“Don’t make me angry… you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”
Or maybe you would. According to a study at the University of Amsterdam, some people are actually creatively inspired by disapproval and acts of anger… a sort of intellectual S&M. The Incredible Hulk may have just been the wrong personality type.
Researchers asked study participants to fill out personality tests, which ascertained their “personal need for structure.” The tests then asked them to rate things like how accurate is the following statement: ‘I become uncomfortable when the rules in a situation are not clear.’
The subjects then watched a video, which required them to perform two creativity tests. In the first, they were given eight minutes to write down as many uses as they could come up with for a potato. In the second, they were given an unlimited amount of time to think of uses for a brick. (Use #1: Chuck potato and brick at experimenters for making us think of uses for potatoes and bricks.)
Some participants were instructed by an actor who showed no visible emotion, while others were instructed by an angry man who “frowned a lot, spoke with an angry and irritable tone of voice, clenched his fists, and looked stern.”
Results showed that the people who initially expressed a low need for structure (and are generally more open to new ways of thinking) were inspired by the angry man to produce not only more ideas, but more unique and varied ideas. This didn’t hold true for participants who had a high need for structure.
Why? Researchers believe that people who are highly structure oriented are less likely to consider the helpful parts of others’ anger, and more likely to just build a resentment.