UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner is a pioneer in the study of an emotion known as "elevation," characterized by a "a feeling of spreading, liquid warmth in the chest and a lump in the throat." (Not be confused with heartburn.) Triggering that emotion in the lab is challenging. His research group's latest approach though is to play their subjects Barack Obama's victory speech. (My IFTF colleague Jason Tester has dubbed the impact of Obama on people's brains "neurobama.") Slate has a great profile of "elevation" research, including the work of moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis. I also look forward to reading Keltner's forthcoming book on the subject of "elevation," titled Born To Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life (which is not an Obama biography). From Slate:
Elevation has always existed but has just moved out of the realm of philosophy and religion and been recognized as a distinct emotional state and a subject for psychological study. Psychology has long focused on what goes wrong, but in the past decade there has been an explosion of interest in "positive psychology"–what makes us feel good and why. University of Virginia moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who coined the term elevation, writes, "Powerful moments of elevation sometimes seem to push a mental 'reset button,' wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with feelings of hope, love, and optimism, and a sense of moral inspiration…."
We come to elevation, Haidt writes, through observing others–their strength of character, virtue, or "moral beauty." Elevation evokes in us "a desire to become a better person, or to lead a better life."