Why Anger Makes a Wrongly Accused Person Look Guilty

Michael Blanding at the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge website:

A co-worker accuses you of lying during an important client meeting, and you’re furious because you didn’t lie. Expressing that anger, however, isn’t the best way to prove your innocence, according to new research.

“People may misinterpret that anger as a sign of guilt,” says Harvard Business School professor Leslie K. John, whose paper Anger Damns the Innocent is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science. In a series of experiments, John and her colleagues—Katherine DeCelles of the University of Toronto, Gabrielle Adams of the University of Virginia, and Holly Howe of Duke University—found that anger can make a person come across as guilty even when they are not.

Too often, when an employee is accused of wrongdoing, people evaluating the situation can make snap judgments based on biases and hunches. This research shows how easy it is for others to make the wrong call about whether an accused person has committed the offense, based on the emotions he or she expresses.

More here.