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Study: Being an angry white male is key to being influential
by Brooks Hays
Tempe, Ariz. (UPI) Oct 26, 2015

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

In America, being an angry white man is, however unfortunately, a national pastime. Being an angry woman is less celebrated.

This may sound hyperbolic, but a new study suggests these ugly truths are readily apparent in the deliberations of juries.

When psychologists at Arizona State University simulated jury deliberations, they found males who expressed opinions with anger were more likely to dissuade their peers, or at least cause others to question their own opinions. Women, on the other hand, saw their influence diminished when they allowed anger into their arguments.

Study participants were entered into a fictional jury pool, each registering an initial decision of guilty or not guilty. Fictional jurors then read scripted arguments for and against conviction, some employing anger and some not.

Along the way, participants were surveyed on their experience and reaction to the arguments of their peers. The results showed participants were more likely to second-guess or change their initial opinion in response to angry males.

"Participants confidence in their own verdict dropped significantly after male holdouts expressed anger," researchers wrote in the paper on the experiments, published recently in the journal Law and Human Behavior.

"Participants became significantly more confident in their original verdicts after female holdouts expressed anger, even though they were expressing the exact same opinion and emotion as the male holdouts."

Jury pools have grown more heterogeneous with legal system reforms, but the latest evidence suggests that influence among jurors is still yielded unevenly.

"Our study suggests that women might not have the same opportunity for influence when they express anger," study co-author Jessica Salerno, a psychologist at Arizona State, said in a press release. "We found that when men expressed their opinion with anger, participants rated them as more credible, which made them less confident in their own opinion. But when women expressed identical arguments and anger, they were perceived as more emotional, which made participants more confident in their own opinion."

"This effect can't be explained by women communicating anger less effectively or looking different when they express anger because we took all of that out of the equation," Salerno added. "The effect was due to participants thinking that anger came from a man versus a woman."

Salerno says the study not only reveals society's thriving gender biases, but should be a sobering lesson to women looking to exert influence on any and all sorts of decision making.

"The results from this study suggest that if female political candidates express their opinion with anger, during the debates for example, it is possible that they might have less influence than if they do not express anger," Salerno said. "This might explain why Bernie Sanders is able to freely express his passion and conviction, while Hilary Clinton clearly regulates her emotions more carefully."

Recently, Clinton insinuated that Sanders was being sexist when he suggested politicians might arrive at a gun policy compromise if they stopped yelling at each other. Meanwhile, Sanders continues to attract record crowds.

Being an influential black juror, male or female, isn't easy either. Research suggests black jurors are more heavily scrutinized and more frequently excluded from jury pools.

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