Anger is breaking out behind the scenes at X-Factor, according to reports. It seems that Cheryl Cole is cross with some of her acts boozing, while her competing judges are furious she went off to the USA in the week, leaving her acts without a mentor. But the chances are, as more anger surrounds the Geordie songstress the more appealing she will become. New research shows that strangely we are attracted by anger.
Psychologists at the University of Utrecht did a clver bit of research where they asked people to squeeze a grip when they were shown objects on a screen. The system measured the strength of their grip and they were told to squeeze harder if they wanted the object more. What the participants did not know was that prior to seeing each object they were imperceptibly shown a face. Sometimes the face exhibited anger. When the participants were shown an angry face they squeezed harder, indicating a greater desire for the associated object. In a second part of the research, a connection between anger and desire was also established. In other words, far from rejecting something when we face anger, we are attracted towards it – and importantly it increases our desire for an object associated with the source of the anger.
The researchers in Holland have explained their findings based on evolution – essentially, if someone else had food that they wanted to keep they would be angry with competitors for that sustenance. But because of the display of anger, in an attempt to protect their food supply, what these early humans were really showing was that what they were protecting was worth having…! Consequently, our brains have made the association between anger and desire.
Online you can see this working in several ways. When websites do not work effectively, we get angry yet strangely it increases our determination to make them work – even going as far as getting angry ourselves, yelling at the screen. But that’s a potential hazard for companies because our frustration can boil over and we give up on the site. As a result, it is a difficult balance to strike. Rather than making your visitors angry you should keep them calm and frustration-free. What this research points out is that if your web page or product is somehow associated with anger, then your visitors become more attracted to it.
So, for instance, let’s say you run a software website where your program helps people save time or use their computer more easily. Rather than showing happy people glad they have bought your product, pictures of angry people, annoyed with their PC are much more likely to gain sales. Similarly, if you operate a business consultancy, words and pictures that associate your company’s ideas with anger are likely to make you more attractive, according to this new research.
Sometimes, our brain works in what to our conscious thinking is counter-intuitive. But in reality, there is a clear reason why there is a survival advantage in being attracted to things associated with anger. Perhaps Cheryl Cole is much more astute than we might think. Perhaps she is surrounding herself with anger so we are more likely to vote for her acts. Looks like she could win again…!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+