Predictably Angry: Facial Cues Provide a Credible Signal of Destructive Behavior

42 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2014 Last revised: 23 Nov 2016

See all articles by Boris van Leeuwen

Boris van Leeuwen

Tilburg University - Department of Economics

Charles N. Noussair

Tilburg University

T. J. S. Offerman

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB); Tinbergen Institute

S. Suetens

Tilburg University - Department of Economics; Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research (TIBER); Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Matthijs van Veelen

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE); Tinbergen Institute

Jeroen van de Ven

University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

Date Written: November 23, 2016

Abstract

Evolutionary explanations of anger as a commitment device hinge on two key assumptions. The first is that it is predictable, ex-ante, whether someone will get angry when feeling that they have been badly treated. The second is that anger is associated with destructive behavior. We test the validity of these two assumptions. We collected photos of responders in an ultimatum game before they were informed about the game that they would be playing, and filmed responders with webcams during play. We then showed pairs of photos, consisting of one responder who rejected, and one responder who accepted, a low offer, to an independent group of observers. We find that observers are better than chance at detecting who rejected the low offer; they do 10% better than random guessing would. We also find that anger at receiving a low offer is associated with rejection.

Keywords: anger, commitment, facial cues, ultimatum game, laboratory experiment.

JEL Classification: C90

Suggested Citation

van Leeuwen, Boris and Noussair, Charles N. and Offerman, T. J. S. and Suetens, S. and van Veelen, Matthijs and van de Ven, Jeroen, Predictably Angry: Facial Cues Provide a Credible Signal of Destructive Behavior (November 23, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535057 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2535057

Boris Van Leeuwen (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Charles N. Noussair

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC Noord-Brabant 5000 LE
Netherlands

T. J. S. Offerman

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

S. Suetens

Tilburg University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research (TIBER) ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC) ( email )

Warandelaan 2
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Matthijs Van Veelen

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, North Holland 1018 WB
Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Gustav Mahlerplein 117
Amsterdam, 1082 MS
Netherlands

Jeroen Van de Ven

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

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