By Steven G. Mehta

If you want to make the right decision, get angry.  Wait, that doesn’t make sense.  Or does it?  A surprising new study suggests that in at least one aspect the angry individual will be the more rational decision maker because they’ll be less prone to the confirmation bias – tendency to seek out information that supports our existing views.

Maia Young and her colleagues researched this issue in several experiments.  The angry individual was found to go against the wisdom of the group and instead “had a mind of his own.”
The participants who’d earlier been made to feel angry were the ones who were more likely to change their position after a debate on a topic.

Young and her team said their results provided an example of anger leading to a cognitive pattern characterised by less bias. ‘Although the hypothesis disconfirming behaviour that anger produces may well be an aggressive act, meant to move or fight against the opposition’s opinion,’ they said, ‘its result is to provide those who feel angry with better information.’

In mediation, this concept may be helpful to the ultimate decision making process.  People are often angry in the mediation.  They vent their feelings early in the mediation process.  That forum to express anger may be part of the reason why they are then open to alternative views after that anger has been expressed.

One commenter stated as follows:

This makes a lot of sense to me. Pretty much every time I’ve shifted in my opinion on a major issue involved at least some degree of anger. Not necessarily PISSED OFF GRRR but at least upset. Certainly there’ve been times when I looked up the opposing argument intending to tear it apart and come out thinking “actually … they might have a point after all”

This research requires more investigation before it can be relied upon for application.

Research Source:

Young, M., Tiedens, L., Jung, H., and Tsai, M. (2011). Mad enough to see the other side: Anger and the search for disconfirming information. Cognition and Emotion, 25 (1), 10-21 DOI:10.1080/02699930903534105

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