Anger is a powerful emotion that can be directed constructively or destructively depending on the context and the motivation of the parties involved. Unlike other emotions, anger has a high level of efficacy and certainty, meaning, the person experiencing anger feels a strong urge to act– a drive to somehow alleviate or correct the injustice they feel is being inflicted on them. This motivation to act takes a lot of personal resources that may otherwise go untapped in a situation that is not anger-evoking; for example, we might feel more power and resolution to take more risk in how we seek reconciliation, aided by a sense of optimism and faith in solving the conflict. Studies have shown that anger can lead to reconciliation and relationship improvement in the long run.
Eric Shuman, a research and development associate at the IDC, who came to the IDC on a Fullbright scholarship, was interested in exploring anger’s diverse response tendencies. In collaboration with IDC’s professors of psychology, Eran Halperin and Michal Reifen Tagar, Eric led a project to further explore the effects of anger in conflict-resolution. Their publication, titled, Anger as a Catalyst for Change? Incremental Beliefs and Anger’s Constructive Effects in Conflict (link) looks at the positive sides of anger and its ability to de-escalate conflict with non-violence. Using two different contexts – race relations in the US in the context of recent protests against police brutality, and the Israeli– Palestinian conflict – they show how induced anger (compared to control conditions) increased support for aggressive policies for those who believed that groups cannot change. In contrast, for those who believed groups can change, inducing anger actually increased support for conciliatory policies, indicating that anger can be channeled constructively when people believe that groups can change.
Eric Shuman’s current research examines the psychological effects of collective action (protests, social movements) in order to better understand what kinds of actions are effective at advancing social change and why.