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Study: Angry Faces Might Help You Get What You Want

(credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Have some tough negotiations coming up? You might want to start practicing your angry face.

According to new research from Stony Brook University, Harvard University and psychological scientist Lawrence Ian Reed, angry facial expressions may help your case at the negotiations table and give your threats to leave if your demands aren’t met more credibility.

Scientists say they told 870 subjects they’d be playing an ultimatum game online in which one of the participants, the “proposer,” would decide how to split money with another participant, the “responder.” Each person would receive the sum specified if the responder accepted the split that was offered, but neither player would get any money if the responder rejected the split.

Then, before the making their offers, each proposer was shown a threat that purportedly came from the responder. But the responder was actually played by the same female actor, who was told to create specific facial expressions in the video. One clip showed the actor making a neutral face, while the other showed her making an angry one.

Researchers also included a written demand for either an equal cut of 50 percent or a larger cut of 70 percent, which would only leave 30 percent for the proposer. Once the proposers saw the first threat, they were asked to make their offer.

According to the study, the responder’s facial expression had an impact on the amount offered by the proposer, but only when the responder had demanded the larger share.

In other words, proposers offered responders more money if the latter had made an angry expression compared to when she had shown a natural expression, but only when the responder had demanded 70 percent.

“This finding supports the hypothesis that angry expressions are honest signals that enhance the credibility of threats,” the scientists write.

The research is published in the journal Psychological Science.

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