AskDefine | Define indignation

Dictionary Definition

indignation n : a feeling of righteous anger [syn: outrage]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˌɪn.dɪɡ.ˈnei.ʃn̩/


From Latin indignatio, noun of process from perfect passive participle indignatus, from verb indignare, from adjective indignus, unworthy, not fitting, from prefix in-, not, + dignus, worthy, appropriate


  1. anger aroused by some perceived offense.
  2. righteous anger or disgust.


anger aroused by some perceived offense
  • Finnish: suuttumus
  • German: Empörung, Entrüstung
  • Hungarian: felháborodás, méltatlankodás
righteous anger or disgust
  • Finnish: närkästys
  • German: Empörung, Entrüstung
  • Hungarian: felháborodás, méltatlankodás

Extensive Definition

Anger (also called choler) is an emotional state that may range from minor irritation to intense rage. The physical effects of anger include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view Anger as part of the fight or flight brain response to the perceived threat of pain. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively and physiologically when a person makes the conscious choice to take action to immediately stop the threatening behavior of another outside force.
The external expression of anger can be found in facial expressions, body language, physiological responses, and at times in public acts of aggression. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them," psychologists point out that an angry person can be very well mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability.
In the world of humans, the unique use of codified symbols and sounds -written and spoken language, pain or the threat of pain can be perceived from written and verbal sources. Humans may not perceive an immediate physical threat, but pain can be felt psychologically. Due to humans' capacity to imagine the distant future, the threat of pain can also arise purely from the imagination, and not be based on anything happening in the immediate present. In humans, anger often arises when another human being is perceived to violate expected behavioral norms related to social survival. These violations break social or interpersonal boundaries, or may be ethical or legal violations.
Modern psychologists view anger as a primary, natural, and mature emotion experienced by all humans at times, and as something that has functional value for survival. Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action. Uncontrolled anger can however negatively affect personal or social well-being.
According to the linguist Anna Wierzbicka, the exact conception of anger can vary from culture to culture. For example, the Ilongot language of Philippines does not have a term exactly corresponding to the English term "anger." In this language, the closest term expressing the concept of "anger" is liget (glossed as ‘energy, anger, passion’). This term plays a crucial role in the culture and life of Ilongots and has a competitive character related to envy and ambition. Wierzbicka explains the distinction between the English anger and the Ilongot liget more explicitly as follows: X feels anger— (a) X thinks: R did something bad (b) I don’t want such things to happen (c) X feels something bad toward R because of that (d) X wants to do something bad to R because of that X feels liget— (a) X thinks: I don’t want people to think that they can do things that I cannot do (b) I want to do something because of that (c) I don’t want to think:
“Someone will feel something bad because of that”
“I don’t want to do it because of that”
(d) X feels something because of that (e) X can do things because of that that other people can’t. Three types of anger are recognized by psychologists: The first form of anger, named "hasty and sudden anger" by Joseph Butler, an 18th century English bishop, is connected to the impulse for self-preservation. It is shared between humans and animals and occurs when tormented or trapped. The second type of anger is named "settled and deliberate" anger is a reaction to perceived deliberate harm doing or unfair treatment by others. These two forms anger are episodic. The third type of anger is however dispositional and is related more to character traits than to instincts or cognitions. Irritability, sullenness and churlishness postures are examples of the last form of anger.
Anger can potentially mobilize psychological resources and boost determination toward correction of wrong behaviors, promotion of social justice, communication of negative sentiment and redress of grievances. It can also facilitate patience. On the other hand, anger can be destructive when it does not find its appropriate outlet in expression. Anger, in its strong form, impairs one's ability to process information and to exert cognitive control over his behavior. An angry person may lose his objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to others. A common metaphor for the physiological aspect of anger is that of a hot fluid in a container.

Causes of anger

Most commonly, those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them" and in most cases the described provocations occur immediately before the anger experience. Such explanations confirm the illusion that anger has a discrete external cause. The angry person usually finds the cause of his anger in an intentional, personal, and controllable aspect of another person's behavior. This explanation is however based on the intuitions of the angry person who experiences a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability as a result of their emotion. Anger can be of multicausal origin, some of which may be remote events, but people rarely find more than one cause for their anger.

Philosophical perspectives on anger

Ancient times

In many religions, anger is frequently attributed to God or gods. Primitive people held that gods were subject to anger and revenge in naive anthropomorphic fashion. The Hebrew Bible says that opposition to God's Will results in God's anger. The Hebrew Bible explains that: God is not an intellectual abstraction, nor is He conceived as a being indifferent to the doings of man; and His pure and lofty nature resents most energetically anything wrong and impure in the moral world: "O Lord, my God, mine Holy One... Thou art of eyes too pure to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." The characteristics of those upon whom God's wrath will fall is as follows: Those who reject God; deny his signs; doubt the resurrection and the reality of the day of judgment; call Muhammad a sorcerer, a madman or a poet; do mischief, are impudent, do not look after the poor (notably the orphans); live in luxury or heap up fortunes; persecute the believers or prevent them from praying;...

Dealing with anger

According to Leland R. Beaumont, each instance of anger demands making a choice:
  • Respond with hostile action, including overt violence
  • Respond with hostile inaction, such as withdrawing or stonewalling
  • Initiate a dominance contest
  • Harbor resentment
  • Work to better understand and constructively resolve the issue

Views of ancient philosophers

Seneca addresses the question of mastering anger in three parts: 1. how to avoid becoming angry in the first place 2. how to cease being angry and 3. how to deal with anger in others. On the other hand, Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi classified anger (along with aggression) as a type of neurosis, while al-Ghazali (Algazel) argued that anger takes form in rage, indignation and revenge, and that "the powers of the soul become balanced if it keeps anger under control."

Modern times

According to R. Novaco, anger is an emotional response to provocation. R. Novaco recognized three modalities of anger: cognitive (appraisals), somatic-affective (tension and agitations) and behavioral ( withdrawal and antagonism). In order to manage anger the problems involved in the anger should be discussed Novaco suggests. The situations leading to anger should be explored by the person. The person is then tried to be imagery-based relieved of his or her recent angry experiences.
Modern therapies for anger involve restructuring thoughts and beliefs in order to bring about a causal reduction in anger. This therapy often comes within the schools of CBT (or cognitive behavioral therapy) or other modern schools such as REBT (or rational emotional behavioral therapy). Research shows that people who suffer from excessive anger often harbor irrational thoughts and beliefs towards negativity. It has been shown that with therapy by a trained professional, individuals can bring their anger to manageable levels.
The therapy is followed by the so-called "stress inoculation" in which the clients are taught "relaxation skills to control their arousal and various cognitive controls to exercise on their attention, thoughts, images, and feelings. They are taught to see the provocation and the anger itself as occurring in a series of stages, each of which can be dealt with." John W. Fiero cites Los Angeles riots of 1992 as an example of sudden, explosive release of suppressed anger. The anger was then displaced as violence against those who had nothing to do with the matter. Another example of widespread deflection of anger from its actual cause toward a scapegoat, Fiero says, was the blaming of Jews for the economic ills of Germany by the Nazis.

Anger and social position

Tiedens, known for her studies of anger, claimed that expression of feelings would cause a powerful influence not only on the perception of the expresser but also on his power position in the society. She studied the correlation between anger expression and social influence perception. Previous researchers, such as Keating, 1985 have found that people with angry face expression were perceived as powerful and as in a high social position. Similarly, Tiedens et al. have revealed that people who compared scenarios involving an angry and a sad, attributed a higher social status to the angry character. Based on these findings Sinaceur and Tiedens have found that people conceded more to the angry side rather than for the non-angry one. A question raised by Van Kleef et al. based on these findings was whether expression of emotion influences others, since it is known that people use emotional information to conclude about others’ limits and match their demands in negotiation accordingly. Van Kleef et al. wanted to explore whether people give up more easily to an angry opponent or to a happy opponent. Findings revealed that participants tended to be more flexible toward an angry opponent compared with a happy opponent. These results strengthen the argument that participants analyze the opponent’s emotion in order to conclude about their limits and carry out their decisions accordingly.
indignation in Arabic: غَضَب
indignation in German: Zorn
indignation in Spanish: Ira
indignation in French: colère
indignation in Croatian: Ljutnja
indignation in Icelandic: Reiði
indignation in Italian: Ira (psicologia)
indignation in Dutch: Woede
indignation in Japanese: 怒り
indignation in Norwegian: Sinne
indignation in Russian: Гнев
indignation in Slovak: Hnev
indignation in Ukrainian: Гнів
indignation in Chinese: 愤怒

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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