and implicit behaviors. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology. 2016.