Can You Vent Your Anger? Why Psychologists and Laypersons Disagree

When you pick up a book on the psychology of aggression - one informed by actual research, not some Freudian claptrap - it is going to tell you that you can't vent your anger. Yet many laypersons are going to tell you that you can. Is it just because laypersons fail to understand counterfactuals or can't randomize? I think not.

I think the disagreement stems simply from semantic confusion. Psychologists have found that people who are made angry and then given an opportunity to vent their anger do not show less aggression than people who are made angry and are then put into some control condition in which they cannot vent their anger. Laypersons who say that they can vent their anger mean that after venting they feel better because the unpleasant feeling that comes with unvented anger is reduced. In other words, psychologists and laypersons are talking about different dependent variables.

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