Functions of anger in the emotion system

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

17 Scopus citations


This chapter considers the functions of anger as an emotion within an often functional emotion system. It is proposed that emotions are general-purpose coping strategies, usually comprising phenomenological, physiological, expressive, behavioral, and emotivational goal components, each of which fulfills specific functions within an emotion's strategy. For example, typical instances of anger involve thoughts about undeserved harm, feeling hot and ready to explode, activity in circuits running through the medial amygdala and hypothalamus, lowered brows and squarish mouth, readiness to attack, and a goal of hurting its target or compelling change in the target's behavior. Together they implement a strategy of interpersonal coercion. Emotions are typically elicited by combinations of appraisals about significant changes in motive-attainment (e.g., goal blockage caused by other persons, when there may be something that can be done about it, eliciting anger) and function to provide alternative ways to attain one's motives (alternative to each other and to action governed by what have traditionally been considered motives, such as hunger and the need for achievement) in particular types of situations. The Emotion System theory offers an account of why people and other organisms have emotions and why they have the particular emotions that they do. Explanations for emotion dysfunctions, such as anger disorders, are also discussed. Finally, the theory is applied to examine anger in the political domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Function of Emotions
Subtitle of host publicationWhen and Why Emotions Help Us
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9783319776194
ISBN (Print)9783319776187
StatePublished - Apr 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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