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The last word on… Mood confusion

Feeling meh? Don’t jump to a massive wrong conclusion about your state of mind, writes Oliver Burkeman, because emotional messages can get lost in translation

A famous old psychology study claimed that men who had just walked over a wobbly suspension bridge were more attracted to a woman they met at the other end than if they’d just walked over a non-wobbly bridge. The theory is that walking over the unstable bridge made them anxious - their hearts thumped, they breathed faster and they mistook these symptoms for signs of sexual arousal. This suggests something odd about emotions: even when they’re happening to us, we have to interpret what they mean, and sometimes we get it wrong. If, like me, you never cry during films except on aircraft, it might be for similar reasons: flying induces anxiety and its physical symptoms, which you take as evidence that the film must be deeply moving.

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