I.4.4 Entangled teams share the same emotions

After watching an adoring Indianapolis crowd scream for Mr. Trump — the only thing Mr. Mnuchin could compare it to was when Mick Jagger had taken him to a Rolling Stones concert — Mr. Mnuchin was convinced that Mr. Trump would win. – NYT Aug 30, 2020 

“Emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it” – this quote by Vincent van Gogh makes it clear that while we think that we are rational creatures controlled by reason, the opposite is true. The ecstatic, enthusiastic, adoring, screaming crowds at Mr. Trumps’ rallies all shared the same emotions of uncontrolled exuberance and ecstasy, telling Mr. Mnuchin, the future secretary of the treasury of the Trump government, where to place his bets and throw in his lot with Donald Trump. 

In many situations we behave highly irrational, driven by emotions and passions. The key problem in these situations is that we are not aware that our emotions have taken over and control what we do, rather we still think that we behave rationally, driven by clear logic. It is therefore highly desirable to get an early warning system that alerts us when our emotions are overwriting the logic circuit. Even more, knowing what sort of action triggers what sort of emotional response is a clear sign of what one’s values are, and to which tribe one belongs.

Imagine you are going to a circus performance. When stepping through the entrance into the circus tent you will be full of pleasant expectations. While sitting under the large tent roof, and watching a troupe of trapeze artists, you experience a tickling sensation but are mostly relaxed while watching the dazzling spins and jumps of the artists. Occasionally you might keep your breath at a particularly daring jump. Once the artists have finished, you and all other members of the audience will start clapping, initially individually and asynchronously, but becoming more and more synchronized, keeping on clapping in step for a few minutes, which gives you the pleasant feeling of being part of a large happily entangled crowd. At the same time, the trapeze artists, waiting for their performance, will have their hearts racing, triggered by fear and thrill. Once they are on stage, climbing up the rope and swinging on the trapeze, somersaulting and flying through the air, they will be fully concentrated and focused on their exercises and on each other, fear now gone, immersed in the flow of their acrobatics. Once they have finished flying through the air, back on firm ground, they will stand on the stage, breathing heavily but smiling happily and relieved, bowing to the audience while collecting the well-deserved applause.

In this scenario there are two different groups at the same place, under the roof of the circus tent, which are strongly entangled within their own group, but only weakly entangled with the other group. The spectators experience a sequence of emotions starting with pleasant expectations, moving on to positive thrill and excitement, ending in happy relaxation. The artists exhibit a very different emotional sequence, starting with fear and worry, leading to highest concentration and immense positive stress, ending in huge relief and happiness. If we would have a way to anonymously measure the emotions of everybody under the roof of the circus tent, we could easily tell who is artist and who is spectator, without knowing anything else about them. In our research, we have done precisely that, not for circus artists, but for other similar scenarios such as theater plays, and musical concerts and rehearsals using body sensors, facial emotion recognition, and artificial intelligence.

In our studies we equipped professional actors in a theater play, and jazz musicians using the smartwatch-based Happimeter system and measured their emotions using machine learning and artificial intelligence. At the same time, we also captured the emotions of the audience through face emotion recognition with Webcams. We noticed different entanglements between the actors and the audience. While the actors were exhibiting shared fear and stress, the audience was entangled in surprise and happiness. We however also noticed that when an actor was walking from the stage to the audience, to involve them into the performance, it triggered fear among the audience – most likely people were afraid to be picked by the actor for an experiment. However, once the “thrill to maybe be chosen” was over, the relief of the audience was shown as happiness by the faces of the spectators. This means that the audience first was entangled in collective fear to be selected, which then led to entangled happiness once the danger to maybe be chosen was over. This point illustrates that exposing a team, in this case the audience, to a small pain, is a good way to build entanglement among the team. See also the discussion about “no pain, no gain” in section I.2.3.

We also did similar experiments in the office environment, using the same smartwatch-based Happimeter system. We found that clearly knowing your emotions was helpful to better manage your emotions. Using the Happimeter smartwatches, we found that the body of the wearer of the watch predicted emotions such as stress, or the degree of understanding. In a project analyzing a series of meetings in the research lab of a high-tech company, we found that the way how they moved their bodies predicted their perceived meeting productivity. The more participants differed in moving their bodies on the chairs during the meeting, the more productive they found the meeting. In other words, by taking turns being active during the meeting gave participants the feeling of being more engaged and entangled with the other participants. By alternating between sitting motionless and focused at one time, and animatedly gesticulating at other times during the meeting was an indicator of an engaged and entangled participant.

In another experiment in the classroom, we measured tiredness of the students and quality of the teaching, comparing it with the degree of entanglement of the students with the teacher. This was done by inviting the students in the class to wear the watch, and periodically polling them on the watch by vibrating the watch, and then asking them to enter their assessment of the quality of the teaching, and their tiredness. We found that the body movements of the students indeed predicted their understanding of the materials and their degree of tiredness. The most predictive attributes of the students were their heartrate and body movement. In other words, the way their hearts were beating, and the way they were fidgeting on their seats, predicted how much they were immersed in the presentation of the teacher. Note that there was no general pattern, for some students, higher heartrate and fidgeting less was an indicator of being entangled with the teacher, while for others it was lower heartrate or moving around on their chairs more. This confirms our findings from previous projects with the Happimeter smartwatch, where for some people increased heartrate indicated happiness, while for others lower heartrate was a predictor of happiness. The point is that this is an individual characteristic of a person, which belongs to an individual just like hair color or eye color.


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