The Temporal Dynamics of Anger: Phenomena, Processes, and Perplexities

  • Michael Potegal


Ordinary, everyday “episodes” of anger typically last less than half an hour, but their duration generally increases with intensity. Anger intensity and duration decline with increasing socioeconomic status; intensity, but not duration, declines with age. Anger at home is more intense but shorter than anger at work. Homicidal fantasies and anger-intensifying rumination on the unjust causes of one’s anger occur more frequently in men than women, are experienced as not entirely volitional, and can transform and extend the experience of anger to days, weeks, and months. In the face of constant or repeated provocation, anger escalates in a highly nonlinear fashion, significantly increasing the probability of aggressive action. At high intensities, some people (probably women more than men) experience their anger as out of control. Escalation may involve various forms of positive physiological and behavioral feedback; the feelings associated with it might have some neurological basis in a shift among the frontal cortical areas momentarily controlling behavior.

Within an episode, anger rises and falls; the rise is typically much faster than the fall. The nature of this trajectory, the conditions that affect it (including the possible automatization of anger in repeated conflicts), and its implications for appraisal models of emotion and social information processing models of aggression remain to be explored. Anger can “decay” by itself or can be “quenched” by extrinsic processes such as apology. Catharsis, the supposed “quenching” of anger by self-initiated aggressive action, is largely a misinterpretation of several associated psychological and physiological effects, but there are several seemingly catharsis-like phenomena in both normal and pathological individuals that warrant further investigation.


Borderline Personality Disorder Borderline Personality Disorder Aggressive Action Social Information Processing State Anger 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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