Fuel in the Fire - The Effects of Anger on Risky Decision Making

Jour Fixe talk by Keshun Zhang on May 31, 2017

Keshun Zhang is an Associated Fellow of the Zukunftskolleg affiliated with the Department of Psychology.

 Many social and economic interactions involve some form of risk, and thus these risk decisions we make define our lives. There is accumulating empirical evidence suggesting that anger can have a strong impact on normatively unrelated risk-taking, such as discrete risk or trust behaviors. However, the mechanisms by which anger influences risk-taking are still unclear. Keshun investigated the effects of anger on risk-taking behavior in three studies.

Study 1 focused on the impact of anger on lottery-based risk-taking, by investigating and comparing two separate student samples from Germany (N = 84) and China (N = 125). Results from Study 1 showed that anger made people more risk-taking in the lottery risk game. Study 2 investigated the effects of anger on person-based risk, here referred to as trust behavior (N = 330). Results revealed that anger drove women, but not men, to perceive smaller social distance, and consequently sent more money to their counterparts in a trust game than controls. Study 3 critically tested the causal role of perceived social distance on trust (N = 103). Results showed that women, but not men, sent more money to their counterparts in the low social distance condition than in the high social distance condition. Thus, results from three studies prove the effects of anger on risk-taking, while the mechanism by which anger influences person-based risk-taking seems different from the one by which anger influences lottery-based risk-taking.