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20.1: Angry Moods

Skills to Develop

angry moods.jpg 

Research conducted by

Emily Zitek and Mindy Ater, Rice University

Case study prepared by

Emily Zitek


People have different ways of improving their mood when angry. We have all seen people punch a wall when mad, and indeed, previous research has indicated that some people aggress to improve their mood (Bushman, Baumeister & Phillips, \(2001\)). What do the top athletes do when angry? Striegel (\(1994\)) found that anger often hurts an athlete’s performance and that capability to control anger is what makes good athletes even better. This study adds to the past research and examines the difference in ways to improve an angry mood by gender and sports participation.

The participants were \(78\) Rice University undergraduates, ages \(17\) to \(23\). Of these \(78\) participants, \(48\) were females and \(30\) were males and \(25\) were athletes and \(53\) were non-athletes. People who did not play a varsity or club sport were considered non-athletes. The \(13\) contact sport athletes played soccer, football, rugby, or basketball, and the \(12\) non-contact sport athletes participated in Ultimate Frisbee, baseball, tennis, swimming, volleyball, crew, or dance.

The participants were asked to respond to a questionnaire that asked about what they do to improve their mood when angry or furious. Then they filled out a demographics questionnaire.


This study used the most recent version of the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI-2) (Spielberger, Sydeman, Owen & Marsh, 1999) which was modified to create an Angry Mood Improvement Inventory similar to that created by Bushman et al. (2001).

Questions to Answer

Do athletes and non-athletes deal with anger in the same way? Are there any gender differences? Specifically, are men more likely to believe that aggressive behavior can improve an angry mood?

Design Issues

This study has an extremely unbalanced design. There were a lot more non-athletes than athletes in the sample. In the future, more athletes should be used. This study originally wanted to look at contact and non-contact athletes separately, but there were not enough participants to do this. Future studies could look at this.

Descriptions of Variables

Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Description of Variables. Note that the description of the items comes from Spielberger et al. (1999)

Variable Description
Sports 1 = athletes, 2 = non-athletes
Gender 1 = males, 2 = females
Anger-Out (AO) high scores demonstrate that people deal with anger by expressing it in a verbally or physically aggressive fashion
high scores demonstrate that people experience anger but do not express it (suppress their anger)
Control-Out (CO) high scores demonstrate that people control the outward expression of angry feelings
Control-In (CI) high scores demonstrate that people control angry feelings by calming down or cooling off
Expression (AE) index of general anger expression:
(Anger-Out) + (Anger-In) - (Control-Out) - (Control-In) + 48

Data files



  • Bushman, B.J., Baumeister, R.F. & Phillips, C.M. (2001). Do people aggress to improve their mood? Catharsis beliefs, affect regulation opportunity, and aggressive responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 17-32.
  • Spielberger, C. D., Sydeman, S. J., Owen, A. E., Marsh, B. J. (1999). Measuring anxiety and anger with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI). In M. E. Maruish (Ed.), The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcomes assessment (2nd ed., pp. 993-1021). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Striegel, D. (1994). Anger in tennis: Part 2. Effects of anger on performance, coping with anger, and using anger to one’s benefit. Journal of Performance Psychology, 2, 56-92.


  • Online Statistics Education: A Multimedia Course of Study ( Project Leader: David M. Lane, Rice University.