Angry People Think They’re Smarter Than They Actually Are

It seems that ill-tempered people might not be as smart as they think they are. A new study published online on July 21 in the journal Intelligence suggests that unlike other negative emotions, anger seems to make people overconfident about their intelligence.

Marcin Zajenkowski, study author and psychologist at the University of Warsaw in Poland, told PsyPost, “Anger differs significantly from other negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety or depression”.

Earlier research has revealed that anger is an unusual negative emotion as it’s often associated with positive traits, like optimism. But the relation between anger and perceived intelligence was unclear. Zajenkowski and his colleague supposed that angry people might be more prone to overestimate how smart they are.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers surveyed over 520 undergraduate students attending schools in Warsaw with questions to gauge how easily and how often the participants get angry. Then, the students took a survey to evaluate their own intelligence before taking an objective intelligence test.

The study found that in general, students with a higher tendency to get angry also overestimated their cognitive abilities. In contrast, the students who were more neurotic, a trait often linked with anger, commonly underestimated their intelligence. Neuroticism covers negative traits including irrational anxiety and overwhelming distress.

Possibly not unexpectedly, the researchers found that narcissism was a significant factor in how people judged how smart they were.

Zajenkowski told PsyPost that the more ill-tempered personalities were associated with “narcissistic illusions,”

It’s significant to note that while the study found that angry people have a tendency to to be more narcissistic and overestimate their brilliance, anger was not connected to actual intelligence level. And, even though the researchers found an association between the two traits, it’s yet unclear if there’s a cause and effect association between anger and overestimating intelligence. Further research is needed to explore that link.

The study didn’t investigate how anger affects perceived intelligence in the heat of the moment. The study focused on anger as a personality trait, but anger is frequently a temporary emotion. Additional research is needed to understand this complex emotion and its relations.

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