Public Release: 

Women who suppress their emotions end up more angry

Economic & Social Research Council

New research shows that women who suppress their emotions end up more angry. The ESRC-funded research at the University of Aberdeen looked at the effects of consciously inhibiting expression of anger on performance and behaviour. 'Despite the knowledge that people experience anger or are the target of other people's anger at least several times a week, there have been very few investigations into the immediate psychological consequences of expressing or suppressing this emotion' say Dr Judith Hosie and Dr Alan Milne authors of the report. 'We believe that the results of this project lay the foundation for further research into this largely unexplored area' she says.

The research was based on three studies which compared the effects of different methods of regulating anger and sadness. Male and female participants were shown two emotional film clips. During the first some were asked to express feelings of anger and some were asked to inhibit or suppress those feelings. A third group were instructed to substitute feelings of anger with those of a previously recalled happy memory. They were then shown a second emotional film to which they were allowed to respond spontaneously. 'The results showed that the women in the study who had suppressed their anger reported feeling more angry, outraged, upset and disgusted than their male counterparts' says Dr Hosie.

Interestingly women who had suppressed their anger also reported they felt more like swearing than males. Out of the male participants those who had substituted feelings of anger with happiness reported being more upset, outraged and disgusted than males who had suppressed their anger.

One of the key findings of the study was the evidence of a rebound effect for emotion. 'The subjective intensity of anger was increased in women by suppressing the expression of that anger' explains Dr Hosie. 'Women in most cultures are under great pressure to conceal their anger and this may make them more able to develop and rely upon other more effective strategies for regulating this emotion. We predicted that females would benefit more from a strategy such as anger substitution and less from suppressing anger than males and that was reflected in our research' she adds.

Although there have been many trials exploring the relationship between cardiovascular activity and anger and the social outcomes of anger there has been very little research into the psychology of anger. 'Indeed the question of whether stopping ourselves from crying, or quelling our anger enhances or reduces the subsequent feeling of emotion remains an empirical one' says Dr Hosie. 'In our study we elicited a very specific type of anger-empathic anger about which very little is known - and both men and women's reactions to it' says Dr Hosie. 'We believe that this research will be of interest to clinicians and practitioners involved in the treatment of emotional disorders and in particular the development of anger management programmes' says Dr Hosie.

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For more information contact Dr J Hosie or Dr Alan Milne, Department of Psychology, King's College, University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen, AB24 2UB: Tel: 01224 272251, email: j.hosie@abdn.ac.uk, a.b.milne@abdn.ac.uk. Or Julie Robertson, Lesley Lilley or Karen Emerton, ESRC External Relations Division, Telephone 01793 413032,413119/413122.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It has a track record of providing high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and government. The ESRC invests more than £46 million every year in social science research. At any time, its range of funding schemes may be supporting 2,000 researchers within academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences, thereby nurturing the researchers of tomorrow. The ESRC website address is http://www.esrc.ac.uk

2. REGARD is the ESRC's database of research. It provides a key source of information on ESRC social science research awards and all associated publications and products. The website can be found at http://www.regard.ac.uk

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