ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (3): 386-401.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.00386

• Meta-Analysis • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The advantages and disadvantages of interpersonal anger: Evidence from meta-analysis

WANG Xudong1,, HE Yaji1,, FAN Huiyong2, LUO Yangmei1, CHEN Xuhai1()   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’ an 710000, China
    2School of Educational Sciences, Bohai University, Jinzhou 121013, China
  • Received:2022-05-07 Online:2023-03-15 Published:2022-12-22
  • Contact: CHEN Xuhai


Previous studies have shown that expressing anger toward others, also known as interpersonal anger, has social effects. The social effects of interpersonal anger remain controversial, with some researchers finding that it improves the behavior of the emotional recipient, while others find that it negatively affects both the expresser and the recipient. It can be perceived that there may be other factors moderating the effects of interpersonal anger, but few studies have explored it. To investigate the pros and cons of interpersonal anger, we conducted a meta-analysis based on a systematic and comprehensive review of published studies on interpersonal anger. We examined the social effects of interpersonal anger and its possible moderating factors from subjective evaluation and behavioral performance.
The review was performed following the rigorous PRISMA protocol. Published studies were selected from the current major database, including English and Chinese literature. The database used included VIP Journal Integration Platform, Wan Fang, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Web of Science, and ProQuest. Keywords used were “interpersonal anger”, “anger”, “angry”, “interpersonal emotion”, “emotion expression”, and “anger expression”. Finally, a total of 67 studies were included, in which there were 7 studies in Chinese and 60 in English (N = 15462 participants). The random-effect model was used to summarize the effect size (Hedge’s g), and the publication bias analysis and moderating effect analysis were carried out in CMA 2.0.
Our results showed that expressing anger, whether using the neutral or happy group as the control group, led to more negative subjective evaluations of the expressers, but did not significantly alter the behavioral performance of the recipients. Based on the high heterogeneity of the main effects, we inferred that the dependent variables might need to be subdivided for further analyses. After disintegrating the dependent variables, we found that when the expressers expressed anger, the recipients reduced their evaluation of the expressers’ attitudes, they felt that the situation was unfair, and increased their desire for revenge. Meanwhile, interpersonal anger was found to improve the recipients’ work or study performance, while reducing their willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors. In addition, expressing anger was found to increase the income of the expressers in a competitive environment. Due to the limited number of included literature, the moderating effect analyses were conducted only on the recipients’ cultural backgrounds and social powers. The results showed that in the background of western culture, the anger recipients believed that the affinity of the anger expresser was lower than that of those who expressed neutral emotion, and they were less willing to make concessions. Individuals with lower social power, compared with those with higher ones, made more concessions when receiving anger and had less influence on others when expressing anger.
In conclusion, interpersonal anger can change the recipients’ behaviors but can also increase their negative evaluations of the anger expresser and the interpersonal situation. Specifically, anger recipients are prone to make more concessions, engage in less prosocial behaviors and more problem-solving behaviors, perceive the current situation as more unfair, and evaluate the anger expresser as less affinitive and competent. The influence of interpersonal anger on prosocial behavior and competitive gain is moderated by the recipients’ cultural background and social power. These results suggest that interpersonal anger has both advantages and disadvantages. It can be used as a suitable strategy but also as an inappropriate way to control others’ behaviors, depending on the expresser’s purpose, relative power, and cultural background.

Key words: anger, behavior, subjective evaluation, cultural background, social power

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