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Anger is Good for Us When We Cheat

We've all been encouraged to avoid anger. But now a new study says it can help us.

We all know, of course, that it can motivate us. But the study says that anger can also be a powerful motivator for people to achieve challenging goals in their lives, according to research published by the American Psychological Association, as reported at

“People often believe that a state of happiness is ideal, and the majority of people consider the pursuit of happiness a major life goal,” lead author Heather Lench, PhD, a professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Texas A&M University, tells the newsite.

For most of my life, I've been told to avoid anger. But it's real and to suppress it can also harm us.

Research has suggested that all emotions, good or bad, are reactions to events within a person’s environment and serve the purpose of alerting that person to important situations that require actions, according to Lench.

For example, she says, "Sadness may indicate that a person needs to seek help or emotional support, while anger may suggest they need to take action to overcome an obstacle."

The study showed that anger was associated with increased scores or shorter response times. "In one experiment, it also increased cheating to achieve a better outcome."

The results suggest that emotions that are often considered negative – such as anger, boredom or sadness – can be useful, according to Lench.

Now, anger as a motivator can only be useful when facing a challenging situation, she notes. When the goals are easier, as presented in an experiment that used a ski-jump video game to make people angry when they didn't win, not so much.

“People often prefer to use positive emotions as tools more than negative and tend to see negative emotions as undesirable and maladaptive,” she says at “Our research adds to the growing evidence that a mix of positive and negative emotions promotes well-being, and that using negative emotions as tools can be particularly effective in some situations.”

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