In college, I studied abroad in Tartu, Estonia, and Fez, Morocco. After countless hours of walking and people-watching, I came to appreciate the starkly different emotional landscapes in both countries, especially in the case of anger.

One night in Tartu, I saw two men arguing in a city park. They exchanged words for a few minutes, now and again raising their voices. All of a sudden, one man clenched his fists and held them up like a boxer, ready to fight. I didn’t realize the Estonians were truly angry until they nearly came to blows.

Two months later, while making my way through Fez’s crowded medina, I became vaguely aware of distressed voices behind me. Suddenly, two young men burst into the street. They screamed and lunged at each other, twirling down the street in a furious melee. Several bystanders pulled the men apart, and then everyone continued on their way, as if nothing had happened.

Is anger an innate human emotion, an evolutionarily hardwired part of our behavioral repertoire? Or is anger a subroutine of our cultural programming, acquired without awareness?

In the 1872 book The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin used technological advances of the day in photography and physiometry to undertake a scientific examination of the emotions, including anger.

Read more at Psychology Today

Published On: July 17, 2012


  • Darwin says:

    Why are you limiting your scope to that of human behavior? This current failing of evolutionary psychology does not take into account the behavioral and psychological continuity between species.

    I bet you my left nut that anger has been around longer than our genus.

  • Anthony L. says:

    You’re right to point out that evolutionary psychology tends to distinguish itself from phylogenetic approaches. The latter examine the extent to which biological design can be explained as a function of common descent, while evolutionary psychology tends to focus on the selection pressures that have prevailed during and are largely unique to the species in question. Importantly, this does not imply that evolutionary psychologists would therefore argue that anger has not been around “longer than our genus.” In any event, many evolutionary psychologists do in fact consider cross-species comparisons and explicitly encourage the comparative method.

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