Evaluating Cognitive Broadening as a Tool for Anger Reduction

Summerell, E. (UNSW Sydney), Harmon-Jones, C. (UNSW Sydney), Kelley, N. J., (Northwestern University), Peterson, C. K. (Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System), Krstanoska-Blazeska, K., (UNSW Sydney), Harmon-Jones, E., (UNSW Sydney)

Both anger and aggression are associated with significant adverse consequences for both individuals and wider society. However, effective evidence-based methods for the reduction of anger and aggression are limited and not well understood. Past research has shown that manipulations to broaden cognitive scope reduce responses to appetitive positive affective stimuli and disgusting stimuli, suggesting cognitive broadening may reduce motivational intensity. Based on this research, we predicted that cognitive broadening would also reduce anger, an approach-motivated negative emotion. Seven studies examined the effect of cognitive broadening on reported trait anger, state anger, attitudes toward anger, attributions of anger to ambiguous pictures, and accessibility of aggressive words. Results from individual studies provided mixed support for the predictions made. However, a mini meta-analysis suggested that cognitive broadening leads to a small but statistically significant reduction in trait anger/aggression and attitudes toward anger. These results suggest that broad cognitive scope reduces anger-related responses. Discussion will focus on potential explanations and interpretations of these findings, and their importance for future research.; Twitter: @liz_summerell

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