The study of emotions contained in content is today eagerly used, among other things, to analyze and predict consumer behavior. No wonder. Reading the motivation of internet users helps to better define the target group of a given product or service and then facilitates more precise construction of marketing communication. One of the parameters that should be taken into account when analyzing the emotions contained in the text is emotional arousal. Why? What benefits do we get from it? Check it out in this article!

What should you know about emotional arousal to begin with? Let’s start with a definition. In a previous article, we pointed out that emotion is an experience and also an affective stimulus, causing an action to be taken.

One component of this experience is emotional arousal (arousal).

This arousal reflects the degree of activation of the central nervous system. It directly affects the way (intensity) of feeling a particular emotion. However, it is not a state that is always reflected in the dynamics of a particular person’s behavior. It can lead to increased liveliness, but it can also cause apparent calmness, indifference or even its withdrawal.

Interesting fact. The nature of the emotion experienced has no effect on the value of emotional arousal. Sadness, disgust, or joy can have the same arousal value.

Emotional arousal in terms of content emotion analysis means the level of intensity of a given reader’s emotions towards a particular event or information read. It can be zero, in which case we speak of indifference. It can also be measured and felt as strong: for example, excitement or agitation.

Features of emotional arousal

Emotional arousal is a state whose symptoms can be observed in the body. Noticeable physiological reactions include:

  • elevated heart rate,
  • more frequent and more intense heartbeat,
  • accelerated breathing,
  • increased perspiration,
  • goose bumps on the skin,
  • dilation of the pupils and accommodation of the eyes to see at a distance,
  • dilation of blood vessels in the external genitalia.

These symptoms may be accompanied by other, less obvious visceral reactions, that is, reactions of internal organs:

  • due to the activity of the adrenal glands, adrenaline is secreted into the blood,
  • the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream,
  • intestinal peristalsis is reduced and bronchial tubes dilated.

As you can see, this is atavism. The so-called reptilian brain is at work here. In the body, mobilization occurs, leading to an immediate reaction to the occurring changes. For example, in the case of fear it will be flight, and in the case of anger or rage – aggression, fighting.

Why measure emotional arousal?

Unlike sentiment analysis, emotion analysis can indicate the level of emotional arousal in statements or other types of content published by internet users. For analysts, communications professionals, marketers and even salespeople, this is a very important factor. Why?

Measuring arousal, sometimes called the temperature of an utterance, gives those measuring it the ability to determine the overall strength of all emotions. It additionally conveys two pieces of information:

  • it indicates the severity of the tendency to perform the response attributed to a particular emotion,
  • and, at the same time, it shows the magnitude of the obstacles that may block a person from taking a particular action.

The analyst thus gains knowledge of the person’s propensity to act. If, in addition, he knows what emotion is behind the statement, he will also know what action to expect. He will also learn about the extent of the blockages inhibiting the person. With knowledge of the emotions involved, he will be able to more easily determine whether it is an external obstacle or rather a mental block.

Emotional arousal in the context of emotions

What do we gain by having our level of emotional arousal examined in conjunction with a given emotion?

First, we gain the ability to identify the emotional state that results from the content examined, in terms of its intensity

Thus, we distinguish between:

  • mood – when the intensity of the emotion is low but can last for a long time,
  • emotion – sudden and short-lived emotional states,
  • affect – a sudden physiological state of short duration but high intensity, ending in passing and a phase of weariness.

Second, when combined with a given emotion (or compilation of emotions), the analysis will make it easier to determine the source of that emotion

Depending on the type of emotion, the arousal will be sensory or internal, visceral (i.e., aggregated due to the body’s biological imbalance, deprivation of needs, etc.).

And we are only talking about emotions in a primal, animal context! When we begin to operate with derivative, complex emotions, a more complicated and simultaneously more desirable picture will emerge. For we will enter into the so-called reasons of reason, emotions of a transgressive, reflexive character.

Their level and intensity may even give the researcher an idea about the system of values adhered to by the commentator, its violation or realization. It is probably not necessary to convince anyone about the importance of such data for their interpreter.

Third, and finally, the juxtaposition of emotion and arousal allows the analyst to estimate the impact of a given piece of information on an individual’s cognitive development

In what ways? First of all, we know that cognitive processes are connected to emotional processes. The latter affect cognitive processes by giving them a sui generis emotional coloration that stems from the emotions that we are experiencing.

The high intensity of a given emotion will therefore restrict cognitive processes, because these processes will be, as it were, filtered through the filter of the emotions experienced. However, positive stimulation (“reward” that introduces a positive feeling in the subject) improves the process, while the expectation of unpleasant consequences slows it down.

The analysis of primary and secondary emotions in combination with emotional arousal will allow the researcher to attribute specific actions to the results obtained. It will give him a specific picture of the structure of needs behind the analyzed statement. As a result, it will be possible to tailor a marketing message that is much more personalized. If we gather a sufficiently large group with similar results (i.e. similar needs), with such data we can begin designing marketing strategies.

Emotional arousal in practice – analysis of emotions including the arousal factor

Let’s proceed to test the knowledge described here in practice. As a basis for the analysis we will take comments and opinions from the Internet. They were scanned with SentiTool for the emotions they contain. Sentiment and the degree of emotional arousal were examined. We will see the relationship between emotional arousal and predicted action.

Example 1:

Panel prices drama – just like any other store. I will never again buy anything from the damn XX. This floor is crap, and the company that produces this crap is a huge failure.

Message analysis results:

  • anger – 51%,
  • fear – 31%,
  • anticipation – 30%,
  • surprise – 52%,
  • trust – 20%,
  • sadness – 45%,
  • disgust – 42%,
  • joy – 19%,
  • positive sentiment – 18%,
  • negative sentiment – 45%,
  • excitement – 59%.

In the results obtained, the high scores of anger, disgust, sadness and surprise are immediately striking. However, these are obvious in a consumer disappointed with a purchase. These values are supported by a strong negative sentiment, which hints that this state will persist and can be nurtured in the way people harbor resentment.

The emotional arousal of the Internet user is high here and will certainly lead to impulsive actions. What are they? The anger factor (51%) may indicate a desire to take retaliation, probably in the form of leaving aggressive, unfavorable comments and opinions online and among people familiar with the author of the post in question.

However, the most important part of the statement is the author’s identification of the “guilty” of the whole situation and, at the same time, the one responsible for his emotional state. And it is … no, contrary to appearances, not the manufacturer of “crap and junk”, that is the company “great failure”. The culprit is a popular DIY store!

We are witnessing an interesting shift of aggression from the manufacturer to the distributor of floor panels. The reason for the transfer is the unattractive price of the purchased product. As a punishment, the customer threatens to give up shopping in this chain. It can be considered that the quality of the product in this statement is of secondary importance. The customer guessed what he was buying and probably had an internal agreement about not the best specification of the product, but he expected a much lower price.

How do we know this? He did some consumer research and compared prices in other stores, he probably checked opinions of other users about given panels. Finally, despite everything, he bought this particular product. The first two sentences of the internaut’s statement (out of three!) refer to the store’s activity, and only the last sentence refers to the low quality of the floor panels. Something tells us that if the author of the opinion had bought the panels in the promotion, the above entry would not have been written at all.

What about the threat of a chain boycott? This boycott will last with the consumer… until they need to make their next purchase. There are a limited number of players in the building and finishing products market, and the aforementioned market is well established and has the fourth largest distribution network in the country. The results of the emotion analysis are not so high in this case as to suggest abandoning the relatively convenient (and, paradoxically, price-competitive) market in favor of seeking similar merchandise in other chains.

Example 2:

Anything better than G… and their latest “toxic masculinity” anti-male campaign, spreading propaganda saying that whites are responsible for all the evil and hate in the world. I will never buy anything from this crappy company again.

Message analysis results:

  • anger – 58%,
  • fear – 43%,
  • anticipation – 24%,
  • surprise – 53%,
  • trust – 13%,
  • sadness – 52%,
  • disgust – 50%,
  • joy – 10%,
  • positive sentiment – 10%,
  • negative sentiment – 57%,
  • emotional arousal – 64%.

In the message examined, we immediately see a contradiction. The high levels of anger, fear, surprise and sadness are a reflection not of the products themselves, but of the mission or idea that the concern represents. This mission does not agree with the commenting consumer’s vision of the world.

The man is filled with anger (58%). He had largely identified the company with masculinity and suddenly this image began to change. This thesis is supported by high rates of surprise (53%) and fear (43%).

Fear, however, reveals something more to us. It appears because of the blow to the consumer’s fundamental values, which are hidden in the words: whites are responsible for all the evil and hatred in the world. What we get is an image of a conservative person who will not necessarily be appealed to with facts, but who will not mince words when it comes to defending his or her rights or values.

What action can such a consumer take? Anger combined with fear is an explosive mixture – with increased arousal, it can and will lead confidently to an attack. After all, the first step was to post the comment in question. There are bound to be other posts: people with high levels of anxiety are closed to change and are very aggressive in public discussions that undermine their higher values.

Such a person will opt for a consumer boycott (arousal 64%), although we are not sure they will persist in it. Why, you ask? The commentary begins by saying that the campaign is anti-male, showing the toxicity of masculinity. But all the anger focuses on the message of white guilt for the evils of this world. This consumer may nevertheless return to the brand’s products in some time, because he is used to them. He is, after all, masculine.

Example 3:

Irrigation of our greenery is important. At this point I too am going to buy a rotary sprinkler and have already seen several models in the store.

Message Analysis Results:

  • anger – 16%,
  • fear – 15%,
  • anticipation – 41%,
  • surprise – 40%,
  • trust – 34%,
  • sadness – 19%,
  • disgust – 13%,
  • joy – 35%,
  • positive sentiment – 37%,
  • negative sentiment – 6%,
  • emotional arousal – 48%.

In contrast, the text to be analyzed is seemingly unemotional, neutral. The results of expectation, surprise and trust stand out the most, supported by a not inconsiderable (48%) arousal factor.

What do these results say? The person who left the comment is in the process of buying the product. Heightened anticipation (41%) combined with joy (35%) indicates that she is somewhat excited about the search, checking out the available options and looking out for the optimal offer (again, anticipation).

She is also surprised (40%) but still not frightened (15%) by the number of solutions available on the market. She believes she will find the right device (confidence – 34%). Agitation indicates an advanced process that is likely to end in a purchase.

The statement does not contain many details. You can see from its shape that it is a response to a comment from another person looking for such a product. It starts with a truism and, after a slightly stylistically convoluted construction, quickly moves on to the substance – a declaration of a common goal of the search. Now it is enough to add a link to the relevant product to the entry and… we have a typical whisperer’s comment.

If you would like to know, practitioners of whisper marketing, how your work looks like from the point of view of the study of emotions by artificial intelligence, it looks like this.

Example 4:

I bought such a decanter for my father and am eminently pleased. It is so beautiful that I myself gladly reach for it sometimes just to admire it. Lovely!

Message Analysis Results:

  • anger – 12%,
  • fear – 14%,
  • anticipation – 61%,
  • surprise – 50%,
  • trust – 65%,
  • sadness – 12%,
  • disgust – 12%,
  • joy – 72%,
  • positive sentiment – 75%,
  • negative sentiment – 1%,
  • emotional arousal – 72%.

The statement is made by an extremely satisfied consumer who chose the product as a gift for his father. We will not find out whether the gift was to the liking of the recipient. Probably neither does the commentator himself. As evidence we have high expectation supported by surprise at 50% and slightly elevated indices of anger, sadness and fear. For the same reasons, we also don’t know if the gift performs well as a decanter.

What we do know is that the purchaser himself certainly enjoyed the purchase. He exalts the beauty of the product, describes holding it in his hands, and we sense the desire to repeat this action. Such emotional state of the commentator towards the product will last – this thesis is supported by our high positive sentiment (75%).

The arousal factor in such conditions can mean a desire to return to the store and buy the same product. Well, unless the son finally gets up the courage to ask his father what he thinks of the gift. There is a chance that he will get this decanter for himself…

Is the practical application of knowledge about emotional arousal difficult?

The analysis of the comments described above is detailed, almost meticulous. So you may be tempted to respond: This is impractical! What about processing large amounts of data? After all, in order to prepare the communication strategy, monitor the brand image in the network, social listening, advertising campaign, etc. we will need thousands of mentions. How to deal with them?

It’s simple – the analysis of emotions contained in the content is automated. Content is analyzed by AI algorithms operating on the basis of deep neural networks. All mentions or posts are in turn categorized in such a way that a person starting to analyze the data has a simplified task. In addition, the analysis tools used today can be calibrated to the needs of a specific task or use selected classification systems.

So if you need to take your work to the next level with data analysis for marketing, advertising or communication projects, consider analyzing emotions in content.