[M.M.X.I.V. 98] Magnitude of emotions

Sometimes, my blog posts can be motivated by comments that I leave on other blogs, and this is an example.

Yesterday, on Alienora’s blog, she posted about her favourite comment so far of all comments posted on her blog.  It was by an anonymous poster, interestingly, which led me to the question:

Which gives a larger magnitude of emotion?  To the positive: an uplifting ANONYMOUS comment like that? OR: to the negative: a purely negative, ad-hominem comment?

That is really an interesting question that I have posed, and I am not the best person to answer it, frankly!  Research has suggested that there are six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust.  Some people may have spectra of each of these emotions that can combine to create more complex emotions.  But, not only do I tend to be largely unaware of my emotional state, I also consider my emotional spectra rather to be discrete lists.

I have a feeling that my relative unawareness of emotion is a part of my Asperger syndrome.  Although I have improved my awareness over the last few years due to emotional events like Birthright, the death of a grandmother, or emotional investment in radio shows, it is still something with which I cannot fully comprehend.

I think that each person has a different “neutral” (i.e. baseline) emotional state.  For me, it would probably be moderate to high happiness, low sadness, low anger, low to moderate surprise, moderate fear, and low or no disgust.

CAUTION: Mild mathematical argument ahead!

Any stimulus that “perturbs” the neutral emotional state from this equilibrium moves the sliders on the dials for each of the basic emotions.  In whatever direction this changes the emotions (to a personally-positive or personally-negative direction), the overall “magnitude” of the change (e.g. the “distance” as the crow flies from the equilibrium state) may be different for each stimulus.


I have not had any “Anonymous” comments on my blog, although for many intents and purposes, since I don’t know many of the bloggers that I follow in person, they are essentially anonymous to me.  Most of the comments on my blog have been positive, so that I have never really had a strong reaction to comments on my blog.  This is based off the fact that since I think that I am difficult to provoke, positive comments do not change my emotional state that heavily.

One case when an “anonymous” negative comment created a large magnitude of perturbation in my emotional state happened a few months ago.  On a message board, I had mentioned on a pre-game thread for the Iowa/Northwestern men’s basketball game that I would be unable to attend the game due to leading services that day.  One of the comments was basically a religious persecution, and although I did not defend myself, the other posters who know me in person rebuked this comment.  My reading of this comment created a large perturbation in my emotional state, because I do not take well to personal attacks.  I think that changes in my anger or disgust tend to have a larger effect in the magnitude of my emotional change than changes in happiness, sadness, surprise, or fear.

Readers: what are your emotional spectra and baseline emotions like?

P.S. Thank you, Ali, for your post that inspired this idea from me!


Today is the ninety-eighth day of M.M.X.I.V.  That makes fourteen weeks.


5 thoughts on “[M.M.X.I.V. 98] Magnitude of emotions

  1. Wow! This is a fabulous post, Noah: it is absolutely fascinating and I love the little maths bit. I think your theory is correct: that we do all start from an individual baseline of emotion. I suspect that much of it is linked to the Amygdala – certainly, I know that fear and anxiety are. I can totally understand your response to religious persecution. I think my baseline setting is highest on fear, and lowest on disgust.
    The other four come in the moderate to high range.
    An excellent piece of writing.


    • Thank you very much for the comment, Ali, and thanks again for the brief-yet-interesting post that inspired me to write this post!

      From the posts that I have read, I can see that fear is definitely your strongest emotion.


  2. Noah, it is intriguing that a negative comment can be motivating for you. I have a mild case of Aspergers, according to…well, everybody. But a negative comment almost always invokes in me the universal response of disgust. Even when the comment is quite valid, I am disgusted that it was not delivered with more diplomacy.

    But then, turn around is fair play; so I am making it a conscious mission to DELIVER any negative comment with as much diplomacy as I can muster. It is as essential as it is unnatural!


    • A very interesting point, W.S. Indeed, I don’t always take criticism well at first. As my Mom has said many a time, it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

      I think that criticism tends to instill fear or intimidation into me, more than disgust.


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