The traditional understanding of the role of anger in conflicts is that it leads to aggressive actions that escalate conflict. However, recent research has found that under certain circumstances anger can have constructive effects such as increasing support for more risky conciliatory steps in negotiation. The current study aims to identify a psychological moderator that determines whether anger has such destructive or constructive effects. We propose that people’s beliefs about the malleability of groups (i.e., implicit theories about groups) moderate whether anger leads to conciliatory, constructive behaviors or destructive, aggressive behaviors. We test this hypothesis in two different contexts (a) race relations in the US in the context of recent protests against police brutality, and (b) the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Results indicated that induced anger (compared to control condition) increased support for aggressive policies for participants who believed that groups cannot change. In contrast, for those who believed groups can change, inducing anger actually increased support for conciliatory policies compared to a control condition. Together, this indicates that anger can have constructive effects in conflict when people believe that groups can change.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
During part of this research project, the first author was supported by a Fulbright Student Fellowship through the U.S. Department of State and United States–Israel Educational Fund. This work was also supported by a European Research Council grant (335607) to the second author.
© The Author(s) 2017.
- conciliatory policies
- implicit theories
- intergroup conflict