XAT 2019 Question 20

Instructions

Read the passage given below and answer the questions that follow it:

Elevation has always existed but has just moved out of the realm of philosophy and religion and been recognized as a distinct emotional state and a subject for psychological study. Psychology has long focused on what goes wrong, but in the past decade there has been an explosion of interest in “positive psychology”—what makes us feel good and why. University of Virginia moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who coined the term elevation, writes, “Powerful moments of elevation sometimes seem to push a mental ‘reset button,’ wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with feelings of hope, love, and optimism, and a sense of moral inspiration.”

Haidt quotes first-century Greek philosopher Longinus on great oratory: “The effect of elevated language upon an audience is not persuasion but transport.” Such feeling was once a part of our public discourse. After hearing Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, former slave Frederick Douglass said it was a “sacred effort.” But uplifting rhetoric came to sound anachronistic, except as practiced by the occasional master like Martin Luther King Jr.

It was while looking through the letters of Thomas Jefferson that Haidt first found a description of elevation. Jefferson wrote of the physical sensation that comes from witnessing goodness in others: It is to “dilate [the] breast and elevate [the] sentiments … and privately covenant to copy the fair example.” Haidt took this description as a mandate.

Elevation can so often give us chills or a tingling feeling in the chest. This noticeable, physiological response is important. In fact, this physical reaction is what can tell us most surely that we have been moved. This reaction, and the prosocial inclinations it seems to inspire, has been linked with a specific hormone, oxytocin, emitted from Vagus nerve which works with oxytocin, the hormone of connection. The nerve’s activities can only be studied indirectly.

Elevation is part of a family of self-transcending emotions. Some others are awe, that sense of the vastness of the universe and smallness of self that is often invoked by nature; another is admiration, that goose-bump-making thrill that comes from seeing exceptional skill in action. While there is very little lab work on the elevating emotions, there is quite a bit on its counterpart, disgust. It started as a survival strategy: Early humans needed to figure out when food was spoiled by contact with bacteria or parasites. From there disgust expanded to the social realm—people became repelled by the idea of contact with the defiled or by behaviors that seemed to belong to lower people. “Disgust is probably the most powerful emotion that separates your group from other groups.” Haidt says disgust is the bottom floor of a vertical continuum of emotion; hit the up button, and you arrive at elevation. Another response to something extraordinary in another person can be envy, with all its downsides. Envy is unlikely, however, when the extraordinary aspect of another person is a moral virtue (such as acting in a just way, bravery and self-sacrifice, and caring for others).

Question 20

Which of the options below correctly identifies the function of elevation?


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