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The Emotion That Lasts 240 Times Longer Than Others

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Sadness is the longest lasting of the emotions, finds one of the first ever studies to look at why some emotions last much longer than others.

I wonder why happiness doesn't last longer. 

I would want to see how this pattern holds up across cultures... Would a japanese person give the same answers? or a Xhosa?

Doubtful, I think these results are specific to Americans. 

Study was done by Belgian faculty in Europe...

Correction: I think these results are specific to Americans / Europeans.

hee hee!

Is there a word for the combined group? Ameripeans?

The survey was asked of students which makes one wonder (a) would the results be different for older adults and (b) is their perception of which emotions last longest the same as the reality of which emotions last longest?

Good questions for which I don't have good answers.

I think you're right to question if young Americans are representative of all of us. 

As far as emotions go, they are biologically consistent across demographics of all ages, sexes and cultures.  Hard to believe, but these facts have been scientifically tested in thousands of individuals across hundreds of cultures.  Check out the work of Dr. Manfred Clynes, specifically his research as presented in his book on "Sentic Cycles", if interested in learning more facts on the subject of emotions.  The basic gist is this:

Human emotions are subject to immutable physical laws of biological constants, such as unidirectional rate sensitivity (our emotional signals must be creatively generated and are not the result of inhibition factors being active in our neurology) and single channel expression (we can only chemically generate, express and experience one emotion at a time).  The result is that all humans experience highly deterministic expositions and recognitions of emotional profiles, regardless how we are born, when we live or what culture we have as context.

As to sadness in particular: the time-profile exposition of sadness portrayed by one culture is therefore identical to the time-profile exposition of sadness experienced by another AND subjects in each culture can immediately and consistently recognize the expression of such emotional constants from other cultures–regardless the modality (auditory, physically) of the transmission of that emotion and even when emotions are translated across differing modalities of expression form culture to culture, e.g. from auditory in one culture to physical gestures in another, etc.

Where it gets interesting and variable is that even though we experience and express our emotions in exactly the same way, how we end up choosing to habituate ourselves to referents and affects that associate with particular emotions is entirely up to us--pure freedom to go with existing programs or reprogram ourselves regarding emotional experience, e.g. sadists experiencing joy at other's pain is the exact same joy that normal people experience playing with a puppy.

Clynes proved that emotional creation, expression and experience does not require ANY external environmental stimulus whatsoever.  Our choices of emotional affects and referents are entirely arbitrary, mutable and causal by our own design.  He found most all of his subjects could easily be walked through expressing a range of emotions in less than 30 minutes and that such "sentic cycles" produced an incredibly therapeutic effect on the individuals.  At the very fundamental level it helped people who were imbalanced or unable to express certain emotions to effectively work through a set sequence of emotions to get unstuck and balanced.

Fascinating and liberating stuff... and it works as advertised.

So... We experience the same emotions, but context matters?

Interesting, Rob. I believe there has also been a long standing debate on nature versus nurture in regard to emotions and/or how we experience them.

My point was that this was done via a survey and the students were asked to recall their emotions. I think it's possible that happiness is something that we, especially younger people, expect and therefore don't take note of it's presence. Conversely sadness is more noticeable and perhaps is felt more strongly, even if in reality it's LESS persistent than happiness.

Hi Beth, I agree with the findings and your point because of the structure of the survey.  

Also, Kahneman and Tversky have revealed the way in which we frame questions and survey people often decides the outcomes of their responses.  And this goes well beyond the Hawthorne Effect of poorly constructed research with confirmation biases, but I'm not disputing whether or not the research was valid or the results were indicative of a specific culture, or age demographic.  It's fine and cool as is.

It's more interesting to me that as we recall and remember experiences of a specific emotional profile our individual experience of any emotion has an amazingly high fidelity from person to person.  This means emotional experience is as close to a universal constant of shared human experience as we can prove scientifically.

And if we accept that fact these investigations are much more interesting as we examine the evidence... perhaps demographic results shed a new light: instead of people having isolated emotional experiences of single data points representing a unique personal profile, what if such experiences were the results of being directly connected--such that the emotions were representative of socially transmitted networks and inherently sharable experiences.

It might be that as more people in certain age demographics are now similarly technologically connected through apps and media habits (or isolated from them), more and more similar experiences in real time are related to those experiences by which only shared resonance matters... and perhaps other age demographics that are more isolated from those events don't or can't experience the same emotional referent and affects as those that are plugged in...

...I mean, as a possibility.

Hi Rob -- Not sure if I'm understanding you completely. In my experience each individual experiences the same event with very different emotions.

Certainly social media and news in general can be crafted to evoke specific emotions but in daily life it seems to me that what saddens some people creates an excited challenge for others and so on.

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