The grammar of anger: Mapping the computational architecture of a recalibrational emotion
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According to the recalibrational theory of anger, anger is a computationally complex cognitive system that evolved to bargain for better treatment. Anger coordinates facial expressions, vocal changes, verbal arguments, the withholding of benefits, the deployment of aggression, and a suite of other cognitive and physiological variables in the service of leveraging bargaining position into better outcomes. The prototypical trigger of anger is an indication that the offender places too little weight on the angry individual’s welfare when making decisions, i.e. the offender has too low a welfare tradeoff ratio (WTR) toward the angry individual. Twenty-three experiments in six cultures, including a group of foragers in the Ecuadorian Amazon, tested six predictions about the computational structure of anger derived from the recalibrational theory. Subjects judged that anger would intensify when: (i) the cost was large, (ii) the benefit the offender received from imposing the cost was small, or (iii) the offender imposed the cost despite knowing that the angered individual was the person to be harmed. Additionally, anger-based arguments conformed to a conceptual grammar of anger, such that offenders were inclined to argue that they held a high WTR toward the victim, e.g., “the cost I imposed on you was small”, “the benefit I gained was large”, or “I didn’t know it was you I was harming.” These results replicated across all six tested cultures: the US, Australia, Turkey, Romania, India, and Shuar hunter-horticulturalists in Ecuador. Results contradict key predictions about anger based on equity theory and social constructivism.
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences not elsewhere classified