Listing every event that can spark someone's anger may require a multi-volume encyclopedia. The list is simpler when the causes are grouped into two main categories: violating one's expectations and blocking one's goals. Here are a few examples: Someone gets in line at the express checkout with a wagonload of items; you're stood up by your date; someone yells at you for no apparent reason; your child refuses to clean up her room.
Mere incidents are not sufficient to cause anger, however, because anger is not an autonomic response. What happens is that we first consider whether anger is warranted in the given situation. In less than a second, we analyze all aspects of the event and decide if anger is called for. We also evaluate the offender's intent based on information we can collect. For example, if a driver cuts you off, your first reaction might be anger; but if you discover that the driver is headed for the hospital, you might respond differently. Age and gender also can play a role in how anger manifests itself. Studies show that a 1-year-old who throws temper tantrums can grow into a very pleasant 5-year-old. Women are more affected by their family and friends; men are more affected by strangers, things that don't work right and social issues.
Psychologists also say that anger may be partly based in memories: When something triggers recall of a past traumatic or anger-inducing event, it might cause anger in the here and now [source: American Psychological Association].
Recent research also shows that the brain -- and a person's diet -- can alter angry reactions and aggression. A study in September 2011 showed that the brain chemical serotonin affected regulation of behavior in people's brains, at least when it came to reacting angrily [source: Medical News Today]. When serotonin levels dipped, people were more likely to react angrily under stress. It seems that low serotonin causes a sort of weakened communication between the brain's amygdala and prefrontal cortex. The research shows that behaviors such as not eating could make a person more prone to react angrily in a given situation.
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