Hieronymus Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins, Anger (detail, modified).
Grrr. Angry people make me so mad.
There are many chemicals, genes and anatomical correlates to anger and aggressive hostility. Wikipedia’s entry for “Rage” has people telling each other to calm down on the “talk” section, ironically enough.
But, there seems to be a connection between how you see the emotions of others, and how angry you get.
For instance, brain lesions can result in impaired ability to recognize fear in others. Or, a disconnect between the amygdala and the orbito-frontal-cortex can lead to an exaggerated reaction to angry faces. My sense of this is that it relates to how one views the world as a whole.
Discussion and abstracts after the jump:
First, anger is a coping mechanism for an “unjust world view.”(See, abstract after the jump, J Pers Assess. 2007 Oct;89(2):126-35,”Belief In An Unjust World: When Beliefs In a Just World Fail;” Lench HC, Chang ES.)
Second, if everyone else looks angry, then you always have to be ready. There are a number of conditions which include impairment in recognizing emotions in others – like fear. Fear may be mistaken for anger. So, if you can’t tell that someone is afraid, and you assume they are angry like you, well, better attack first before being attacked.
“Blunted rostral anterior cingulate response during a simplified decoding task of negative emotional facial expressions in alcoholic patients,” Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2007 Sep;31(9):1490-504. Epub 2007 Jul 11, Salloum JB, Ramchandani VA, Bodurka J, Rawlings R, Momenan R, George D, Hommer DW.
Amygdala brain lesions can affect social interaction as the central brain region involved in recognizing eyes and mouths in facial recognition.
Personality changes for the worse at the “pre-Huntington’s” state diminish recognition of negative emotions .
“Beyond disgust: impaired recognition of negative emotions prior to diagnosis in Huntington’s disease;” Brain. 2007 Jul;130(Pt 7):1732-44; Comment in: Brain. 2007 Jul;130(Pt 7):1715-7. Johnson SA, Stout JC, Solomon AC, Langbehn DR, Aylward EH, Cruce CB, Ross CA, Nance M, Kayson E, Julian-Baros E, Hayden MR, Kieburtz K, Guttman M, Oakes D, Shoulson I, Beglinger L, Duff K, Penziner E, Paulsen JS; Predict-HD Investigators of the Huntington Study Group.
People with Intermittent Explosive Disorder have an exaggerated reaction upon seeing an angry face.
Amygdala and orbitofrontal reactivity to social threat in individuals with impulsive aggression. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Jul 15;62(2):168-78. Epub 2007 Jan 8. Coccaro EF, McCloskey MS, Fitzgerald DA, Phan KL.Department of Psychiatry, Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637-1470, USA.
The full abstracts from PubMed are below :
Here’s a link to a paper about world views, “The Psychology of Worldviews,” Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, New York University and Professional Services Group, Inc., Review of General Psychology Copyright 2004 by the Educational Publishing Foundation 2004, Vol. 8, No. 1, 3–58).
1: J Pers Assess. 2007 Oct;89(2):126-35, “Belief in an unjust world: when beliefs in a just world fail”, Lench HC, Chang ES. Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California at Irvine.
Belief in a just world, where people get what they deserve, has been hypothesized to underlie a variety of psychological phenomena (Lerner, 1965). Close inspection of individual difference measures of this belief, however, has indicated repeatedly that just world beliefs are not a unidimensional construct. The purpose of this investigation was to elaborate upon the conceptualization of unjust world beliefs as a related but separate construct from just world beliefs. In two studies, the Unjust World Views scale (UJVS) was developed and its reliability and validity examined. The UJVS demonstrated acceptable reliability and validity and accounted for more variability in related outcomes than just world beliefs. Further, belief in an unjust world was related to defensive coping, anger, and perceived future risk. These findings contribute to theory development and suggest that a belief in an unjust world may serve a self-protective function. Clinical implications are discussed as unjust world views also were found to be potentially maladaptive.
PMID: 17764390 [PubMed - in process
Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2007 Sep;31(9):1490-504. Epub 2007 Jul 11.
BACKGROUND: Alcoholism is characterized by deficits in emotional functioning as well as by deficits in cognitive functioning. However, most brain imaging research on alcoholism has focused on cognition rather than emotion. METHOD: We used an event-related functional magnetic imaging approach to examine alcoholics' brain blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) response to evaluation of emotional stimuli and to compare their response to that of nonalcoholic controls. The task used was a simplified variant of a facial emotion-decoding task in which subjects determined the intensity level of a target emotion displayed as a facial expression. Facial expressions of happy, sad, anger, disgust, and fear were used as stimuli. RESULTS: Alcoholics and controls did not differ in accurately identifying the intensity level on the simple emotional decoding task but there were significant differences in their BOLD response during evaluation of facial emotion. In general, alcoholics showed less brain activation than nonalcoholic controls. The greatest differences in activation were during decoding of facial expressions of fear and disgust during which alcoholics had significantly less activation than controls in the affective division of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Alcoholics also had significantly less activation than controls in the affective division of the ACC, while viewing sad faces. Only to facial expressions of anger did the alcoholics show significant activation in the affective ACC and in this case, their BOLD response did not significantly differ from that of the controls. CONCLUSION: Alcoholics show a deficit in the function of the affective division of the ACC during evaluation of negative facial emotions that can serve as cues for flight or avoidance. This deficit may underlie some of the behavioral dysfunction in alcoholism.
Brain Res Bull. 2007 Oct 19;74(5):344-56. Epub 2007 Jul 27.
Faces are processed by a distributed neural system in the visual as well as in the non-visual cortex [the "core" and the "extended" systems, J.V. Haxby, E.A. Hoffman, M.I. Gobbini, The distributed human neural system for face perception, Trends Cogn. Sci. 4 (2000) 223-233]. Yet, the functions of the different brain regions included in the face processing system are far from clear. On the basis of the case study of a patient unable to recognize fearful faces, Adolphs et al. [R. Adolphs, F. Gosselin, T.W. Buchanan, D. Tranel, P. Schyns, A.R. Damasio, A mechanism for impaired fear recognition after amygdala damage, Nature 433 (2005) 68-72] suggested that the amygdala might play a role in orienting attention towards the eyes, i.e. towards the region of face conveying most information about fear. In a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) study comparing patterns of activation during observation of whole faces and parts of faces displaying neutral expressions, we evaluated the neural systems for face processing when only partial information is provided, as well as those involved in processing two socially relevant facial areas (the eyes and the mouth). Twenty-four subjects were asked to perform a gender decision task on pictures showing whole faces, upper faces (eyes and eyebrows), and lower faces (mouth). Our results showed that the amygdala was activated more in response to the whole faces than to parts of faces, indicating that the amygdala is involved in orienting attention toward eye and mouth. Processing of parts of faces in isolation was found to activate other regions within both the "core" and the "extended" systems, as well as structures outside this network, thus suggesting that these structures are involved in building up the representation of the whole face from its parts.
PMID: 17845909 [PubMed - in process
1: Brain. 2007 Jul;130(Pt 7):1732-44.
Comment in: Brain. 2007 Jul;130(Pt 7):1715-7. Beyond disgust: impaired recognition of negative emotions prior to diagnosis in Huntington's disease.
Johnson SA, Stout JC, Solomon AC, Langbehn DR, Aylward EH, Cruce CB, Ross CA, Nance M, Kayson E, Julian-Baros E, Hayden MR, Kieburtz K, Guttman M, Oakes D, Shoulson I, Beglinger L, Duff K, Penziner E, Paulsen JS; Predict-HD Investigators of the Huntington Study Group.Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA.
Previous studies of emotion recognition suggest that detection of disgust relies on processing within the basal ganglia and insula. Research involving individuals with symptomatic and pre-diagnostic Huntington's disease (HD), a disease with known basal ganglia atrophy, has generally indicated a relative impairment in recognizing disgust. However, some data have suggested that recognition of other emotions (particularly fear and anger) may also be affected in HD, and a recent study found fear recognition deficits in the absence of other emotion-recognition impairments, including disgust. To further examine emotion recognition in HD, we administered a computerized facial emotion recognition task to 475 individuals with the HD CAG expansion and 57 individuals without. Logistic regression was used to examine associations of emotion recognition performance with estimated proximity to clinical diagnosis (based on CAG repeat length and current age) and striatal volumes. Recognition of anger, disgust, fear, sadness and surprise (but not happiness) was associated with estimated years to clinical diagnosis; performance was unrelated to striatal volumes. Compared to a CAG-normal control group, the CAG-expanded group demonstrated significantly less accurate recognition of all negative emotions (anger, disgust, fear, sadness). Additionally, participants with more pronounced motor signs of HD were significantly less accurate at recognizing negative emotions than were individuals with fewer motor signs. Findings indicate that recognition of all negative emotions declines early in the disease process, and poorer performance is associated with closer proximity to clinical diagnosis. In contrast to previous results, we found no evidence of relative impairments in recognizing disgust or fear, and no evidence to support a link between the striatum and disgust recognition.
PMID: 17584778 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
BACKGROUND: Converging evidence from animal and human lesion studies implicates the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in emotional regulation and aggressive behavior. However, it remains unknown if functional deficits exist in these specific brain regions in clinical populations in which the cardinal symptom is impulsive aggression. We have previously shown that subjects diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder (IED), a psychiatric disorder characterized by reactive aggressive behavior, perform poorly on facial emotion recognition tasks. In this study we employed a social-emotional probe of amygdala-OFC function in individuals with impulsive aggression. METHODS: Ten unmedicated subjects with IED and 10 healthy, matched comparison subjects (HC) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while viewing blocks of emotionally salient faces. We compared amygdala and OFC reactivity to faces between IED and HC subjects, and examined the relationship between the extent of activation in these regions and extent of prior history of aggressive behavior. RESULTS: Relative to controls, individuals with IED exhibited exaggerated amygdala reactivity and diminished OFC activation to faces expressing anger. Extent of amygdala and OFC activation to angry faces were differentially related to prior aggressive behavior across subjects. Unlike controls, aggressive subjects failed to demonstrate amygdala-OFC coupling during responses to angry faces. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide evidence of amygdala-OFC dysfunction in response to an ecologically-valid social threat signal (processing angry faces) in individuals with a history of impulsive aggressive behavior, and further substantiate a link between a dysfunctional cortico-limbic network and aggression.
PMID: 17210136 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]