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Problematic anger is a phenomenon that is highly relevant to a number of psychological disorders and health outcomes yet remains under-studied and is often misunderstood. Although the field has largely rejected the value of cathartic anger expression as therapeutic method to reduce anger and aggression, beliefs about the value of venting and expressing anger outwardly persist. Current conceptual models of problematic anger do not adequately address the role of anger expression in the maintenance and exacerbation of problematic anger. The present study seeks to examine the effects of anger expression behavior fading on anger symptoms and reactive aggression. The proposed project represents the first experimental study, to my knowledge, to examine the isolated effects of reducing anger expression on subsequent anger symptoms. Eighty undergraduate participants were recruited based on elevated trait anger as measured by the state-trait anger expression inventory subscale (STAXI-trait; Spielberger, 1999, trait ≥ 22). Eligible participants were randomly assigned to a two-week manipulation in which they were instructed to either: (1) fade anger expression behaviors, or (2) fade media-related behaviors (e.g., browsing social media feeds, view streaming video). Contrary to predictions, there were no effects of condition on mood, anger symptoms, or reactive aggression. Further, among individuals with greater depressive symptoms at baseline, the media behavior fading condition led to lower depressive symptoms at post compared to the anger behavior fading condition. Limitations and future directions are discussed.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Psychology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Jesse R. Cougle, Professor Directing Dissertation; Steven J. Tripodi, University Representative; Thomas E. Joiner, Committee Member; N. Brad Schmidt, Committee Member; E. Ashby Plant, Committee Member.
Florida State University
Smith, H. L. (2019). Biting Your Tongue: Experimental Effects of Reducing Anger Expression. Retrieved from https://purl.lib.fsu.edu/diginole/2020_Summer_Fall_Smith_fsu_0071E_15379