May 20, 2011
Last September, we reported on an imaginatively designed study that attempted to document how the mood of the nation shifted in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
German researchers analyzed the content of text messages sent to more than 85,000 American pagers on that day, and found indications of anger — that is, the use of words such as “hate” or “annoyed” — rose steadily as the hours went by. In contrast, the number of words indicating sadness or anxiety stayed relatively steady.
As a way of gauging the public mood, the study was groundbreaking. However, the researchers now concede it was seriously flawed.