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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.


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

the results?


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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