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Maybe you would like me when I'm angry: Getting mad boosts performance, study finds

Happiness is overrated – it’s anger that will help you get stuff done.

That’s according to a new study which found getting mad can be a powerful motivator for being productive and achieving goals.

The American Psychological Association surveyed more than 1,000 people, who were triggered into experiencing a specific emotion – such as joy, anger, and sadness – and then given a task.

Some were set the goal while in a neutral emotional state.

Among the tasks were solving word puzzles and levels in a challenging video game.

The peer-reviewed research, published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, concluded anger typically elicited the best performance – including shorter response times and higher scores.

Lead author Professor Heather Lench said: “People often believe a state of happiness is ideal, and the majority of people consider the pursuit of happiness a major life goal.

“The view that positive emotion is ideal for mental health and well-being has been prominent in lay and psychological accounts of emotion, but previous research suggests a mix of emotions, including negative emotions like anger, result in the best outcomes.”

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Other emotions were also shown to have a positive impact on performance, such as desire and amusement.

But anger was associated with increased success across the board, spurring people to reach for their goals.

The research also analysed data from surveys carried out during the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections, with people asked how angry they would be if their preferred candidate didn’t win.

Participants who indicated they would be angry were more likely to vote, the researchers found.

Prof Lench added: “These findings demonstrate that anger increases effort toward attaining a desired goal, frequently resulting in greater success.

“Our research adds to the growing evidence that a mix of positive and negative emotions promotes well-being, and using negative emotions as tools can be particularly effective in some situations.”


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