Anger an Invitation to Injurious Attack, Study Finds

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Does being angry put you at higher risk for getting injured?

In one way, yes–and it’s a way with great relevance for law enforcement.

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia studied some 2,500 patients in 3 ERs and about 1,500 unharmed residents selected from the community at large to see what relationship, if any, exists between anger and injury.

Surprisingly, they found no significant correlation between being mad just before an incident and suffering injuries from a fall or a traffic accident (despite all the media hype about “dangerous” road rage). “But anger was strongly associated with intentional injuries inflicted by another person,” reports the team that conducted the surveys, Dr. Daniel Vinson and Vineesha Arelli.

The association was stronger in men than women, but applies to both sexes. Moreover, the angrier the subjects were on a scale ranging from “irritable” to “hostile,” the notably higher their likelihood of being hurt. [The full report of this study can be accessed at: www.annfammed.org/cgi/content/full/4/1/63]

The researchers didn’t explore details of the circumstances leading to the injuries but the clear assumption would be that the injured parties were in some volatile conflict in which an attack resulted, says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato. And this, he says, “has tremendous relevance to law enforcement, where conflict is a common and often unavoidable part of the job.”

The study, he says, adds to the cumulative evidence that “angry cops are less effective on the street and a danger to themselves. When you’re angry, you may miss a lot of threat cues, you may not be able to put on the appropriate ‘face’ to bring about a favorable outcome in a confrontation, and, as this new study suggests, you may end up actually provoking an attack because you anger others with your angry behavior.”

Lewinski explains that there are 2 types of anger: what’s called “state anger,” an episode that occurs at a specified time, and “trait anger,” which is an on-going characteristic of personality. Both are evident among personnel on virtually any department. Indeed, LAW and ORDER Magazine recently devoted an article to the challenge and importance of supervisors dealing with angry officers who constitute “a danger to themselves, other officers and the public.” [See: “The Angry Police Officer,” by Capt. Robert Roy Johnson, Chicago PD, LAW and ORDER Magazine, June ’06. Call (800) 843-9764 or e-mail info@hendonpub.com for more information on this article.]

On rare occasions anger may be an asset on the street, Lewinski observes. Survivors of life-threatening attacks, particularly brutal physical assaults, often speak of summoning anger to fight back and to overcome their would-be killers, for example. Anger may also fuel gross motor actions like grappling with a resistant suspect or pushing heavy car wreckage out of the way. “But very few law enforcement situations actually require anger,” Lewinski states. “Most often it is destructive.”

Verbal Judo guru Dr. George Thompson, a member of FSRC’s Technical Advisory Board, teaches that one indication of your professionalism is your ability to put on the right “face” (expression of emotion) to get the outcome you desire in enforcement encounters, varying your emotional persona to fit the tactical needs of the situation. You might “put on” a display of state anger as a strategy for commanding attention and respect, influencing others or dominating an encounter in LIMITED circumstances; if not totally faked, such a show certainly is calculated and well controlled.

An impulsive, emotion-driven display of anger, on the other hand, is much different and the mark of an amateur in human relations. “An officer focused on and consumed by his or her anger is one-dimensional in interacting with others,” Lewinski explains. “He can’t put on other ‘faces’ and is not able to play the whole range of emotion that might be necessary on the street, so he ends up being less effective.”

He cites an officer of his acquaintance, an embodiment of trait anger, whose policing style is to “push people psychologically all the time, regardless of circumstances. They push back, so back and forth they’re punching each other’s buttons and escalating things. He makes a lot of arrests, but he’s in a lot of fights, injures a lot of people, and gets injured himself. He’s not only missing danger cues because he’s blinded by his anger, he’s provoking people to attack him.

“The more neutral you keep yourself emotionally, the more flexible you are. You’re more likely to be conscious of what’s going on around you and to respond with good decisions.”

He cites a study done 2 decades ago by researcher Dr. Jean Williams at the University of Arizona, exploring the role of “life stress” and athletic injuries in skillful, physically fit football players. She discovered a direct correlation between the emotional distress (including anger) that a player feels and the predictability for injury on the playing field. She concluded that emotional distress limits a subject’s ability to pay attention to and cope with fast-changing elements of a game and leads them to being blindsided, resulting in a higher rate of injury.

Lewinski says that Nigel Redman, internationally renowned rugby coach, has talked about relying on psychological profiling to identify those of his athletes who have the greatest ability to make correct decisions in the emotional, high-stress final moments of tight games. Those are the ones he plays, regardless of their overall performance skill, because they have the maturity to control their emotions under pressure and focus solely on what needs to be done to win.

There are parallels in a gunfight, Lewinski maintains. An officer in control of his emotions, including anger (and fear, as well), “can more likely put rounds where they need to go to end the threat, because his fine motor skills are intact.” An angry officer, in contrast, “just throws bullets at his attacker.” His fine motor skills have been eroded by his anger.

To deal with anger, Lewinski recommends the following:
  1. If you chronically feel angry or find yourself impulsively overreacting to situations on a routine basis, you need to talk to a counselor about what is happening in your personal and/or professional life that’s fueling your inappropriate emotions.
    “Most people in this situation can’t do therapy on themselves because their anger interferes with their honest reflection about what’s going on,” Lewinski says. “They blame other people for their condition and don’t understand the role they themselves are playing in their angry interactions.”
  2. If you are leaving an angry situation–say a fight at home before work or a call that has riled you up–try to take a breather, an “emotional time-out,” before going on to your next encounter. “Go for a cup of coffee, stop by a park and smell the roses, do some deep breathing. Reframe your mind.
    “Recognize that you are angry but also that you can stop it. Realize that you need to change what you’re thinking because you need to focus outward to be alert and prepared for your next call. Your emotions will match your focus; you are what you think.”
  3. If you feel yourself getting angry during an encounter, ask yourself: Is displaying your anger appropriate for this situation? Are you going to use anger as a “face” that will help you be firm and set limits for a person you’re dealing with, or is some street-smart subject trying to sucker you into losing control?
    “If your anger is escalating a situation toward a place you don’t want to be, then rein it in and use other tactics to control the encounter. Remember: angry cops are vulnerable to being victimized and exploited. The enraged officer who’s thinking, ‘Boy, I’m really putting this asshole in his place’ usually ends up losing.”

Leave a Reply


  • Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Effective date: January 06, 2019

Force Science Institute, Ltd. (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://www.forcescience.org/ website (hereinafter referred to as the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data. Our Privacy Policy for Force Science Institute, Ltd. is based on the Privacy Policy Template from Privacy Policies.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from https://www.forcescience.org/

Information Collection And Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

  • Email address
  • First name and last name
  • Phone number
  • Address, State, Province, ZIP/Postal code, City
  • Cookies and Usage Data

Usage Data

We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and hold certain information.

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies also used are beacons, tags, and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service. You can learn more how to manage cookies in the Browser Cookies Guide.

Examples of Cookies we use:

  • Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our Service.
  • Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.
  • Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Use of Data

Force Science Institute, Ltd. uses the collected data for various purposes:

  • To provide and maintain the Service
  • To notify you about changes to our Service
  • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our Service when you choose to do so
  • To provide customer care and support
  • To provide analysis or valuable information so that we can improve the Service
  • To monitor the usage of the Service
  • To detect, prevent and address technical issues

Transfer Of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Force Science Institute, Ltd. will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure Of Data

Legal Requirements

Force Science Institute, Ltd. may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • To comply with a legal obligation
  • To protect and defend the rights or property of Force Science Institute, Ltd.
  • To prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • To protect the personal safety of users of the Service or the public
  • To protect against legal liability

Security Of Data

The security of your data is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.


We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our Service.

  • Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page: https://policies.google.com/privacy?hl=en

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: support@forcescience.org
  • By visiting this page on our website: https://www.forcescience.org/contact
  • By phone number: 866-683-1944
  • By mail: Force Science Institute, Ltd.