All of us have lost our temper at some point in our lives. Anger is a key part of human emotion, and it actually has some benefits as a communication tool, as well as a motivator. But not-so-cool aspect of being angry has recently been figured out — the tendency to think everyone's automatically dumber than you when you're pissed off. According to a new study published in the journal Intelligence, being angry makes you think you're smarter than you actually are. The quicker your temper, the smarter you believe you are. And that kinda explains a lot, from why it's so hard to argue with truly angry people to what it's like to be a hot-tempered person.
The study examined people with something called trait anger. If someone has trait anger, they're more than hot-headed; they're angry quite a lot of the time. Trait anger, according to the Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine, is a "dispositional characteristic where one experiences frequent anger, with varying intensity (e.g., mild irritability, intense rage), and is often accompanied by related negative emotions such as envy, resentment, hate, and disgust." These kind of people are more likely to be described as "angry," as a personality, and are more likely to actually get angry.
And it turns out that has an impact on how they view their intelligence; in this study, 528 people were asked to rate how prone they were to anger and how highly they rated their own smarts. If they fit all the categories for having an angry disposition, they were also more likely to believe they were really smart. Your short-tempered boss probably thinks they're far more intelligent than the people around them — and is quite likely wrong.
This basically makes sense, right? We often get angry when we believe other people are incorrect or doing the wrong thing. But the study also pointed out something about trait anger: People who have trait anger are more likely to have signs of narcissism, where they believe the world revolves around them — and if it doesn't, they go into a rage.
So what does this mean for those of us who aren't actually angry that often? "Future studies may explore whether temporary experience of state anger also leads to biased perception of their abilities,” the lead scientist behind the study, Marcin Zajenkowski of the University of Warsaw, told Psypost. In other words, we still need to find out if passing anger, the sort we all feel from time to time, makes us think we're smarter than we are. But it wouldn't be out of the question. Research has shown that being temporarily angry alters a lot of our perceptions, including how we judge situations and make decisions.
Some anger is helpful and healthy. But if you find yourself getting angry a lot, it's worth taking time to think about what's motivating it. Do you have an underlying belief that you're smarter than the person who's making you annoyed? Do you find yourself angry at "idiots" a lot? You might have what's called "problem anger," and the good news is that it's manageable. Next time you catch yourself getting furious in a situation that doesn't warrant it, it's worth trying a calmness meditation in the moment when you're furious, and potentially seeking anger management help for the future. That red haze doesn't make someone smart, no matter what they think.