The truism—apparently first uttered by Steve Allen, the original host of the Tonight Show—is that tragedy plus time equals comedy.
But a newly published study that looked at responses to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre suggests a different equation: Tragedy plus time equals anxiety.
Analyzing a large dataset of Twitter messages, a Columbia University research team led by psychologists Bruce Doré and Kevin Ochsner found a decrease in sadness-related words the further removed commenters were from the horrible incident, in terms of either time or distance.
“Time and distance can provide a bird’s eye view that alerts people to the scope of an unresolved threat.”
However, the “use of anxiety words showed the opposite pattern,” the researchers write in the journal Psychological Science. They argue that this reflects, at least in part, an increasing focus on “the unresolved causes of the tragedy.”
Read the whole story: Pacific Standard