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Anger Traits Essay, Research Paper
One of the most important ways we communicate emotions is through our facial
expressions. Understanding these nonverbal cues is essential for both interacting and surviving
any social encounter. Have you ever discussed an issue with someone whose nonverbal
expression betrayed their verbal communication? For example a wife who says she loves her
husband, while shaking her head side to side and frowning. In Mark Knapp and Judith Hall’s
book Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction, the authors describe six universal
emotional states(Knapp Hall 1997). These six states are surprise, fear, disgust, anger,
happiness, and sadness. Of the six, my observation will focus on anger. Why is anger
important? A poor understanding of anger can result in pain, loss, destruction, or even death to
an unaware observer. Predicting facial anger is possible through recognizing its nonverbal
characteristics. Don’t most people tell you when their mad? “No always” says author Bernice
Kanner in her article Turning the other cheek. Kanner claims, “only twenty-three percent of
people say they openly express their anger” and that “twenty-three percent of adults have hit
someone in a angry rage”(Kanner 1998). Besides recognizing the warnings of others, it is
equally important to control your own nonverbal expressions. In today’s society, people are
quick to anger. Have you ever been assaulted for accidently giving someone the “wrong look”?
Whether based on hormones or culture, men and women tend to express their emotions
differently. “A wide range of gender differences exists in nonverbal communication” states
author Judi Brownell in her article, The gender gap(Brownell 1993). The purpose of my
observation is to uncover these differences, if any, between men and women’s facial display of
anger. I will begin my analysis with a discussion of anger’s facial traits and a review of two
anger related articles.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Anger can be recognized by six commonly observed facial expressions. What should we
look for in an angry person? Nonverbal communication authorities Knapp and Hall describe six
anger variables. The subject’s eyebrows giveaway of his or her emotional state. A angry person
will have his or her eyebrows pulled lower or drawn together. The space between the eyebrows
is another indicator of anger. Creased lines between the eyebrows or a “hard stare” of the eyes
may express anger(Knapp Hall 1997). Moving further down the face, observe the subject’s nose
and lips. Tightly pressed lips or flared nostrils may indicate an “angry” individual. These six
facial expressions will be used as my criteria for evaluating angry males and females. People’s
faces are like a map, by reading them correctly we can expect a safer and smoother journey
throughout our social interactions.
“Americans seem eager to lose their temper” says author Bernice Kanner(Kanner 1998).
Her article, Turning the other cheek, focuses on the rise of angry workers in cooperate America.
The article supports my observation by emphasizing the importance of recognizing nonverbal
anger. Anger can determine our verbal and nonverbal communication. For instance, Kanner
states, “an angry confrontation can sever communication or result in long-term alienation”
(Kanner 1998). Kanner claims that before a physical confrontation results, the angry individual
will warn the victim with facial expressions. Her descriptions of facial anger correlate with
authors Knapp and Hall’s own illustrations. For example, she claims an angry employee may
“glare” at another worker or “lower their eyebrows” before a confrontation results. She believes
it is the responsibility of supervisors to both recognize and react to these nonverbal cues.
Kanner suggests several solutions to damper anger. These include observing the employee
interactions with co-workers, routinely interviewing employees, discussing the problem with
both angry parties, and providing opportunity to release stress. She offers the solution of
encouraging angry employees to file complains, and stresses the importance of reacting to these
complains in a fair and timely manner.
Author Judi Brownell’s article The gender gap, focuses on the differences between men
and women’s nonverbal communication. “Individuals send messages through their use of facial
expressions” says Brownell(Brownell 1993). The notion “you cannot not communicate” is
supported by the fact that our facial expressions convey nonverbal messages. For example when
a difficult assignment is given, overwhelmed students may be verbally silent but still convey
angry messages with lowered eyebrows or gruesome frowns. “The difference between men and
women’s nonverbal communication is striking” claims Brownell. For instance, women use
much more eye contact than men when communicating. Besides eye contact, Brownell point
out, “women use more facial expression and are better at conveying and interpreting
emotions(Brownell 1993).” She goes on to describe how women tend to smile more frequently
and are more attracted to others who smile. But will the female subjects in my own anger
observation adhere to Brownell’s conclusion of emotionally expressive women? I should point
out that men are quicker to react with anger than women. Men are also involved in more anger
related situations. For example author Bernice Kanner’s says, “statistically males engage in
more fights, murders, and suicides than females”(Kanner 1998). Will this seemingly
“aggressive” nature of males, as posed by Kanner, result in more observable examples facial of
anger? Or will Brownell’s statement that, “women are better at conveying emotion” determine
I believe that females are emotionally more expressive than males. To nullify my
hypothesis, I do not expect men to show abundant examples of observable facial anger. As a
result, female should display more observable traits of facial anger. My hypothesis is supported
by Judi Brownell’s statement, “women use more facial expressions than men”(Brownell 1993).
My own experiences strengthen my hypothesis. For example, when my girlfriend is sad she will
exaggerate this emotions by crying, frowning, hiding her face, or a combination of all three. On
the other hand, a sad male will typically hide his emotions or display them in private. In
American culture, displaying emotions is commonly recognized as a sign of weakness. This
norm focuses on a male’s perspective. Our emotional expressions are a learned behavior. For
instance I have never seen my father nor my grandfather cry. However, I have observed my
sister and mother crying. As a youth, whenever I cried I was taunted with such terms as
“crybaby” or “wussie”. Such negative connotations, taught me, my father, and my grandfather
to hide our emotional expressions. Although males have learned to “hide” their outer emotions,
I assume that inner emotions are present. What about author Bernice Kanner, who claims that
males are statistically more involved in anger related incidents? Although males are more likely
to resort to violence, her statement fails to account for the fact that angry emotions will not
always result in violent situations. In other words, even though men are statistically more
violent, women may show more signs of anger. This may be a self-defense mechanism for
women. For example, by displaying the trait of anger women’s message may be interpreted and
a confrontation avoided.
This observation was based on six facial traits of anger. These six traits include, lowered
eyebrows, drawn together eyebrows, creased lines between eyebrows, hard stare, pressed lips,
and flared nostrils. Each of these traits were prescribed, by Knapp and Hall, as means of
interpreting the nonverbal emotion of anger(Knapp Hall 1997). Six additional traits were
included to contrasted the suggested traits. For example raised eyebrows, instead of lowered or
a blank stare, as opposed to a hard stare. The data was compiled using an inverted scale of
measurement. A mean number ranging between one and two was used to analyze a trait’s
observed appearance, or lack there of. The lower the trait’s mean number, the more observed
the trait. For example, a hard stare with a mean of 1.3 would suggest a commonly observed trait.
Likewise, the higher the mean number the less observed. For example, a hard stare mean of 1.7
would indicate that the particular trait was not commonly observed in all subjects. Finally, a
mean number of 1.0 shows that the trait was observed in all subjects, while a mean of 2.0
represents a absence of the trait. Twelve subjects participated in the observation. These
subjects included six females and six males. The observation took place at the observer’s
residence. The observation was conducted by individually requesting, “show me your angriest
face”. Loud music was intentionally blared behind the subject’s ears. This was done to create
an atmosphere of hostility, thereby encouraging “real” examples of anger. Traits were recorded
by comparing Knapp and Hall’s suggested facial traits, and the additional traits to the subject’s
own facial expressions.
The results supported and contrasted my hypothesis of females dominating facial
expressions. Lowered eyebrows, a common trait of anger, had a mean of 1.1 for men and a
mean of 1.0 for females. Raised eyebrows, not commonly recognized as anger, had a mean of
1.8 for men as compared to 2.0 for women. Eyebrows drawn together resulted in a mean of 1.0
for men and 1.3 for women. Eyebrows drawn apart, uncharacteristic of anger, possessed a mean
of 2.0 for men and 1.6 for women. A ventricle line between the eyebrows resulted in a mean of
1.1 for men as compared to 1.5 for women. Females without a ventricle line had a mean of 1.8,
while males had a mean of 1.5. Angry males with lips pressed together had a mean of 1.6, while
females’s mean was 1.0. Another uncommon anger trait was lips held apart. This produced a
mean of 1.3 for males and a mean of 2.0 for females. The anger trait “fixed stare” recorded a
mean of 1.5 for males, compared to 1.1 for females. A “blank stare” generated a mean 1.5 for
males and 1.8 for females. “Flared nostrils” recorded a slight discrepancy. Male’s mean was
1.6, while female’s mean was 1.3. Finally, the non-anger attribute “relaxed nostrils” produced a
mean of 1.3 for males and a higher mean of 1.6 for females.
The results justified my hypothesis. I hypothesized that females would be more facially
expressive than males. I nullified my hypothesis, claiming men would show little emotional
display. The null statement was contradicted by the results. Men did show numerous examples
of anger, yet failed to receive a significantly higher mean than females. For example, males
were frequently observed displaying the following traits. These include eyebrows raised,
eyebrows together, vertical line, lips apart, blank stare, and relaxed nostrils. A common bond
was forged between five of these six variables. These five traits were additional traits, not
Knapp and Hall’s six recommended traits of anger(Knapp Hall 1997). Brownell’s claim of
“emotionally expressive women” was also justified by the results(Brownell 1993). Women
produced a significantly higher mean than men for three the six recommended traits. These
traits include lips together, fixed stare, and flared nostrils. Lips together was observed in all six
women or 100 percent, compared with only two males or 33 percent. Another significant
variable was the fixed stare. Women displayed more facial expressions in this category with five
out of six, or 83 percent of women. On the other hand, only three of the six, or 50 percent of
men displayed fixed stare. The third significant variable was flared nostrils. Once again,
women showed significantly greater examples than men. Four out of six, or 66 percent of
women displayed flared nostrils, compared with only 33 percent of males. The additional
variable of “held apart eyebrows” disputed my hypothesis. Held apart eyebrows is rarely
observed in angry individuals. However, in my own observation women frequently held their
eyebrows apart when asked to display anger. This variable was apparent in 33 percent of the
women, but absent from the men. Not all variables produced a gender specific variance. For
example, lowered eyebrows, raised eyebrows, non-vertical line, and blank stare were equally
observed in both males and females.
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