In experiments showing (once again) that humans are poor "affective forecasters," subjects who predicted that they would be upset by racist remarks and avoid such a speaker, actually didn’t respond that way in subsequent experiments.
The researchers hypothesize that humans are often surprised by an emotional response, be it indifference or arousal, because they are not always aware of their affective identifications with groups or causes.
Well that was certainly the case for me watching Obama’s presidential swearing in ceremony. I view myself as fairly immune to the allure of politics, especially detached from the rhetoric and rituals of America’s civic religion.
I had gone dutifully through the snow to my neighbors’ open house to watch the broadcast. These were liberal peace and justice types who were coming in from the cold at last. (In fact, since 2003 many of us had been standing together in peace vigils in front of the Stop and Shop).
So I expected to be cheerful but not so overwhelmed with jubilation. Hearts burned within and tears flowed freely. I felt surges of passionate love for our country and the world. America! America!
Here we were, middle aged professional suburbanite standing with hands over our hearts and singing "The Star Spangled Banner." (The moment in Casablanca when the French patriots sing The Marseilles had nothing on us.)
Today, having cooled off and come down from the mountain, that peak experience is still going to give strength for trudging if not slouching our way to Bethlehem.
But how good to know that evolution has provided an instant emotional message service to tell us who we are and ’where we’re at.’ "Surprised by Joy, Impatient as the Wind," as Wordsworth poem has it.