Emotions drive decisions

“We rise by lifting others” Robert Ingersoll


An emotional roller coaster

We are in the midst of an unprecedented challenge of modern times. We read about it in biblical stories or watched it in Hollywood movies with a bag of popcorn, never expecting to experience it ourselves. Everything we considered to be life, a normal life, has been turned on its head. We are, undoubtedly, living the biggest event of our lives.

And it is taking a toll.

An obvious impact is on the health of those who are suffering from the virus. But there is a hidden, deeper, much broader, and long-lasting impact on people. Something that is going to impact an even larger number of people for a long time to come.

The emotional impact.

As the world counts those who have fallen and those that are fighting to survive the Pandemic, we cannot ignore that we, the human species, are driven by our emotions. That is what makes us humans. And currently the whole human race is riding on an emotional roller coaster. Many are uncertain and anxious about the future, we are socially distanced from friends, family, neighbors. We care about the health of our loved ones, education for our kids, our jobs and means of financial security.

According to what people shared with us for our Pathos Global Emotions Tracker Initiative, we predicted that almost 95% are feeling mostly negative emotions. If we look at the types of emotions expressed by people, Anxiety comes out at the top: 


Variations between countries

Interestingly, not all countries score the same. In some cases, there are large variations between countries.


The question is why? Why are there countries that are showing higher resilience and lower negative emotions vs others? We believe this variation is driven by the emotional engagement between citizens and the government.

Emotional Engagement and Government 

We define emotional engagement like this:       

  “The strength of emotional connection between a government and it’s citizens. 

      Higher engagement drives higher loyalty, trust and national prosperity.”

Leaders responsible for effective policy development and service delivery management are increasingly aware that citizens have varying emotional needs and drivers that must be acknowledged and accounted for in development, design, and implementation of service delivery. 

In her article “The Emotional Citizen”, Linda M. Isbell argues emotions are the fundamental determinants of political attitudes and actions. She references research that demonstrates citizens feeling different emotions support various positions. For e.g. citizens who feel angry are more likely to support risky and confrontational policies. This also manifests in voting behavior and choice of candidate.

Add pandemic, and we have one of the biggest challenge most leaders would ever face in their political careers.

Risks and Opportunities for Government during the Pandemic

As citizens’ emotional engagement shifts during the pandemic, their expectations from the public office holders is also evolving.

As mentioned earlier, currently emotions are largely negative, driven by several factors. From the data we have seen, here are the most important drivers: 


The three topics driving emotional engagement downwards are:

· Food (access, security)

· Education (children, self)

· Health (self and family)

Sooner or later, citizens will start to associate their lack of ability to see any improvement or clarity about their current and future state, to the performance of their local and federal governments. If not addressed, this could result in deeper, long-term negative emotional engagement with the government. Depending on how long the situation persists, this could manifest in several different outcomes, which may not be entirely favorable to any government. In addition, these could also evolve into mental health issues, which could result in a much longer and costly challenge for governments, even after overcoming the pandemic.

On the other hand, this could also be an opportunity for governments to acknowledge that citizens, being humans, have valid emotions driven by factors most important to them. By understanding, recognizing, and then addressing citizens’ emotional engagement, governments can enhance trust, improve citizens’ emotional and mental health, and drive higher social cohesion in the future.

Three types of governments are appearing

We see governments around the world responding in one of the following three ways when it comes to taking care of peoples’ emotions and building emotional engagement with their citizens. We have also predicted likely outcome of their actions on the long-term national discourse: 


Now, more than ever, people are looking up to leaders to not only meet their functional needs, but also their emotional needs. Those that will consider it important and put in place measures to address it effectively, will come out of this pandemic stronger and ready to jump right back up. The world needs more empathy if we are to survive as humanity and governments have a fundamental role to play.

Emotional engagement, trust in government and Covid-19

There is some interesting recent news that warrants an exploration, especially in light with the variations we are seeing between countries in emotions score. In our next blog, we are going to review the PathosGET data and highlight the relationship with trust in government. We will investigate if there is a correlation between peoples’ emotional engagement and trust in government to their adherence to government lock down orders and eventually to Covid-19 related statistics.

About PathosAI

PathosAI is a Canadian start-up that is converging Artificial Intelligence and Human Intellect to measure subconscious human behavior. Research has shown that emotional engagement is the best predictor of human behavior. Traditional Research methods are not geared to measure emotional engagement.  

About PathosAI Global Emotions Tracker Initiative

At PathosAI, a start-up that launched just as this pandemic was beginning to hit the world, we wanted to help. Our core capability is to measure subconscious human emotions and emotional engagement. We decided to focus our energies and use our core capabilities to make a small contribution. And so, we created a platform so that all of us can share what we are feeling and at the same time see how others around the world are doing.

We hope that our small effort can make a big difference.