The positive effect of negative emotions in protracted conflict: The case of anger

Michal Reifen Tagar, Christopher M. Federico, Eran Halperin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extant research has demonstrated the destructive role that anger plays in the context of intergroup conflict. Among other findings, it has been established that anger elevates public support for aggressive and violent actions towards the outgroup. This finding has been explained by the unique cognitive appraisals, emotional goal, and response tendencies associated with anger, typified by appraised relative strength and high control, motivation to correct perceived wrongdoings, and willingness to engage in risky behavior. In the current work we examine an innovative assumption, according to which the apparent destructive implications of anger are a result of situational range restriction-namely, that anger as a group emotion has been examined almost solely at the escalation stage of conflict. Instead, we propose that the same unique characteristics of anger can bring about constructive political attitudes and support for non-violent policies in the context of systematic efforts to de-escalate a protracted conflict. To test this hypothesis we conducted two studies in which we examined the relationship between anger and the willingness to engage in positive risk-taking and support non-violent policies in the context of political negotiations between adversaries. Results indicate a significant positive relationship, supporting the hypothesis that anger is not an exclusively militant emotion, and its effects are situationally dependent.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Anger
  • Group emotions
  • Intergroup conflict
  • Non-violence
  • Policy preferences
  • Risk taking

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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