Chapter 9: Anger

Vocal Changes

Think about some vocal changes you might express when angry.  For instance, do you yell, growl, or even lower the tone of your voice?


In the basic emotions/social constructivist chapter, we discussed a study by Sauter et al. (2010) in which both Himba and European English participants matched the anger story to the sound of a growl at beyond chance levels.  This occurred when participants listened to their own and the other participants’ vocal sounds.   The emotional story for anger was “Someone is being treated in a rude way deliberately, and is very angry about it” (Sauter et al., 2010, online supplemental material).  Note that the term angry is in the actual story, thus presenting a confound. In Cordaro et al.’s (2016) similar vocal change study, the growl was matched to the anger story 48% (for Bhutan) to 100% of the time (with chance set at 25%).  These findings suggest the growl is a universal vocal change of anger.  In one last study by Gendron, Barrett and colleagues (2014a), which we covered earlier, Himba and Boston participants heard a “guttural yell and growl” and were asked to free-label the emotion.  About 65% of the Boston participants and less than 5% of the Himba participants labeled the sound as anger.  The Himba findings were not at beyond chance levels and thus might suggest a growl combined with a yell is not universal.  Most Himba did not provide an emotion label for the growl/yell.  For those who did provide an emotion label, the emotion most often stated for the growl was fear.  So, why the different findings?  Well, recall that Gendron et al. (2014a) stated that Himba participants tended to use action terms to describe the vocal sounds, such as “yell” or “growl.”  Thus, free-labeling seems to result in Himba using behavioral terms, whereas providing emotional stories and labels provide some context to the participants.


Other Behavior Changes


In general, anger causes approach behavior, typically in the form of aggression.  We could approach the person or thing that made us angry OR we might aggress toward a more vulnerable target to express our anger.  There may be other bodily changes associated with anger, such as expanding the chest or leaning forward to express one’s strength and dominance.  But more research needs to be done in this area.


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