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.    

Appearance Vs Reality The Conflict Within

Ignorance leads to exaggeration of the truth. It is the same exaggeration which leads us to overvalue beauty, ugliness materialistic gains which leads to lust, hatred and jealousy. It is important to understand that this ignorant conception that the phenomena exists within its own right is also mistaken. There is no valid foundation to this belief. It is important to understand that everything and any circumstances are interdependent.

When you cultivate this insight you will no longer be susceptible to counterproductive emotions. When you get to these deeper understanding , you start developing concern for others and will not be rushed into responses of exaggerated responses. You will take time to probe into what lies beneath the surface.

All of the above ensures that we will treat circumstances, objects or people not by their appearances, but see them like a illusion rather than being under harmful emotions like lust or anger.

The fact remains that things are not as they appear to m. The fact remains that sources of pain might first appear as sources of pleasure, but in the end they are not. In the end this brings us pain. Although in reality we want happiness, in our ignorance we dont know how to achieve it and although we dont want pain, we misunderstand its workings and end up contributing to its causes.

This is similar to watching a magician performing tricks, we are lead to believe that the objects are not as it seems to be. The magician makes us believe that the objects are cars , dogs or horses or as he wants us to see it. In a similar way by judging things, objects or people by its appearances, we exaggerate things than what they seem to be. The situation leads us into demonstrating negative emotions like lust, greed or hatred. The situation developed because of our inability to see things or situation deeply and not look at only the surface of it.

Because our destructive emotions of Lust, Anger or Hatred starts from us accepting the appearance of inflated qualities of good or bad, the practice of seeing people or objects as a Magicians illusion will ensure that we look at things more deeply and help reduce unfavorable emotions.

When you do this, we will leave room to positive qualities like compassion, which is built on seeing things as they really are and not on ignorant exaggeration.