Game Development Reference
Emotion is not a choice. You don't see the edge of a cliff and decide
to become afraid. You don't see a beautiful person and logically conclude
that you should be attracted to them. Emotional triggers are automatic
calculations handled by an unconscious part of the mind, similar to the
ones that help you keep your balance while walking or recognize a familiar
face. So even if you know what you feel, you can't ask the unconscious why
it created that surge of attraction, disgust, serenity, or fear.
A classic research study demonstrates the psychological disconnect be-
tween emotions and their causes.
Imagine you're a young man in Vancouver. It's 1973. You're cross-
ing the Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge. The bridge is a 5-foot-wide,
450-foot-long death trap. It sways in the wind like a deadly wood-and-rope
bridge from an old adventure film. Looking down over the edge, you can
see the jagged rocks between the trees 230 feet below.
In the middle of the bridge, an attractive woman asks if you'll take
a survey. She is doing a project for her psychology class on the effects of
scenic settings on creative expression. The first page is filled with boring
questions, like name and age. The second asks you to write a short story
based on a picture. After you're done, the woman tears off a corner of the
survey, writes her phone number and name on it, and tells you to call if
you have any more questions.
The woman is a confederate of psychology researcher Arthur Aron.
What Aron is really interested in is how much sexual content you wrote into
your story, and how likely you are to call the woman back for a date, com-
pared to control subjects on a safer bridge nearby. The bridge would make
subjects' hearts race and their palms sweaty. The question was would they
reinterpret these fear responses as sexual attraction toward the woman?
They did. Subjects on the scary bridge wrote significantly more sexual
imagery in their story and were four times as likely to call the woman back
later than those on the safe bridge. These results persisted even through
further studies that eliminated factors like subject self-selection (the pos-
sibility that more adventurous men are both more likely to cross the scary
bridge and more likely to call the woman).
The men who called back the woman thought they were attracted to
her because their hearts raced when they spoke to her. In reality, their
hearts were racing because they were on a dangerous-looking bridge. But
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