Anger, Motivation, and Asymmetrical Frontal Cortical Activations

  • Eddie Harmon-Jones
  • Carly K. Peterson
  • Cindy Harmon-Jones


This chapter reviews research on the motivational functions of anger and their association with asymmetric frontal cortical activations. In particular, anger is often associated with approach motivational inclinations, though certain individuals in certain situations may manifest anger that is associated with withdrawal motivational inclinations. Because anger is often associated with approach motivation, it is different from other negative emotions and thus is an emotion that permitted testing whether asymmetric (left vs. right) frontal cortical activity was due to positive vs. negative affect or approach vs. withdrawal motivation. Results of several studies revealed that anger is associated with greater relative left frontal activation. Moreover, manipulated increases in the approach motivation of anger cause even greater relative left frontal activation. These results support the idea that greater relative left frontal activity is associated with approach motivation and not positive affective valence. The chapter ends by discussing how this research challenges the idea that the frontal cortex is only involved in down-regulating negative emotions and by suggesting directions for future research examining connectivity among brain regions involved in anger and motivational processes.


Frontal Activity Trait Anger Approach Motivation Behavioral Activation System Motivational Direction 
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.



Portions of the research described within this chapter were supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS 0350435) and by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R03 MH60747-01).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eddie Harmon-Jones
    • 1
  • Carly K. Peterson
    • 1
  • Cindy Harmon-Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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