Anger in the motivational context of states of control and no control.

ELENA SPIRIDON, Stephen H. Fairclough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


The experience of an emotion incorporates cognitive, motivational and affective dimensions (Matthews et al., 2002). Research from asymmetrical brain activity (Harmon-Jones, 2004) supports a motivational model of emotion, in that a negative emotion (anger) can be experienced with approach or avoidance. However, cardio-vascular research (Stemmler et al., 2007) links anger to approach
motivation (SAM activity) and fear to avoidance motivation (PAC response). But approach/avoidance motivation could be triggered by a perceived degree of control over the task. The aim of the study was to identify psychophysiological markers of anger in combination with levels of control during an ecologically valid laboratory task.
Twenty right-handed male participants (age: 25.51± 7.46 years) matched in their trait anger performed two driving simulation tasks: one of high anger with time pressure, financial punishments, and obstacles with different stages of control (fog) and no control (traffic jams 1 and 2) and one of low anger. Psychophysiological variables (blood pressure (BP), heart rate, cardiac output, corrugator activity and frontal electroencephalography (EEG) asymmetry) and subjective data were obtained. EEG data were converted to a linked-ears reference montage and analyzed via Fast Fourier Transformer at 2s intervals. Mean power-amplitude was obtained for the alpha band (at 8.2–12.9 Hz).
Self-report measures indicated that anger and control manipulation were successful (ps< .01). There was a significant effect of systolic BP (F(4,72)= 13.20, p< .001) with an increase in the high anger conditions compared to baseline (ps<.02) and to low anger (ps< .02). Corrugator activity was significantly different between conditions (F(4,156)= 5.94, p< .01) with a significant increase in EMG activity in the anger/no control scenario (traffic jam 2; ps< .03). A significant decrease in alpha power at the F4-F3 site (F(5, 195)= 3.03; p< .05) indicated an avoidance motivation for anger/no control scenarios. Cardiovascular impedance measures were not sensitive to the experimental conditions. Anger in combination with the perception of no control was indexed by increased corrugator muscle activity, higher systolic BP, and an avoidance motivation, suggesting that emotion and motivation interact with each other to intensify psychophysiological
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-270
Number of pages2
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Anger
  • Motivation
  • Control


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