Angry People May Not Be as Smart as They Think

Summary: Researchers report those with trait anger, those who get angry as a disposition, are more likely to overestimate their intelligence level. Interestingly, researchers say, trait anger is linked to grandiose narcissism.

Source: University of Western Australia.

People who are quick to lose their temper are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence, a new study from The University of Western Australia and the University of Warsaw in Poland has found.

The investigation examined the role of trait-anger (people who get angry as a disposition) in the overestimation of cognitive ability in undergraduates from Warsaw, Poland.

The participants were asked to answer questions assessing their trait-anger, stability, narcissism, and how they would rate their intelligence on a 25-point scale, before taking an objective intelligence test.

UWA Senior Lecturer Gilles Gignac, co-author of the paper with Professor Marcin Zajenkowski from the University of Warsaw, said the study found an interesting relationship between those with a clear tendency to become annoyed at things, big and small, and their perception of their own intelligence.

“Trait anger, in some cases, may be a consequence of less emotional stability, such as anxiety,” Professor Gignac said.

“However, for others, there is no anxiety fuelling the frustration, nastiness, and angry outbursts. Instead, for them, it looks like it may be narcissism. Consequently, when you ask this type of trait-angry person to rate their own intelligence, they tend to overestimate it.”

The results of the newly published study answer important questions about the dynamics between trait-anger, emotional stability, and narcissism. By understanding more about how trait-anger functions, it will allow clinicians and members of the general public to deal with it better.

The study also leads into some important speculations that could be examined in future research.

angry man

“A narcissist, especially what we call the grandiose narcissist, has, as a defining characteristic, an inflated positive self-image,” Professor Gignac said.

“So, it’s not surprising to see a link between narcissism and the overestimation of one’s intelligence.

“The interesting element is that trait-anger appears to be involved in this process. It may be speculated that, for many grandiose narcissists, trait-anger develops over time, as they begin to gain some awareness of the difference between how important and good they think they are versus the reality of what they can do and what they have accomplished.”


Source: Jess Reid – University of Western Australia
Publisher: Organized by
Image Source: image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Why do angry people overestimate their intelligence? Neuroticism as a suppressor of the association between Trait-Anger and subjectively assessed intelligence” by Marcin Zajenkowski, and Gilles E.Gignac in Intelligence Published July 21 2018.

University of Western Australia”Angry People May Not Be as Smart as They Think.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 13 August 2018.


Why do angry people overestimate their intelligence? Neuroticism as a suppressor of the association between Trait-Anger and subjectively assessed intelligence

Trait-Anger and Neuroticism are substantially inter-correlated positively. However, there is some theoretical and empirical research that supports the notion that Trait-Anger and Neuroticism are influenced by several processes differentially. For instance, Trait-Anger is linked to optimistic bias, increased sense of control, approach motivation and high Narcissism. In contrast, Neuroticism correlates with pessimism, low sense of control, withdrawal motivation and low Narcissism. Building on these previous findings, we hypothesized that Trait-Anger and Neuroticism would be positively and negatively, respectively, associated with subjectively assessed intelligence (SAI). Furthermore, we expected that these two traits would act as mutual suppressors in predicting SAI. The results of two studies (ns = 303 and 225) supported our hypotheses. Trait-Anger was positively and Neuroticism negatively related to SAI, even after controlling for objective intelligence. These results are consistent with previous research which suggests that SAI is more substantially associated with personality than objective intelligence. Additionally, in study 2, we found that Narcissism mediated (partially) the relationship between Trait-Anger and SAI. In the discussion, we suggest that there might be two faces of Trait-Anger: one related to anxiety and one to overconfidence. Finally, a potential role of intelligence positive illusions in Trait-Anger is proposed.