Men are an­grier than women — and other myths about rage.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Me­dia and lit­er­a­ture fre­quently re­flect, and per­pet­u­ate, the be­lief that boys and men are “nat­u­rally” an­grier than girls and women — and that their anger is right­eous and vi­o­lent. A 2016 study ti­tled “What’s In a Face?” by Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts re­searchers found that most peo­ple are pre­dis­posed to as­so­ciate neg­a­tive and an­gry fa­cial ex­pres­sions with men and mas­culin­ity. Bi­ases that lead most of us to “see” anger in men’s faces also lead us to com­monly in­ter­pret women’s faces as fear­ful or sad. Think of the movie genre of male-led vengeance fan­tasies, from “A Time to Kill” to “Old­boy” to “In­glo­ri­ous Bas­terds”; Liam Nee­son feeds his fam­ily on this trope, be­cause fu­ri­ous re­venge is a dish best served male. Google “an­gry peo­ple” and wit­ness that more than 80 per­cent of the images are of men, mostly white men.

But re­search con­sis­tently shows that men are no more likely than women to be an­gry. In fact, women re­port feel­ing anger more fre­quently and in more sus­tained ways. In early 2016, for ex­am­ple, a na­tional sur­vey con­ducted by Esquire and NBC found that women re­ported con­sis­tently higher rates of anger. An­other, con­ducted by Elle mag­a­zine two years later, re­vealed the same pat­tern.

The myth of gen­dered anger be­gins with chil­dren as young as 3 or 4. A 2011 meta­anal­y­sis of re­search on chil­dren’s emo­tional ex­pres­sion found that adult bi­ases strongly in­flu­ence how we think about gen­der and anger: Adults are more likely to de­scribe in­fants they think are boys as ag­i­tated and dis­agree­able. Other stud­ies show that both moth­ers and fa­thers are more likely, when read­ing to their chil­dren, to as­so­ciate anger with male char­ac­ters and use words mak­ing those con­nec­tions.

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