Women and African Americans are less influential when they express anger during group decision-making
During negotiations, expressing anger decreases influence for women and African Americans but does not decrease the influence of white men.
For many people, anger can be a powerful negotiating tool. However, for certain marginalized communities, the expression of harm does not help, but rather harms and detracts from their ability to advance their arguments. According to the “emotion stereotypes” model, women and African Americans who confirm or violate stereotypes of their group (such as that women are “emotional” and African Americans are “angry”) may be at risk of losing persuasive influence in group settings. Alternatively, according to the “justification suppression” model of prejudice, opponents in a negotiation may use a woman or African America’s “anger” or “emotionality” as a reason to discredit that person, without directly citing sexist or racist justifications.
In this study, researchers conducted the first experimental test of whether expressions of anger indeed detract from women and African Americans’ influence on group decision-making. After assessing gender- and race-based stereotypes about emotionality in the first study, the authors turned to the stereotypes’ implications. The authors predicted that the gender and race of who expressed emotion would trump what was expressed, in determining whether anger is a useful persuasion strategy in group deliberations.
Expressing anger decreased influence for women and African Americans, but did not decrease the influence of White men.
- Expressing anger confirmed stereotypes about African American men and women, but violated stereotypes about White women.
- Expressing fear confirmed stereotypes about White women, but violated stereotypes about White men and African American men and women.
- Expressing anger or fear decreased influence for women.
- Women who expressed anger were perceived as more emotional, which significantly decreased their perceived influence (2.33 on a 5-point scale), compared to women who expressed identical arguments without emotion (2.78). However, men who expressed anger did not experience a decrease in their perceived influence (2.78), compared to men who expressed identical arguments without emotion (2.60).
- Women who expressed fear were perceived as more emotional, which significantly decreased their perceived influence (2.30), compared to women who expressed identical arguments without emotion (2.78). However, men who expressed fear did not experience a decrease in their perceived influence (2.94), compared to men who expressed identical arguments without emotion (2.60).
- Overall, participants perceived male negotiators as significantly more influential than female (2.77 vs. 2.46)
- Expressing anger decreased influence for African Americans.
- African Americans who expressed anger were perceived as more emotional, which significantly decreased their perceived influence (2.34), compared to African Americans who expressed identical arguments without emotion (2.80). However, White people who expressed anger did not experience a decrease in their perceived influence (2.60), compared to White people who expressed identical arguments without emotion (2.48).
- Regardless of whether they expressed anger, African American negotiators were perceived as significantly more emotional than White negotiators (Level of perceived emotionality of African Americans not expressing emotion: 2.53 vs. that of Whites not expressing emotion: 2.38. Level of perceived emotionality of African Americans expressing anger: 4.48 vs. that of Whites expressing anger: 4.02).
- The finding that women and African Americans are less influential when they express anger or fear during group decision-making is better explained by the “justification of prejudice” model than the “emotion stereotypes” model.
- Gender and race did not affect perceptions of holdouts’ general emotionality and men were not perceived as less influential when they expressed a nonstereotypical emotion like fear. Rather, perceived emotionality led to decreased influence for women and African Americans, but not White men – perhaps because it provided a gender- and race-neutral excuse to discredit them during group discussion.
Overall, the way in which anger disempowers women and African Americans in group decision-making has significant implications for society’s most important group decision-making processes, such as juries.
The first study used a within subjects design to test gender- and race-based emotion stereotypes. 289 undergraduates and adults participated (62% women, 3% African Americans), with 18 participants failing manipulation checks. Regardless of their own personal beliefs, participants were asked to report their awareness of emotional stereotypes about the anger and fear of White men, White women, Black men, and Black women, presented in a randomized order.
The second study used a 2 x 3 between-subjects design to assess the effect of expressing anger or fear on social influence during group decision making as a function of gender. 266 adults participated, with 210 passing manipulation checks (63% women, 7.1% Black). Participants were instructed to play the role of jurors by reviewing trial evidence and reaching consensus on a verdict with five other participants through computer-mediated deliberation. In reality, the five other participants were scripted to simulate online conversation with the participant. To start the deliberation process, participants chose a verdict. During the first round of discussion, four of the other jurors agreed with the participant’s verdict, but one “holdout” juror stood in opposition. Participants were randomly assigned male and female holdouts named JasonS and AliciaS. During the following rounds of discussion, the holdout expressed anger, fear, or no emotion. Finally, participants were asked to measure their co-jurors’ emotionality and influence.
The third study used a 2 x 2 between-subjects design to assess the effect of expressing anger on social influence during group decision making as a function of race. 236 undergraduates participated, with 157 passing manipulation checks (61% women, 8.9% Black). For the most part, this study followed the methodology of the second study, with a few adjustments. The holdout race was manipulated, presenting each participant with a male or female and White or African American holdout in their group named Logan, Jamal, Emily, or Lateisha who expressed either anger or no emotion during the discussion.