Effects of Alcohol, Personality, and Provocation on the Expression of Anger in Men: A Facial Coding Analysis


A. Zeichner, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-3013; Fax: 706-542-8048; E-mail: zeichner@egon.psy.uga.edu.


Background: Research has demonstrated that alcohol-related aggression is modulated by anger-based personality traits. However, it is unclear how anger, as a concomitant of aggression, is affected by an interaction among these variables. The present study evaluated the effects of alcohol, anger-based traits, and physical provocation on anger.

Methods: Participants were 136 male social drinkers who completed measures designed to assess trait anger and anger expression styles and were assigned to an alcohol or no-alcohol control beverage group. Participants engaged in a competitive reaction time task in which electric shocks were received from a fictitious opponent. Participants’ experience of anger was assessed unobtrusively via the Facial Action Coding System.

Results: Intoxicated participants displayed more facial expressions of anger than sober participants. Interactive effects between anger expression styles and beverage group also were detected in that, among intoxicated participants, a positive relationship between facial expressions of anger and the tendency to express anger outwardly was found after high, but not low, provocation. This relationship was not observed at either provocation level in the no-alcohol control group. Similarly, whereas participants’ tendency to control anger resulted in fewer facial expressions of anger by intoxicated participants, no such relationship was found among sober participants.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that alcohol intoxication facilitates the experience of anger after provocation and enhances the relationship between state anger and behavioral tendencies to control anger expression.