Anger Body Language Easier To Detect
Jenny Galvao

According to research carried out by Valentijn T. Visch of the Technical University of Delft and associates, individuals can detect the emotion of anger in bodily expressions to a higher degree of accuracy than they can with other basic emotions.

Specifically, when the arms are expressing anger, it’s easier for us to pick up on that compared to when the arms are expressing despair, fear, or joy. Our ability to see anger in all forms and expressions provides us with an evolutionary advantage; anger can be a dangerous emotion and it is beneficial for us to detect this as soon as possible so we can remove ourselves from an alarming situation.

“Recognition of anger is more robust to image impairment and body segmentation than recognition of other emotions. Our second hypothesis that arms expressing anger will be more robust to image impairment and better accurately recognized than arms expressing another emotion was validated as well,” the researchers state.

In this experiment, one study involved showing participants video recordings of actors demonstrating four different emotions (anger, joy, fear, and despair). There was another independent variable to this study, body segmentation, divided into the following 4 conditions: the original full (unsegmented) upper body, an isolate right hand, and isolated head, and the isolated trunk.

Participants rated the expressions on anger, joy, fear, and despair. They had to indicate how much of the fragment they had just observed expressed in each emotion.

The results of this study showed that the accurate anger recognition was significantly stronger than the accurate recognition of joy, fear, or despair. Another finding in relation to the second hypothesis posed by the researchers was that the recognition of anger was more accurately recognized in the arm expression than any of the other emotions.

For the next experiment, researchers hypothesized that “as anger recognition in whole body stimuli depends more on body movement with respect to facial cues than other emotions, the effect of face blurring should decrease anger recognition accuracy less than the recognition of the other emotions.”

As the results clearly display, we are very quick to find anger in faces/bodily expressions, even more so than with other basic emotions. Perhaps this is due to the fact that being able to zero in on anger could potentially be life saving, whereas zeroing in on joy doesn’t really provide you with any advantages in a life-threatening situation. Perhaps it’s also to our benefit that fear can’t quite be detected as easily; these differences could give you just enough time to run if you find yourself in a sticky situation!

Jenny Galvao_smallAbout the Author: Jenny Galvao is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph studying psychology.





Visch, Valentijn T.; Martijn B. Goudbeek; and Marcello Mortillaro. Robust anger: Recognition of deteriorated dynamic bodily emotion expressions. Journal of Cognition and Emotion. 2014. 28:5, 936-946. doi: