The emergence of emotions and religious sentiments during the September 11 disaster

Abstract

Analyzing emotional states under duress or during heightened, life-and-death situations is extremely difficult, especially given the inability of laboratory experiments to replicate the environment and given the inherent biases of post event surveys. This is where natural experiments, such as the pager communications from September 11th can provide the kind of natural experiment emotion researchers have been seeking. We demonstrate that positive and pro-social communications are the first to emerge followed by the slower and lower negative communications. Religious sentiment is the last to emerge, as individual attempt to make sense of event. Additionally we provide a methodological discussion about the preparation and analysis of such natural experiments (the pager message content) and show the importance of using multiple methods to extract the broadest possible understanding.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    While this research does show the change in emotion over time, the one week block sizes only provides a coarse analysis and does not specifically look at the event as it is occurring.

  2. 2.

    Note, the BKE dataset only begins at 6:45 am.

  3. 3.

    Communication Timeline: 8:14 am American Airlines Flight 11 hijacked, between 8:42–8:46 am United Airlines Flight 175 aircraft hijacked. 8:46:40 am American 11 flew into WTC Tower 1. 8:51–8:54 am American Airlines Flight 77 hijacked. 9:02:59 am United Airlines Flight 175 hits south side of WTC Tower 2. 9:37:46 am, American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. 9:28 am hijackers take over United Airlines Flight 93. 9:58:59 am Collapse of WTC Tower 2. 10:02:23 am Flight 93 crashes into an empty field in Pennsylvania. 10:28:22 am Collapse of WTC 1.

  4. 4.

    We believe that the results do indicate a positive swing towards religion and not merely the use of phrases such as “oh my god” after the event. When this phrase is analysed we find that it occurs only 14 times through out the day—12 of which occur between 8 am–11 am.

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Correspondence to David A. Savage.

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Savage, D.A., Torgler, B. The emergence of emotions and religious sentiments during the September 11 disaster. Motiv Emot 37, 586–599 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-012-9330-5

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Keywords

  • Content analysis
  • Positive emotion
  • Negative emotion
  • Religion
  • Disaster communications
  • 9/11