James Averill (1983) views emotions as primarily a social phenomenon.
He studied self-reports about aggression: most people report getting mildly to
moderately angry anywhere from several times a day to several times a
week. However, the most common reactions to irritating situations were (1)
activities to calm themselves down (60%), (2) talking about the incident to
the offender (39%), or (3) talking to a third party (59%) without getting
angry. Only 49% got verbally aggressive with the person who made them
mad; even fewer--10%--got physically aggressive (1/3 of these incidents
were with children). So, anger doesn't lead to much actual aggression;
indeed, in 19% of the cases it lead to being "extra friendly." People feel like
being verbally aggressive (82%) or physically aggressive (40%) but a wide
variety of nonaggressive responses occur instead. So, your extra friendly co-
worker may be angry about something!
Over half the time, we get mad at a loved one, relative, or friend, so
anger has, in a sense, more to do with love than with hatred. What usually
(85%) makes us angry is that we feel the other person has done us wrong.
They are at fault; they are to blame for interfering with our plans, our wishes,
or for offending or insulting us. So, what are the reported consequences of
getting angry? Primarily positive outcomes! 76% of the "targets" of anger
said they gained some understanding of their faults and 44% gained some
respect (29% lost) for the angry person. 48% of the time anger strengthened
the relationship (35% became more distant). No wonder we get angry so
often. It certainly has payoffs; however, this research overlooks the misery of
constant anger or constant suppression of anger.
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who
can do him absolutely no good.
-----Ann Landers, American Advice Columnist
Mental processes that can generate anger/aggression
If we perceive and label another type of person or their actions as
offensive or dangerous to us, then we are more prone to be aggressive
towards that type of person. Just like a hungry person thinks more often of
food, if we are angry, we see more signs of aggression and suspect more
"enemies." It has been said, "a prejudiced person sees a Jew, a communist,
or a 'nigger' behind every bush and beneath every bed."
Our society and our subcultures provide us with stereotypes that direct
our resentment, prejudice, and discrimination towards certain types of
people. Prejudice tends to grow: if we dislike someone, we are more likely to
hurt them, and if we hurt them, we are more likely to come to dislike them
even more (Scherer, Aveles, & Fischer, 1975).