Men know how to strategically piss off their opponents

Anger has long been associated with competitive situations—that’s why hockey has a penalty box, soccer has red cards, and basketball has flagrant fouls. A new study in PNAS delved into this relationship and found that anger has a complicated effect in competitions, sometimes boosting performance and other times making it worse. What’s more, the results suggest that men actually use anger strategically to get the better of their opponents. This strategy is called the Materazzi effect, after the Italian soccer player Marco Materazzi, who angered rival Zinedine Zidane enough to get him ejected from the World Cup final in 2006.

The Materazzi effect earns its name.

To examine the competitive consequences of anger, the researchers recruited some of the most outwardly competitive people out there: college men. They randomly paired up 260 participants and assigned each pair to play one of two games.

Strong man

The first game was a test of strength. The two players faced off over two rounds to see which had a stronger grip as measured by a hand dynamometer. After the first round, one player—called the “decision maker”—was given a chance to anger the other: he could assign his opponent to do between zero and twenty minutes of what the researchers called “boring administrative tasks” once the game was over. The other player was notified of the decision maker’s choice before the second round of the game.

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via Ars Technica


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