The outward expression of anger, the inward experience of anger and CVR: the role of vocal expression

J Behav Med. 1997 Feb;20(1):29-45. doi: 10.1023/a:1025535129121.


Two hypotheses were tested: (1) that only the outward expression of anger, not its mere experience, is associated with heightened cardiovascular reactivity; and (2) that the discussion of anger-arousing experiences in a mood incongruent speech style (soft and slow) attenuates the subjective experience of anger and its cardiovascular correlates. Each of 24 subjects participated in three experimental conditions: (1) Anger-out, in which previously experienced anger-arousing events were described loudly and quickly; (2) Anger-in, in which anger-arousing events were relived inwardly, in subject's imagination; and (3) mood-incongruent speech, in which anger-arousing events were described softly and slowly. Only the Anger-out condition was associated with high cardiovascular reactivity levels. The Anger-in and the mood-incongruent conditions were associated with near-zero and very low reactivity levels, respectively. Subjective anger ratings were highest in the Anger-out condition, moderate in the Anger-in condition, and lowest (not angry) in the mood-incongruent condition. All differences were significant. These findings suggest that the full-blown expression of anger, in all of its paraverbal intensity, is pathogenic and that the mere inner experience of anger is not.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / physiopathology*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anger / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control
  • Expressed Emotion / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Male
  • Psychological Theory