In other words, the anger made him feel alive. In the s, a series of studies demonstrated the power of emotional contagion. When subjects saw pictures of happy human faces, they reported feeling happy; when they saw sad faces, they were sad. Further research revealed that the stronger the emotion, the more easily it is transferred between people. Emotional contagion has been observed in other primates, birds, even in dogs: One study from the Clever Dog Lab at the University of Vienna found that dogs became uneasy when they heard recordings of other dogs or, fascinatingly, humans in distress.
For humans, emotional contagion makes evolutionary sense: Our success as a species evolved out of our ability to function and cooperate in groups; rapid emotional communication would keep groups safe and cohesive. Equally, emotional mimicry helped people understand one another better and improve bonding. And though emotions are best communicated through face-to-face interaction, according to researchers, they easily traverse our modern networks of digital connections.
And guess what? Rage goes viral quicker than any other emotion. Researchers from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who analyzed the most emailed New York Times articles over a three-month period for their emotional tone found that the only feeling that outpaced anger was awe. Outrage is certainly proliferating. A Pew Research survey found social media users are most often amused online, but nearly as often, they experience anger; the same survey found that 59 percent of users frequently saw other people online looking for opportunities to start arguments.
Deregulating the media allowed disturbingly polarized content to dominate the airwaves, and then the Internet. Indeed, all kinds of emotionally charged content has proliferated. While all partisan news outlets follow the emotionally exploitative playbook, Sobieraj says, right-wing outlets have so far deployed it with more success — talk radio is around 90 percent conservative.
Rage disrupts logical thought, reducing complex issues to black and white answers: build the wall, lock her up, make it great. However, the polemical nature of right-wing rhetoric may be pushing people on the left to react accordingly. When anger addicts find a medium that resonates with them, they may not recognize how emotionally affected they are by the fiery rhetoric. Inundated by extreme viewpoints designed to stoke emotions, Americans may be feeling more threatened, and therefore, more irate.
Meanwhile, acts of road rage involving firearms have more than doubled since , according to The Trace. Perhaps related, perhaps not, there has also been a sharp rise in hate crimes in the US — up 17 percent in from the previous year. Even pop music appears to be trending negative: A study of the Billboard Top pop songs between and found that anger in lyrics increased by percent, while joy decreased by 38 percent. And good news does sell, which is why stories about adopting kittens or helping homeless people go viral. The problem is that we, as humans, are primed to respond with more focus and attention to negative arousal emotions like rage.
Substance abusers often need to increase their dosage to feel the same high; the anger machine works the same way.
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Senko, however, would argue that her father was addicted to the anger. Hearing people rant for hours every day, Frank began mirroring that behavior; then he needed it more. But there is hope. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time. From Pushkin Industries. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.
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