Counting to Ten Milliseconds: Low Anger but not High Anger, Individuals Pause Following Negative Evaluations

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Low-anger individuals are less reactive, both emotionally and behaviourally, to a large variety of situational primes to anger and aggression. Why this is so, from an affective processing perspective, has been largely conjectural. Four studies (total N=270) sought to link individual differences in anger to tendencies exhibited in basic affective processing tasks. On the basis of motivational factors and considerations, it was hypothesised that negative evaluations would differentially activate a psychological alarm system at low levels of anger, resulting in a pause that should be evident in the speed of making subsequent evaluations. Just such a pattern was evident in all studies. By contrast, high-anger individuals did not pause following their negative evaluations. In relation to this affective processing tendency, at least, dramatically different effects were observed among low- versus high-anger individuals. Implications for the personality-processing literature, theories of trait anger, and fast-acting regulatory processes are discussed.



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