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Easy equals angry

21 June 2013

Rachel Atkinson

UCLan psychologist proves an easier life has made the modern man angry

Modern life has turned adults into petulant toddlers, according to research published by a University Central Lancashire (UCLan) psychologist.

Dr Sandi Mann, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, has concluded people may rage at the slightest inconveniences because the comforts of modern life have raised their expectations to the level of irrational toddlers.

While humans’ were once focused on having enough food and a roof over their head, modern Westerners have no concerns about their basic needs.

Comfortable lifestyles may have spoilt them and raised expectations to the point where anything short of perfect causes them to act like petulant children, said Dr Mann.

Questioning whether things that frustrate people actually threaten their survival may help “rein the anger in” and create more relaxed attitudes, the academic claimed.

“Part of the problem is that where we were once too preoccupied with keeping a roof over our heads to worry about whether a restaurant meal is lukewarm or which head of a company is getting paid what, now all our basic needs our met”

Dr Mann, whose work has been released in Reader’s Digest, said that anger was once crucial to survival but has since become aimed at trivial annoyances. Humans evolved to become angry in certain situations because the emotion motivates them to want things. For example, hunger makes people angry by raising their serotonin levels, prompting them to look for food.

Anger also played an important role in helping early humans live together in social groups, by warning individuals when their behaviour was upsetting others.

She said: “The red mist of rage helped our ancestors survive. If they’d been too laid back about others stealing their food or predators trying to kill them, they wouldn’t have taken sufficient preventive action.

“But nowadays, Britons rarely experience real body-weakening poverty or genuine life-threatening injustice or mortal danger.”

Because anger is still “hard-wired” into human brains without a real purpose it can “misfire”, she said, causing people to rage about inconsequential events. This could lead to violent overreactions, such as road-rage incidents.

“Now our expectations have risen, it could be argued that we’re spoilt: like toddlers, we expect everything to be perfect, and when it isn’t we stamp our feet.”

“Part of the problem is that where we were once too preoccupied with keeping a roof over our heads to worry about whether a restaurant meal is lukewarm or which head of a company is getting paid what, now all our basic needs our met,” Dr Mann added.

She argues that society is too ready to pander to the anger of the public. “For example, supermarkets who say they will open a new till if there’s someone in front of you are creating an anger trigger when they invariably can’t live up to this expectation at busy times.

“We Britons seem to fly into frenzied indignation at all manner of minor provocations; fashion chains that only go up to size 12, politicians who have made relatively insignificant errors, families with 10 kids.”

Recent surveys have found that 90 per cent of people become angered by call centres, while 50 per cent become so cross with their computers that they physically attack them.

Dr Mann added: “Now our expectations have risen, it could be argued that we’re spoilt: like toddlers, we expect everything to be perfect, and when it isn’t we stamp our feet.”