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The emergence of emotions and pro-social and religious sentiments during the September 11 disaster


  • David A. Savage
  • Benno Torgler


Analysing emotional states under duress or during heightened, life-and-death situations is extremely difficult, especially given the inability of laboratory experiments to adequately replicate the environment and the inherent biases of post event surveys. It is in this area that natural experiments come to the fore by combining the randomization that comes from natural data with an experimentally realistic event. The pager communications from September 11th, made publicly available by Wiki Leaks (Wiki Leaks, 2009), provide exactly the kind of natural experiment emotion researchers have been seeking. We have analysed the pager messages by applying an absolute count methodology and by presenting both positive and negative emotive categories as well as the development of pro-social and religious sentiment. Providing behavioural evidence on how people communicate under extreme circumstances and offers valuable insights into human nature. We demonstrate that positive and pro-social communications are the first to emerge followed by the slower and lower negative communications. Religious sentiment is the last to emerge, as individual attempt to make sense of event.

Suggested Citation

  • David A. Savage & Benno Torgler, 2011. "The emergence of emotions and pro-social and religious sentiments during the September 11 disaster," CREMA Working Paper Series 2011-20, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  • Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2011-20

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Savage David A., 2016. "Surviving the Storm: Behavioural Economics in the Conflict Environment," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 22(2), pages 105-129, April.
    2. repec:qut:qubewp:wp014 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Content Analysis; Positive Emotion; Negative Emotion; Religiosity; Disaster Communications; 9/11;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General


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