Back to the basics: how feelings of anger affect cooperation

Daphna Motro, Tamar Kugler, Terry Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: The authors propose that angry individuals are much more likely to consider the emotional state of their partner than are neutral individuals. They then apply a lay theory dictating that anger decreases cooperation and react accordingly by lowering their own level of cooperation. Design/methodology/approach: The authors report four experiments involving different samples, manipulations, payment schemes and interfaces. The methodological approach was to capitalize on the positives of experimental research (e.g. establishing causality) while also trying to conceptually replicate the findings in different settings. Findings: The authors found evidence for a lay theory (i.e. expectation) that anger decreases cooperation, but that actual cooperation was lowest when angry individuals were paired with other angry individuals, supporting the hypotheses. Research limitations/implications: Anger can spill over from unrelated contexts to affect cooperation, and incidental anger by itself is not enough to decrease cooperation. However, the findings are limited to anger and cannot necessarily be used to understand the effects of other emotions. Practical implications: Before entering into a context that requires cooperation, such as a negotiation, be wary of the emotional state of both yourself and of your partner. This paper suggests that only if both parties are angry, then the likelihood of cooperation is low. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, they are the first researchers to address the question of how incidental anger affects single-round cooperation. By going back to the basics, the authors believe that the findings fill a gap in existing research and offer a building block for future research on anger and cooperation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-546
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016


  • Anger
  • Cooperation
  • Lay theories
  • Public goods game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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