Here is Eli's discussion of the survey results:
Thanks again to everyone who took the emotional responses survey. Below are the cases and response data for the first 100 responses. I’ve given a bit of analysis following each case, and there are some general remarks following that. First, I wanted to say just a bit about what I was up to here.
Resentment is widely held to be an important moral emotion. There is also a widespread assumption that resentment is best captured by a judgmentalist theory of the emotions. Judgmentalism is roughly the view that emotions are necessarily constituted by certain beliefs or judgments, and that emotion types can be differentiated by these beliefs or judgments. Judgmentalism is especially attractive as an account of resentment because it allows us to differentiate between resentment and anger, a basic emotion that is thought to be importantly related to resentment. On the judgmentalist picture, resentment is constituted by a belief or judgment that one has suffered a moral injury of some sort. Anger is thought to lack this cognitive content. Even some prominent non-cognitivists about the basic emotions understand resentment in these terms.
My concern with regard to this survey was to test two hypotheses. First, I wanted to see whether anyone would describe an emotional experience that had behavioral and physiological markers typically associated with anger as resentment, even in the absence of a judgment of having suffered a moral injury.
Second, I wanted to see whether anyone would regard resentment as subject to the phenomenon of stable recalcitrance. Recalcitrant emotions are episodes of emotion whereby one experiences an emotion that is in conflict with one’s settled judgments about its object. Stable recalcitrance involves the persistence of recalcitrant emotion over time, despite the stability of judgments that conflict with the emotional response.
The phenomenon of stable recalcitrance is prominent in an argument for judgmentalism about resentment given by Justin D’Arms and Dan Jacobson. They argue that stable recalcitrance is a phenomenon that is unique to the natural emotion kinds. Because resentment is not subject to stable recalcitrance, it is not a natural emotion kind, and should instead be treated as a cognitive sharpening. Since cognitive sharpenings are roughly what judgmentalism says they are, resentment should be understood according to a judgmentalist theory of the emotions, or so the argument goes.
D’Arms and Jacobson support the claim that resentment is not subject to stable recalcitrance by way of a case roughly analogous to Case #2 in the emotional responses survey. They claim that once the subject of this case ceases to believe that they have been treated unfairly, it ceases to make sense to explain their emotional response as resentment. My reaction to this claim has long been “Really? Why doesn’t that make sense?” Case #2 is an attempt to see if I am alone in that reaction.
Without further ado, let’s check out the data.
Your favorite football team has just lost a close game to their arch-rivals. Following the conclusion of the game, you feel your face turn red and become hot, your pulse quickens, and you have an intense desire to punch something. For the next several days, whenever you think about your team's loss, you have a similar emotional experience. How would you describe the emotion you are experiencing?
Anger 71.7% 71
Jealousy 2.0% 2
Resentment 12.1% 12
Envy 1.0% 1
None of the Above 19.2% 19
Total Responses 99
Skipped Question 1
In constructing this survey, I was hoping to establish some sort of baseline for anger, in the form of a case that almost everyone would agree was an instance of anger. Clearly, that did not happen, though there was a substantial majority who described this as an instance of anger.
You have just been denied tenure. Initially, you identify yourself as resentful of the tenure review board, and you judge that they have evaluated your case unfairly. Over time, you come to see that you have not been treated unfairly, and that you really are not deserving of tenure. Despite this judgment, however, whenever you think about this situation, you feel your face become hot, your adrenaline increases so that you feel a burst of energy, and you feel as though you'd like to punch the members of the tenure board. How would you describe the emotion that you are experiencing?
Anger 48.4% 46
Jealousy 1.1% 1
Resentment 29.5% 28
Envy 1.1% 1
None of the Above 28.4% 27
Total Responses 95
Skipped Question 5
This is D’Arms and Jacobson’s tenure denial case. Although a lot of people agreed with D’Arms and Jacobson’s analysis here, a non-negligible number of you felt the same way I do—that this is best described as an instance of resentment, even after one judges that they have not been treated unfairly by the tenure review board. At a minimum, I think that this case is not as definitive in favor of resentment as a cognitive sharpening as D’Arms and Jacobson take it to be. But I’d look forward to comments on whether that’s a reasonable conclusion to draw here.
Suppose you come to find out that a close friend of yours has begun dating your ex-girlfriend, who you broke up with approximately one year ago. Your initial reaction is one that you take to be resentment. On reflection you judge that your friend has not injured you in any morally significant way. You regard your ex-girlfriend as an especially bad romantic partner, and have no desire to rekindle your relationship. Whenever you see the couple together, you experience a rush of adrenaline, your face turns red and begins to feel hot, your pulse quickens, and you feel as though you'd like to either punch something or take a long walk to cool off. Despite your best effort to bring your emotional response in line with your considered judgment, you simply cannot shake this feeling. How would you describe the emotion you are experiencing?
Anger 35.1% 33
Jealousy 36.2% 34
Resentment 17% 16
Envy 4.3% 4
None of the Above 20.2% 19
Total Responses 94
Skipped Question 6
I found the result of this case to be most interesting, but also most disappointing for my own purposes. I had hoped to argue that even if we accept the tenure denial case as an instance of anger, rather than stable recalcitrant resentment, this case clearly involved stable recalcitrant resentment. Those results did not play out, as a much lower percentage of people saw this as a case of resentment, in comparison to Case #2. So that was disappointing.
However, it was intriguing to me that so many people saw this as a case of jealousy, since there are elements of the case that are supposed to direct respondents away from that reply. It seems that many of you would describe yourselves as jealous even when you do not want your former partner back, and do not think well of them as a romantic partner. Even more interesting, as Dan Jacobson noted in his earlier comments, was that the behavioral and physiological manifestations here are those of anger. This indicates what could be a very deep problem for self-attributions of emotion as evidence of an emotion’s constitutive conditions. If neither the behavioral and physiological response, nor one’s judgments, tells in favor of calling the emotion jealousy, one wonders what basis there is for thinking that jealousy is what we are experiencing. The implication is that our self-attributions of emotion are not very reliable.
As for my initial hypotheses, neither was vindicated by these results, and the range of responses even to what seems like an obvious case of anger suggests that appealing to cases to sort out the constitutive conditions for an emotion type may simply be the wrong methodology. However, if our own emotional attributions are informative with regard to the constitutive conditions for an emotion type, these results give us reason to question the judgmentalist account of resentment that is presently so widely accepted. These results also suggest that stable recalcitrant resentment may be possible after all. If D’Arms and Jacobson are correct that this phenomenon is unique to the natural emotion kinds, our account of the emotions ought to capture resentment as a natural emotion kind, rather than a cognitive sharpening. The further question, of course, is how to do that, since resentment does not appear in any of the empirical psychological literature on basic emotions, which at least initially suggests that it does not have the same cross-cultural significance or adaptive function that is attributable to other basic emotions like disgust or fear.
Comments welcome and appreciated, whether with regard to the data, my analysis, or the construction of the survey in general. Thanks again for all the responses.