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A Quantum of Feelz
Tripping balls in St. Petersburg
Fig. 7 in Surov, 2022
You publish a scientific paper and you hope it gets some attention. Having your work cited is gratifying: it means you’ve had an impact beyond your super-specific, obsessive research interests. But sometimes your work is cited in ways that leave you baffled.
An example: In 2016, I published (along with Alan Fridlund and Laurie Lucchina) a study linking emotions to colors. Others had tried this before but they offered only a handful of color names or color chips as possible matches to emotion words. We gave people a touch-screen color wheel and let them pick any color at all to match to emotion words (angry, romantic, etc.). We found that emotion words produced distinctive palettes—all in the absence of any emotional priming or cuing.
It was a reasonably cool result that produced a fair number of citations: either 36 or 87 depending on whether you believe Scopus or Google Scholar.
Our work was cited mostly where one would expect: in the theoretical literature (e.g., a paper positing emotion as the link between music and ambient color (Hauck et al. 2022)), and in more applied journals (e.g., a paper on consumer perceptions of brand color and theme park design (Milman & Tasci 2022)). All fine and dandy.
But one citing paper really takes the cake. It appeared recently in Frontiers in Psychology under the title “Quantum core affect. Color-emotion structure of semantic atom.”
Here’s the abstract. Sit back and let the profundity flow over you:
Psychology suffers from the absence of mathematically-formalized primitives. As a result, conceptual and quantitative studies lack an ontological basis that would situate them in the company of natural sciences. The article addresses this problem by describing a minimal psychic structure, expressed in the algebra of quantum theory. The structure is demarcated into categories of emotion and color, renowned as elementary psychological phenomena. This is achieved by means of quantum-theoretic qubit state space, isomorphic to emotion and color experiences both in meaning and math. In particular, colors are mapped to the qubit states through geometric affinity between the HSL-RGB color solids and the Bloch sphere, widely used in physics. The resulting correspondence aligns with the recent model of subjective experience, producing a unified spherical map of emotions and colors. This structure is identified as a semantic atom of natural thinking—a unit of affectively-colored personal meaning, involved in elementary acts of a binary decision. The model contributes to finding a unified ontology of both inert and living Nature, bridging previously disconnected fields of research. In particular, it enables theory-based coordination of emotion, decision, and cybernetic sciences, needed to achieve new levels of practical impact.
No one enjoys a Bloch sphere more than me, but after this ride through qubit state space the alarm on my Bogosity Meter was wailing like a banshee. I haven’t heard a response like that since the last time I calibrated it, using the International Academic Bogosity Standard™, namely Alan Sokal’s 1996 paper in Social Text titled “Transgressing the boundaries: Towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity.”
From whose brow did Quantum Core Affect spring? That of one Ilya Surov, a post-doctoral researcher at ITMO University in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Yeah, me neither. ITMO U began as the Mechanics, Optics and Watchmaking Department at the Prince Nicholas Vocational School in 1900.) [Anastasia screamed in vain.—Ed.]
A glance at his publication record indicates that Dr. Surov likes quantum in everything, maybe even his breakfast cereal. Oh well. De gustibus and all.
Another citing paper (Harris et al. 2022) concerns the universality of color codes for mass notifications in healthcare settings (e.g., the old “code blue in room 215”). I mention it as an excuse to link to this classic palate cleanser.
Avery N. Gilbert, Alan J. Fridlund, and Laurie A. Lucchina. (2016). The color of emotion: A metric for implicit color associations. Food Quality and Preference 52:203-210.
Ady Milman and Asli D.A. Tasci. (2022). Modeling brand color emotions, perceived brand creativity, perceived value, and brand loyalty in the context of theme parks. Consumer Behavior in Tourism and Hospitality, published online July 13, 2022.
Pia Hauck, Christoph von Castell, and Heiko Hecht. (2022). Crossmodal correspondence between music and ambient color is mediated by emotion. Multisensory Research 35:407-446.
Ilya A. Surov. (2022). Quantum core affect. Color-emotion structure of semantic atom. Frontiers in Psychology 13:838029.
Curt Harris, James Zerylnick, Kelli McCarthy, Curtis Fease, and Morgan Taylor. (2022). Breaking the code: Considerations for effectively disseminating mass notifications in healthcare settings. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19:11802.