Emotions always precede behavior. They set off physiological triggers and mental structures that help connect memories. But more importantly, emotions act as motivators of human behavior.
Emotions lead you to behave in many different ways. They can even lead to violent behavior. To be more precise, a combination of emotions can move us to use violence, though the emotions themselves don’t make us violent.
We commonly understand an emotion as a psychophysiological reaction that people experience individually. However, thanks to empathy, our emotions are contagious. We can make other people feel the same way.
This also happens on a group level. A group of people can feel the same emotion. They might feel guilty or feel anger towards another group. This is the starting point to understand the emotions that lead people to violence.
The ANCODI hypothesis
The ANCODI hypothesis is named for three emotions: anger, contempt, and disgust. The hypothesis is that these three emotions can lead people to use violence. Hostility and violence are the results of the hate and anger.
People use narratives to spread emotions. Narratives can be a way to turn them into group emotions. One example is hate speech against a minority group or a group that is considered a rival or enemy.
The ANCODI hypothesis suggests that a past event or a historical narrative produces indignation, which in turn causes anger. The group re-evaluates these events from a view of moral superiority, which implies the moral inferiority of the other group.
That, in turn, leads to disdain and scorn. They see the other group as separate and deserving of avoidance and rejection. In extreme cases, it leads to the idea of eliminating a group entirely. The emotions that lead to violence follow a three-phase process that we will describe next.
Indignation based on anger
The first phase is the anger phase. Anger is an emotion that we express through resentment and irritability. You can see the external manifestation of anger in facial expressions, body language, and physiological responses. In certain situations, people express anger with public acts of aggression. Uncontrolled anger can negatively affect your quality of life.
At first, certain events lead to the perception of injustice. Said events make people look for a guilty party, whether it’s a person or a group. In these cases, people believe that the guilty party is threatening the well-being of “our” group or “our” way of life. These interpretations then become charged with anger that will be directed towards the guilty party.
Moral superiority based on disdain
In the second phase, we add disdain into the mix. Disdain is an intense sensation of lack of respect or recognition, and aversion. Disdain implies denying and humiliating the other. It also involves putting in doubt the ability and moral integrity of the “other.”
Feeling disdain for another person or group means feeling morally superior to them. Someone who feels disdain for another looks down on them. They consider the subject unworthy.
Groups reinterpret the situations and events identified in the first stage. They make this evaluation of prior events from a position of moral superiority. That means that they consider the “guilty” group to be morally inferior. That, in turn, leads to a feeling of disdain towards the group in question.
Elimination based on disgust
In the last phase, disgust comes into play. The perception of contamination and disease cause this basic, primal emotion. It is universal not only in its identifying signs but also in its causes. Similar things cause disgust all over the world, like decay. Disgust is a moral emotion that we often use to sanction beliefs and moral conduct.
In this phase, people once again evaluate the events and arrive at a conclusion. The conclusion is very simple: we must distance ourselves from the guilty group. Another possibility, which is much more violent, is the conclusion that the group has to be eliminated. However, this is the extreme end of things. In these cases, people disseminate ideas using the emotion of disgust.
As you can see, the combination of these three emotions can have disastrous consequences. The emotions that make us violent are based on distorted perceptions and lead to bad conclusions and — in extreme cases — hostile behavior. Hence the utmost importance of practicing emotional intelligence.