Women and African Americans are less influential when they express anger during group decision making
Expressing anger can signal that someone is certain and competent, thereby increasing their social influence—but does this strategy work for everyone? After assessing gender- and race-based emotion stereotypes (Study 1), we assessed the effect of expressing anger on social influence during group decision making as a function of gender (Studies 2–3) and race (Study 3). Participants took part in a computerized mock jury decision-making task, during which they read scripted comments ostensibly from other jurors. A “holdout” juror always disagreed with the participant and four other confederate group members. We predicted that the contextual factor of who expressed emotion would trump what was expressed in determining whether anger is a useful persuasion strategy. People perceived all holdouts expressing anger as more emotional than holdouts who expressed identical arguments without anger. Yet holdouts who expressed anger (versus no anger) were less effective and influential when they were female (but not male, Study 2) or Black (but not White, Study 3)—despite having expressed identical arguments and anger. Although anger expression made participants perceive the holdouts as more emotional regardless of race and gender, being perceived as more emotional was selectively used to discredit women and African Americans. These diverging consequences of anger expression have implications for societally important group decisions, including life-and-death decisions made by juries.