Are you capable of describing what you’re feeling in the present moment? Is it pleasure, excitement, astonishment? Can you differentiate between annoyance and frustration? If you can only discriminate your emotions in terms of whether it makes you feel positive or negative, fret not – you’re not alone. If yes, congratulations! You’re high on what the psychology folks refer to as ‘emotional granularity’.
(But before getting into that, here are two psychological terms that they’d like us to know – valence and arousal. Valence implies the intrinsic attractiveness or averseness of a stimulus, termed as Positive Valence or Negative Valence, respectively. Hence, ‘Ambivalence’ can be viewed as a conflict between positive and negative valence-carriers. Arousal, on the other hand, is the psychological state of being stimulated in accordance with the perceived valence.)
“For some people, anger, sadness, and fear are all synonyms for ‘I feel unpleasant or bad,’ ” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology, in an interview conducted by Molly Callahan at Northeastern University. “But for other people, their brains can make fairly distinct concepts corresponding to these words that then guide their actions in a specific way.”
Rising blood pressure, increased heart rate, and flushed cheeks can be indicative of both anger as well as anxiety. How would I discern whether a person with flushed cheeks is angry, or has just had an embarrassing encounter with their crush? It boils down to how well the organ enclosed inside my skull does its job at interpreting the signals to deduce an emotion from said signs: anger or anxiety. The precision with which a brain determines specific emotions is known as emotional granularity.
Based on research conductions, it has been implicated that high emotional granularity is beneficial for coping with emotional experiences, as it allows one to label their emotions, hence allowing the brain to take specific actions more accurately and quickly.
However, not all brains are made the same way. If you identify as someone who is incapable of describing emotions clearly, you too can develop higher emotional granularity. Exposure to situations that might provoke newer range of emotions, watching movies and reading books, and attempting to identify the emotion aroused, is believed to help. So next time your someone complains about you spending too much time with novels, friends, Netflix or Prime, say “for emotional granularity” for that mic-drop win.