Why "Angry Women" Don't Get Taken Seriously

If that headline makes you seethe, then prepare for no one to agree with you (according to science). A new study published in psychology journal Law and Human Behavior concluded that anger in women causes them to have less influence over people, while anger in men causes them to have more influence over people. In other words, we fundamentally distrust angry women, while trusting the viewpoints of angry men to the point that we will doubt our own ideas to agree with them.

The study involved 210 "jury-eligible undergraduates," who were given the materials of a real court case to study: opening and closing arguments, eyewitness testimony, and photographs of the crime scene and the murder weapon. The case was against a man who was accused of murdering his wife. After studying the materials, participants were asked to decide if they thought the man was guilty or not guilty. They then entered a chat room with five scripted "mock juror" characters.

Four of the mock jurors had gender neutral names and would agree with the participant's verdict. One mock juror, called the "holdout" and given a clearly gendered name, would argue against it using one of three tactics: no emotion, fear, or anger. After engaging in this chat with the five mock jurors, participants were then asked to cast their vote again.

While only seven percent changed their mind from their originally entered verdict, the participants' confidence in the decisions they made varied vastly when challenged by male anger versus female anger. According to the study:

"Holdouts exerted no influence on participants’ opinions when they expressed no emotion or fear. Participants’ confidence in their own verdict dropped significantly, however, after male holdouts expressed anger. Yet, anger expression undermined female holdouts: Participants became significantly more confident in their original verdicts after female holdouts expressed anger—even though they were expressing the exact same opinion and emotion as the male holdouts."

In other words, when confronted by an angry woman challenging their ideas, participants were more likely to trust their own judgement, and, in fact, grow more confident that they were right. When confronted with an angry man challenging their ideas, participants were more likely to question their own judgement and doubt their own ideas.

As the study concluded:

"The current study has implications for group decisions in general, and jury deliberations in particular, by suggesting that expressing anger might lead men to gain influence, but women to lose influence over others (even when making identical arguments). These diverging consequences might result in women potentially having less influence on societally important decisions than men, such as jury verdicts."

And that's an obvious problem, not just in jury dynamics. Imagine this taking place on the floor of Congress (oh, wait) or in professional settings, like business meetings or brainstorming sessions, where women are trying to share their ideas (actually, dammit).

Of course women are going to get angry — sometimes it's the only way to be heard in a culture that dismisses women's opinions and then blames them for being pushovers. But it's especially ridiculous that an angry man is seen as trustworthy, while an angry women is dismissed as being "overly emotional," when men are the ones producing high levels of known rage-out hormone testosterone! But when men exhibit anger over an opinion, it's seen as a reason to take that opinion more seriously? And women are just being irrational and/or periody? How does that make sense?

It's not the inherent correctness of their purely objective scientific reasoning that causes men to get angry when their ideas aren't heard; it's a combination of hormones and psychological factors. Just like it's not all our crazy lady hormones that cause us to get "emotional" when we aren't being listened to. It's a combination of hormones, psychological factors, and a really f*cking long history of oppression — being silenced, dismissed, and discounted.

Images: WavebreakMediaMicro/Fotolia; Giphy (2)