Recent research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that while anger is commonly seen as a negative feeling, it can actually serve as a strong driving force that motivates individuals to accomplish difficult goals and objectives in their lives.
According to Heather Lench, the study’s lead author, people tend to think that remaining in a “state of happiness” is optimal. In fact, many individuals view achieving happiness as a large goal in and of itself.
“The view that positive emotion is ideal for mental health and well-being has been prominent in lay and psychological accounts of emotion, but previous research suggests that a mix of emotions, including negative emotions like anger, result in the best outcomes,” Lench said.
For decades, the functionalist theory of emotion has been a popular topic of study, and it proposes that every emotion, whether positive or negative, is a response to environmental events. These emotions aim to signal significant scenarios that demand action.
And different emotions prompt varied reactions. For instance, experiencing sadness might signal the need to seek emotional support, whereas getting angry might indicate that action is needed to beat a challenge.
So, the research team conducted a set of experiments with over 1,000 participants and examined survey data from an additional 1,400 individuals to delve into exactly how anger can influence goal achievement.
In each experiment, they induced various emotional states in participants– ranging from amusement and anger to sadness and desire– or simply a neutral state before introducing them to a difficult goal.
In one of the experiments, participants viewed images intended to provoke certain emotions or a neutral reaction, followed by tasks involving word puzzles.
In a different experiment, the objective was to achieve high scores in a skiing video game. This included one challenging version where players had to dodge flags on a slalom course and a simpler version focused solely on making a jump.