Short-tempered People Are Inclined to Miscalculate Their Intelligence

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Short-tempered People Are Inclined to Miscalculate Their Intelligence

Anger was different from other negative emotions like sadness, anxiety, and depression because it is actually connected with positive traits / Photo via Getty Images Bank


Polish researchers from the University of Warsaw have found that people who are constantly angry have the tendency to overestimate how smart they are. Anger, it was discovered in an earlier study, was different from other negative emotions like sadness, anxiety, and depression. This is because anger is actually connected with positive traits.

In the process of conducting their study, Marcin Zajenkowski and Gilles Gignac also found that anger was associated with narcissism.

What is Trait-Anger?

Trait anger, according to Zajenkowski, is the “dispositional tendency to experience anger.”

This means that an individual who has trait anger is one who often in the state of being angry.

Anger’s Association With Positive Emotions

Zajenkowski and Gignac's concept of how high anger and high illusions of intelligence were related was based on a study done by Jennifer Lerner, which was published in the journal of Biological Psychiatry. In her research, she found that anger was associated with being optimistic and having a sense of control.

In her experiment, 92 UCLA students were requested to count backwards by 13s and start by using an odd number like 6,233. They made the students believe that it was an intelligence assessment. As the students counted, Lerner’s group of experimenters kept telling the participants that they were not counting fast enough and to hurry up. When they made a mistake in counting, they had to do it from the very beginning. Her next experiment involved participants counting backwards by sevens starting with 9,095.

In both experiments, the facial expressions of the students were recorded on camera. The students displayed a variety of reactions which ranged from fearful to being upset. Through a coding system, they categorized these facial expressions into fear, anger, and disgust.

She also gauged their stress hormone levels, blood pressure, and pulse by gathering samples of the participants’ saliva on cotton swabs. Participants with more apprehensive expressions on their faces were noted to have higher stress hormone levels and blood pressure. This applied to both males and females.

Prior to this, she researched how Americans emotionally responded, after two months, to the terrorist attack which happened on September 11, 2001. She discovered from this investigation that anger can cause people to feel a sense of certainty and control. This implies that those who reacted angrily viewed taking risks positively and tended to favor an aggressive response to terrorism.

The results of her study showed that anger was a much better reaction to stressful situations than fear. Those who respond to such situations with fear were revealed to lack optimism and self-control. Lerner concluded in her study that anger or indignation, when justified, was actually a sign of being flexible and a much healthier response compared to being afraid.

On the other hand, chronic and explosive anger was still declared to be unhealthy. This type of anger results in having high blood pressure and acquiring a heart disease.

Her research reinforces the concept that humans have more than one reaction to stressful situations. It also backs up the idea that fear and anger trigger different regions of the brain and the nervous system. For example, the pituitary is affected when a person has to deal with rough circumstances.

To compare their studies,  Lerner’s research focused on temporary anger while Zajenkowski and Gignac’s focused on anger as a personality trait.

How Anger and Narcissism Are Linked

“Anger is more approach-oriented and associated with optimistic risk perception generally optimistic bias,” Zajenkowski states.

Narcissistic do not create intimate relationships but tended to compete with others or dominate them / Photo via Getty Images Bank


Referring back to the study of the scientists from the University of Warsaw, it was indicated that people who have higher levels of trait anger also had a higher probability of overestimating their abilities. For instance, having the belief that they are more intelligent than they actually are, which is connected to narcissistic illusions.

The authors of the study explained that those who were narcissistic do not create intimate relationships but tended to compete with others or dominate them. This shows that if a person has trait anger, they also are more likely to have conflicts in their relationships.

The authors add that, “Often, experiences of anger might result in thoughts such as “I am smart” and “You are stupid”, which may in turn, cause problems in creating positive relations with others.

Does High Anger Have a Connection With Actual Intelligence?

Having high trait anger does not actually affect a person’s actual intelligence. It only affects a person’s perceived intelligence, they found after surveying more than 520 undergraduates from Warsaw schools. After they made these students answer a questionnaire on how easily they get provoked and how often they do, they also asked the participants to rate how smart they were.

Neuroticism and Perceived Intelligence

When they finished the experiment, they observed that students who were more easily angered had the tendency to overestimate their cognitive abilities. In contrast, neurotic students tended to undervalue their intelligence. Neuroticism, which was actually associated with anger, was explained as having irrational anxiety and being excessively worried.

Does Temporary Anger Also Correspond to Higher Perceived Intelligence?

It is not identified whether being in a temporary state of anger also makes one think that they smarter than their actual intelligence. The authors advise that future researchers do more investigations on this subject.

Additionally, although they have found a link between anger and higher perceived intelligence, they are uncertain about whether this relationship is causal or not. They also encourage other experts to further explore this connection.



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