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The Recalibrational Theory of Anger: what it is and how it explains anger

If we asked anyone why anger arises, they would most likely tell us that it is the result of frustration. When something does not go as expected or something ugly is said to us, it is normal to react with emotional tension, one of the many responses being the emotion of anger.

However, there are those who consider that, taking an evolutionary perspective, anger would be an emotion whose function is motivate us in a negotiation or conflict, mobilizing us to avoid any loss or promote gains in a context Social.

The recalibrational theory of anger it is a model that has tried to explain what would be the functionality of this emotion. Let's see what it consists of.

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What is the Recalibrational Theory of Anger?

The recalibrational theory of anger is a proposal that explains how natural selection has shaped this emotion in such a way that it helps us to be treated better by others.

Although it is a relatively recent theory, and it is still necessary to address it in greater depth with scientific research, this conceptualization of the purpose of anger would allow give it meaning, since this emotion is responsible for a large part of human aggressive acts. Why behave aggressively if not to prevent our bodies from being trampled on? Rights?

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Based on this idea, it has been suggested that anger acts as a behavioral regulatory program. The recalibrational theory of anger is a computational evolutionary model, a proposal expanded by Sell that maintains that the function of this emotion is precisely to socially recalibrate individuals who are not taken into account or not sufficiently.

So that we understand each other: anger would serve so that those individuals who are being excluded from their group and rights are being underestimated, impose themselves, mobilize to avoid continuing to be trampled. The anger causes them to take action.

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What is anger according to this model?

In the recalibrational theory of anger, it is based on the idea that this emotion is as universal as the others. Anger appears spontaneously during childhood and is manifested in a more or less similar way from culture to culture. It is something that is a product of our biology, with a neurobiological substrate behind it that has been shaped through years and years of evolution.

Starting from this conceptualization, the hypothesis is raised that this emotion has been evolving in our species, mainly focused on functioning in contexts of negotiation and conflict. His appearance would be to make the angry person mobilize, in such a way as to tip the balance of interests and benefits in a conflict situation. The angrier you are, the more you make your rights prevail over others and the more benefits you get from it all.

utility of anger
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rage tactics

The recalibrational theory of anger maintains that a computationally complex cognitive system has been organized around this human emotion that, as we have mentioned, evolved focused on situations of conflict and negotiation.

When we feel anger we exhibit certain facial expressions, an altered tone of voice, we use defensive and offensive verbal arguments (for example, insults) and, of course, we can carry out physical assaults. All these cognitive and physiological actions they are intended to ensure that negotiation in the course of a conflict ends up benefiting us.

The two tactics that anger causes us to try in conflict situations are:

1. Inflict Costs and Retain Benefits

One of the tactics we apply when we feel angry is to inflict costs and withhold benefits. In other words, when we feel angry we are more likely to hurt other people. in order to intimidate them or respond aggressively to the offensives they have made us first.

This emotion also makes us defend ourselves, protecting those things that we want to keep, be it psychologically, socially or physically. Individuals with better capacities to inflict costs, that is, to do harm, are socially perceived as stronger.

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2. grant benefits

The other tactic related to anger does not manifest when we are immersed in this emotion, but when another individual is angry.

Human beings tend to give more benefits to people who are aggressive, since it is interpreted that they are more capable of defending their interests. The most angry people are also seen as people who are better not to be angry, which is why one is more likely to grant the benefits one seeks.

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Anger, well-being and negotiation

In all gregarious species, the actions carried out by one of its individuals end up affecting the well-being of the others, for better or for worse. According to the recalibrational theory, when the anger program detects that other individuals in the reference group are not putting enough weight on one's well-being, anger is triggered.

According to the assumptions of the recalibrational theory of anger, individuals with better abilities to inflict costs (harms) and retain benefits and who, consequently, are also more likely to gain advantages over others, are the ones who tend to get angry with more ease. Either because it is in their genetic code or because they have learned that getting angry obtains certain benefits, their state of mind tends towards irascibility, seeing that it works for them.

In turn, from an evolutionary perspective this would have two reasons for being. The first would be that their greater ability to withdraw benefits or inflict costs translates into greater leverage in negotiating conflicts of interest. This means that they are more likely to be successful with their anger compared to those with less influence.

The second reason is that their greater influence makes them expect that others will care more about their well-being. The higher the well-being compensation ratio that a subject expects from others, the greater the set of well-being compensations that the anger system will process as unacceptable. In other words, when one expects others to pay attention to him or her, the shorter her fuse will be in the face of social situations that she perceives as an attack on her individual desires.

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