Recalibrational Theorey of Anger


Anger as an evolved bargaining system: Empirical Tests

Researchers at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology have been investigating the design and evolved function of the emotion of anger, both theoretically and empirically.  They consider anger to be a behavior-regulating program that was built into the neural architecture of the human species over evolutionary time.  The key question is, why?

The new model—the recalibrational theory of anger—proposes that anger (as an emotion program) was designed by natural selection to nonconsciously orchestrate the individual’s responses to interpersonal conflicts of interest so that the individual bargains effectively.  The functional product of the anger (if successful) is the recalibration upwards of the other person’s tendency to place weight on the angry person’s welfare. 

The two bargaining tools humans have is the ability to confer or withhold benefits, and the ability to inflict costs.  The greater the benefits an individual controls, or the greater the costs the individual can inflict, the greater the bargaining position he or she has. 

The theory predicts, and these studies find, that stronger men and more attractive women are more anger-prone, feel more entitled to better treatment, and prevail more in conflicts of interest.  They also more strongly endorse the use of force to resolve conflicts.  These results undermine theories that attribute anger and aggression primarily to frustration, a history of negative treatment, or a desire for equity.  According to this theory, strength and beauty are not unique:  anything that increases the social bargaining power of an individual should increase her or his anger-proneness and feeling of entitlement.  

The paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first in a series on anger:

Formidability and the logic of human anger by Aaron Sell, John Tooby & Leda Cosmides, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences August 2009.

Formidability and the logic of human anger by Aaron Sell, John Tooby & Leda Cosmides, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences August 2009.

This paper:

(1) provides a brief introduction to a new theory of anger: the recalibrational theory of anger. It characterizes the evolved function of anger and describes how some of the design features of the anger program carry out this evolved function.

(2) tests eleven predictions derived from the theory, including a functional explanation for individual differences in anger-proneness. 

(3) provides evidence that upper body strength is linked to beliefs and attitudes about the use of the military in international conflicts, indicating that at least some of our attitudes are set nonrationally.    

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A 48 Year old enjoying life and its realizations. Away from Futile pursuit of happiness as per social norms and creating inner peace and happiness

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