Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

People who are angry pay more attention to rewards than threats

Date:
August 11, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Anger is a negative emotion. But, like being happy or excited, feeling angry makes people want to seek rewards, according to a new study of emotion and visual attention. The researchers found that people who are angry pay more attention to rewards than to threats -- the opposite of people feeling other negative emotions like fear.

Anger is a negative emotion. But, like being happy or excited, feeling angry makes people want to seek rewards, according to a new study of emotion and visual attention. The researchers found that people who are angry pay more attention to rewards than to threats -- the opposite of people feeling other negative emotions like fear.

Related Articles


Previous research has shown that emotion affects what someone pays attention to. If a fearful or anxious person is given a choice of a rewarding picture, like a sexy couple, or a threatening picture, like a person waving a knife threateningly, they'll spend more time looking at the threat than at the rewarding picture. People feeling excitement, however, are the other way -- they'll go for the reward.

But nobody knows whether those reactions occur because the emotions are positive or negative, or because of something else, says Brett Q. Ford of Boston College, who wrote the study with Maya Tamir, also of Boston College, and four other authors. For example, she says, "emotions can vary in what they make you want to do. Fear is associated with a motivation to avoid, whereas excitement is associated with a motivation to approach. It can make you want to seek out certain things, like rewards."

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

For her study, Ford focused on anger. Like fear, anger is a negative emotion. But, like excitement, anger motivates someone to go out and get rewards. First, participants in the study were assigned to write for 15 minutes about one of four memories in their past: a time when they were angry, afraid, excited and happy, or felt little or no emotion. A five-minute piece of music reinforced whichever emotion the participant had been assigned. Then they completed a task in which they had to examine two side-by-side pictures. An eye-tracking device monitored how much time they spent looking at each picture.

Angry people spent more time looking at the rewarding pictures -- which suggests that this kind of visual attention bias is related more to how an emotion motivates someone than whether it's positive or negative. Looking at something is the first step before the thoughts and actions that follow, says Ford. "Attention kicks off an entire string of events that can end up influencing behavior." The people who felt happy and excited also looked more at the rewarding photos, but the two groups might act differently -- an angry person might be motivated approach something in a confrontational or aggressive way, while a happy person might go for something they want in a nicer way -- by collaborating, being sociable and friendly.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Maya Tamir, Brett Q. Ford et al. Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize: Anger and Visual Attention to Threats and Rewards. Psychological Science, (in press)

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "People who are angry pay more attention to rewards than threats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100811125941.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, August 11). People who are angry pay more attention to rewards than threats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100811125941.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "People who are angry pay more attention to rewards than threats." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100811125941.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins