Angry people are more likely to overestimate their intelligence, study finds

Angry people tend to think they’re smarter than they actually are, according to new psychology research in the journal Intelligence.

“In a recent project I examined the relationship between anger and various cognitive functions. I noticed from the literature review that anger differs significantly from other negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety or depression. Anger is more approach oriented and associated with optimistic risk perception and generally optimistic bias,” said study author Marcin Zajenkowski of the University of Warsaw.

“I was wondering whether people with high trait anger would manifest a bias in perception of their abilities and competence. Specifically, I tested whether high anger leads to positive intelligence illusion.”

In two studies, with 528 participants in total, the researchers found that people who confessed to having a quick temper tended to also overestimate their intelligence.

The participants completed a measure of their proneness to anger, rated their own intelligence on a 25 point scale, and then took intelligence tests.

“Individuals with high trait anger have a tendency to overestimate their abilities, i.e. thinking that they are smarter than they actually are. This part of anger is associated with narcissistic illusions,” Zajenkowski told PsyPost.

Though anger was associated with overestimating one’s intelligence, it was unrelated to one’s actual level of intelligence.

“Our study examined only trait anger, that is dispositional tendency to experience anger. However, future studies may explore whether temporary experience of state anger also leads to biased perception of their abilities,” Zajenkowski said.

The study, “Why do angry people overestimate their intelligence? Neuroticism as a suppressor of the association between Trait-Anger and subjectively assessed intelligence“, Marcin Zajenkowskia and Gilles E. Gignac.