Predictably angry-facial cues provide a credible signal of destructive behavior

Boris Van Leeuwen, Charles N. Noussair, Theo Offerman, Sigrid Suetens, Matthijs Van Veelen, Jeroen Van De Ven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Evolutionary explanations of anger as a commitment device hinge on two key assumptions. The first is that it is predictable, ex ante, whether someone will get angry when feeling that he or she has been badly treated. The second is that anger is associated with destructive behavior. We test the validity of these two assumptions. We collected photos of responders in an ultimatum game before they were informed about the game that they would be playing, and we filmed responders with webcams during play. We then showed pairs of photos consisting of one responder who rejected and one responder who accepted (a low offer) to an independent group of observers. We find that observers are better than chance at detecting who rejected the low offer; they do 10% better than random guessing would. We also find that anger at receiving a low offer is associated with rejection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3352-3364
Number of pages13
JournalManagement Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Anger
  • Commitment
  • Facial cues
  • Laboratory experiment
  • Ultimatum game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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