Has emotional unity or disunity been triggered by NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

Nirit Pisano, Ph.D.

Has emotional unity or disunity been triggered by NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers? Yes. And yes.

Since contracting Covid-19 and endorsing his decision to not get vaccinated last week, Rodgers has triggered an emotional response from people of all walks of life, political leanings and geographic locations. Of 260,000 social media posts about Rodgers and the vaccine on Cognovi’s Psychological AI from November 2nd to 8th, 85% are emotionally loaded, with anger, amusement, surprise and contempt leading the charge.

Even in our enduring state of shock and awe, we are perhaps unfazed that a revered sports figure is susceptible to a political backlash in this environment. And by now we anticipate that the division between pro- and anti-vax groups will be continually and freshly reinforced. Unsurprisingly – as confirmed by our technology – this conversation has been highly activating: of all the conceivable actions individuals might take next, they are 97% inclined to confront one another.

Despite extraordinary tension and disagreement, the emotions sparked in individuals across the spectrum are, as it turns out, entirely identical. From red states and blue states alike, the response is one of overwhelming anger, amusement, surprise and contempt about the unfolding event. Fans versus non-fans? Anger, amusement, surprise and contempt. Viral versus non-viral posts? Anger, amusement, surprise and contempt.

There is ultimately something vital about our collective emotional experience at this time. With so much in common, we may choose to venture a closer look across the aisle, the social causes, or the mom groups; because in our current emotional repertoire, we are deeply aligned.