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Cognitive Dissidents: 012: Elevation Emotion

Today on the Cognitive Dissidents Podcast we discuss Elevation Emotion which is the idea that

 Elevation is an emotion elicited by witnessing virtuous acts of remarkable moral goodness. It is experienced as a distinct feeling of warmth and expansion that is accompanied by appreciation and affection for the individual whose exceptional conduct is being observed. Elevation motivates those who experience it to open up to, affiliate with, and assist others. Elevation makes an individual feel lifted up and optimistic about humanity. – Wikipedia

We discuss today how religion take this normal human emotional reaction and co-op and hijack it to be understood by adherents as a evidence that their faith system is the one true faith.

The studies on Elevation Emotion

found that participants in the elevation conditions reported different patterns of physical feelings and motivations when compared to participants in the control conditions. Elevated participants were more likely to report physical feelings in their chests—especially warm, pleasant, or “tingling” feelings—and they were more likely to report wanting to help others, become better people themselves, and affiliate with others. In both studies, reported feelings of happiness energized people to engage in private or self-interested pursuits, while feelings of elevation seemed to open people up and turn their attention outwards, toward other people.

Religions utilize this as a sign of their truthfulness or their being directed by God.

We use several audio example to show how they do such and when we are finished one is left to re-evaluate how they interpret their “warm fuzzy feelings” outside a religious paradigm.



6 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissidents: 012: Elevation Emotion”

  1. It’s nice to have a scientific term for the Holy Ghost. It always troubled me that we consider the HG as something only members of the church enjoy specially since the BoM says it’s the gift to everyone who seek out God in their lives (1 Ne. 10:17).

    Holy Ghost sounds way better than Elevation. Nevertheless let us elevate our thoughts and souls unto God – the holy of hollies.

    1. David, such a view is full of holes and here is why. I know you would like this emotion to be the holy ghost but one can be told false stories and feel it. Kind of like paul h dunn. If the holy ghost is just as effective bearing testimony of false stories as true then its usefulness to know truth is useless. This is just a human emotion void of an real connection to truth.

      1. I see your point, we tend to confabulate the holy ghost with a elevation emotion then. If elevation emotion is merely getting excited over a story because we feel flattered/special then one has to wonder.

        I often look back to my book of Mormon experience, while reading it and how I felt like the book was real and it was all true. When I made that assumption I got incredibly excited over the supposed fact that the Church was true and that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration. I was a huge skeptic then but I allowed myself to believe and it brought a huge overwhelming excitement and joy. It was as if it were a confirmation that we were more than just electrochemical reactions. My emotional high lasted over a week, and a live Mormonism under that paradigm for years if not decades.

        I committed to being the best Mormon I could be and serve a mission. I’m still impressed from how I felt that day, and time and time again I’ve felt the companionship and presence of the Holy Ghost. As a matter of fact, I still think I feel it and enjoy it. I think everyone can experience it when we focus on it. Learning to have the focus comes from seeking truth and seeking god.

        To reduce all that to an elevation emotion seems a trivial, but possible, but I would still rather live my life out of that focus than potentially other alternatives. If not seeking to elevate ones emotional state then what other alternatives?

        If not Mormonism then what? In my case other paths create marital conflict, I would feel more free to explore or venture on my own, but I know that leaving my comfort zone will create a whole in my heart which I’m not sure is worth filling with other things.

        Well, now I’m just mind dumping here. To let it all go… all for what? Believing in the holy ghost (gut feeling) has brought me more positives than negatives, even if the false negatives abound. Nevertheless, I endeavor to be self aware of my own biases.

      2. Loved the podcast. One suggestion: The premise would be even more compelling if we could provide more examples of “false positives” outside of Mormonism, that is, first-person accounts of non-Mormons who are confident they have found the truthfulness of something due to a burning in their bosom. Where might I find more of these? Thanks!

  2. Loved it! You said, “hijacked,” which is one of my favorite words to describe what happens Anytime we don’t guard and prove truths, as the real Jesus said…

  3. Religions are not the only ones using elevation emotion. Film makers are masters of it and is why I feel the spirit so strong during a Disney movie.

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