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In view of multimodal interfaces capable of a detailed representation of the User’s possible emotions, the paper analyses bitterness in terms of its mental ingredients, the beliefs and goals represented in the mind of a person when feeling an emotion. Bitterness is a negative emotion in between anger and sadness: like anger, it is caused by a sense of injustice, but also entails a sense of impotence which makes it similar to sadness. Often caused by betrayal, it comes from the disappointment of an expectation from oneself or anothers with whom one is affectively involved, or from a disproportion between commitment and actual results. The ingredients found in a pilot study were tested through qualitative analysis of a further questionnaire, which confirmed the ingredients hypothesized, further revealing the different nature of bitterness across ages and across types of work. Bitterness-Social emotion-Cognitive model of emotion
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J Multimodal User Interfaces
DOI 10.1007/s12193-009-0021-9
ORIGINAL PAPER
The mental ingredients of bitterness
Isabella Poggi ·Francesca D’Errico
Received: 7 April 2009 / Accepted: 11 November 2009
© OpenInterface Association 2009
Abstract In view of multimodal interfaces capable of a de-
tailed representation of the User’s possible emotions, the pa-
per analyses bitterness in terms of its mental ingredients,
the beliefs and goals represented in the mind of a person
when feeling an emotion. Bitterness is a negative emotion
in between anger and sadness: like anger, it is caused by
asenseofinjustice, but also entails a sense of impotence
which makes it similar to sadness. Often caused by be-
trayal, it comes from the disappointment of an expectation
from oneself or anothers with whom one is affectively in-
volved, or from a disproportion between commitment and
actual results. The ingredients found in a pilot study were
tested through qualitative analysis of a further questionnaire,
which confirmed the ingredients hypothesized, further re-
vealing the different nature of bitterness across ages and
across types of work.
Keywords Bitterness ·Social emotion ·Cognitive model
of emotion
1 Multimodal Interfaces and the analysis of emotions
A relevant area in research on Multimodal Interfaces is the
construction of Empathic Agents [13]. In principle, an em-
pathic agent should emulate an empathic human as close as
possible, but so far it may not yet be so. In a human, we must
I. Poggi ·F. D’Errico ()
Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Educazione, Università Roma Tre,
Rome, Italy
e-mail: francesca.derrico@uniroma1.it
I. Poggi
e-mail: poggi@uniroma3.it
distinguish between feeling empathy and expressing empa-
thy (a nurse may feel deep empathy toward a patient and yet
not display it, not to let him worry more; if someone I hate
had an unlucky accident I may hypocritically show sorry to
him). Agents are not as yet able to feel empathy for the User,
while they can express it. Yet, it is not the same to show em-
pathy in case of positive vs. negative emotions, nor, within
the same valence, for joy vs. pride, or sadness vs. anger. So,
whether or not an Empathic Agent can feel emotions, to be
empathic it must be endowed with an internal representation
of the other’s emotion.
In the last decades research on emotion has gone far
away. Several domains have been widely and deeply ex-
plored, functions of emotions, neuro-physiological mech-
anisms, verbal and multimodal communication, effects on
everyday life, allowing advances in Affective Computing
and emotion simulation. Nonetheless, more in depth investi-
gation is needed at least in two aspects of emotion research.
On the one hand, the range of emotions studied is still
narrow. Maybe because investigation often moved from the
standpoint of emotion expression, a great number of studies
have been devoted to the so called, famous, primary emo-
tions: presumably innate, universal, displayed by the same
expressive pattern in all cultures, and of early emergence.
But the primary ones are only a bunch of emotions in the
infinite number of affects we happen to feel in our every-
day life. It is (unfortunately) very rare that we feel happi-
ness, and not so frequent, also, that we feel disgust. Even
fear (fortunately) is not an emotion we feel everyday, ex-
cept, perhaps, in countries confronting a war. Nonetheless,
our everyday life is full of emotions, that, albeit different
from the primary ones, actually colour our mood and make
us feel merry or upset. At work, for example, emotions heav-
ily affect our relationship with colleagues, bosses, and cus-
tomers: we often feel envy or indignation, anxiety or humili-
J Multimodal User Interfaces
ation, contempt, admiration, sense of injustice or bitterness.
So the time has come to focus also on these “Cinderella”
emotions: ones that do not always give rise to a canonical
bodily expression, and yet are very important in determin-
ing our quality of life.
Another problem in present emotion Affective Comput-
ing research is the lack of a deep and thorough conceptual
analysis of the emotions under focus: a search for the spe-
cific beliefs implied in different emotions, that characterize
and distinguish each single affective state from all others.
Such an in-depth analysis would be useful for Multimodal
Interfaces and Empathic Agents: a detailed representation of
the beliefs implied by a certain emotion might be taken into
account by the Interface to update its User Model and tailor
its empathic expression by focusing on certain aspects of the
User’s feeling more than on others. Suppose the Empathic
Agent is a friend that helps you regulate your emotions: it
should display very different behaviours if you were feel-
ing, for example, bitterness instead of anger, where feelings,
beliefs and action tendencies are very different. Only a rep-
resentation that distinguishes the two emotions might result
in more appropriate empathic reactions.
To confront these issues, this paper studies bitterness, an
emotion that people happen to feel with fair frequency, and
that may have a relevant impact on their daily life. We pro-
pose an analysis of bitterness in terms of its mental ingredi-
ents, the beliefs and goals that are supposedly represented in
the mind of a person when s/he is feeling an emotion. Our
analysis is tested through two empirical studies that inves-
tigate people’s definitions of bitterness and descriptions of
their feelings and experiences in this emotion.
2 Bitterness
Bitterness has not been subject to specific analytical study
in the psychological domain. An isolated exception is fem-
inist literature where, within the exploration of anger, bit-
terness is defined as “a refusal to forgive and forget”, a ten-
dency “to maintain a vivid sense of the wrongs one has been
done, to recite one’s angry litany of loss long past the time
others may care to listen or sympathize” [10]; but also, “a
rational response to the frustration of important and legiti-
mate hopes” [3]. Starting from these definitions, Campbell
observes that bitterness differs from anger for its failure of
uptake, since the one who is recounting his injury here fails
to be listened to. While people devote attention to one ex-
pressing anger, when someone accuses you to be “bitter” he
is silencing you, as if annoyed of listening to your complaint,
and thus dismisses you, that is, he subtracts any importance
to your being and saying. Yet, this analysis of bitterness is
only sketched, since Campbell’s paper mainlyfocuses on the
political sense of being accused of being “bitter”.
A close feeling is grudge [14]: a kind of silent hate that
lives on through rumination of the wrong received, and
sometimes made. But while grudge is a “social emotion”,
since it is definitely directed to another, bitterness is a sort
of sad anger, that is hopelessly retorted to oneself.
To provide a more analytical definition of bitterness we
need to find out its “mental ingredients”.
3 Mental ingredients: an approach to the analysis
of emotions
The view of emotions we adopt for our analysis is a cog-
nitive model in terms of goals and beliefs [6]. As in other
models [7,15] an emotion is seen as an adaptive device that
monitors the state of achievement or thwarting of a person’s
important goals: a complex subjective state encompassing
cognitive, physiological, expressive, motivational aspects,
which is triggered as one believes that a current eventcauses
or is likely to cause the achievement or thwarting of one’s
adaptively important goals [4,5]. The cognitive side of an
emotion includes the “mental ingredients” that, according
to this view, must be represented in the mind of a person
who is feeling that emotion: beliefs, expectations, evalua-
tions, causal attributions, referred to an assumed or imag-
ined event that is relevant for one of the person’s important
goals, but also the goal that is monitored by that emotion,
and the goals triggered by it [9,11,12].
To discover the mental ingredients of an emotion one
must go through real or fictitious cases, collected either
through the researcher’s introspective analysis or through
empirical research, in which that emotion actually has been
or in principle can be felt. The features shared by all posi-
tive examples are the ingredients of that emotion. Yet, one
should distinguish the minimal necessary set of ingredients
from those that may add in some examples but not in others:
when you think of cases in which you might feel or actually
have felt an emotion, some are prototypical cases of it, while
others are not, and yet they can still be examples of that emo-
tion. For instance, looking for the conditions to feel guilty,
one that immediately comes to mind is responsibility, which
pops up in the most typical cases of guilt feelings, e.g. if you
run over someone because you’re drunk. But in some cases
there is no responsibility, and yet guilt may be felt: take
the survivors of concentration camps who feel guilty even
if they had no responsibility for the others’ death. The real
crucial condition for feeling guilty is the sense of inequity
of an event, whether or not due to our responsibility [4].
In brief, some ingredients of an emotion, some apparently
crucial conditions of it in fact don’t hold in all instances of
that emotion, but only in its prototypical cases, while others
are so necessary that without them the emotion cannot be
felt: these constitute the “core” ingredients of that emotion,
J Multimodal User Interfaces
and are common to both prototypical and more peripheral
cases, while others only hold for the most central examples.
Thus we must not constrain research to prototypical cases of
the emotion, but take all positive cases into account, to find
all the ingredients and distinguish the “core” ones that are
present also in non-prototypical cases.
4 The ingredients of bitterness. A pilot study
To find out the mental ingredients of bitterness, we first de-
signed a pilot study to define this emotion on the basis of real
examples. 40 subjects were submitted a questionnaire of 18
open, yes-no and multiple choice questions concerning the
following topics:
1. Definition: questions asking to narrate a case of bitter-
ness, tell the cause of this emotion, and describe its spe-
cific feeling
2. Mental states: questions paraphrasing the ingredients hy-
pothesized to test how much the are present in the sub-
jects’ feeling of bitterness
3. Fields of occurrence: a question asking if bitterness is
experienced more often in work, school, politics, sport,
entertainment, family, love or friendship
4. Relation to other emotions: one question about how far
bitterness is from disgust, disappointment, resignation,
grudge, contempt, sense of injustice, anger, sadness, re-
sentment, regret, indignation, impotence and revenge
5. Ways, effects and functions of the communication of bit-
terness: questions asking if and how the subject commu-
nicates it; how can s/he understand it from others’ behav-
iour, and what are the effects of communicating it or not
on future relationships
6. Impersonating bitterness: one question asked subjects to
impersonate bitterness: “Imagine you are on the stage
and you have the feeling of bitterness talk: you imper-
sonate it. What do you think it would say? How could it
describe itself?”.
From the participants’ answers we singled out a list of men-
tal ingredients, some always and necessarily present, others
present only in some prototypical cases. Let us first highlight
the ingredients in a prototypical example: feeling betrayed
by someone you trusted.
I believe that trust is a very important value in friendship;
once I came to know that a friend of mine had concealed
something to me, not telling me the truth: she had be-
trayed that absolute value of trust, and I did not expect it
in any way. I felt bitterness and, in fact, disappointment,
out of a behaviour I thought could never occur.
This example is prototypical in that it contains many cru-
cial ingredients of bitterness: A person A expects some be-
haviour X from another person B, with whom A is affec-
tively involved. A believes B is committed to do X. But B
disconfirms A’s expectation, and this causes that a goal of A
is thwarted.
Sometimes, though, also a feeling of injustice adds to
those ingredients:
(I felt bitterness) at school when I got a bad grade in
physics after I had studied it very much and it was my
birthday.
Even more specifically, in some cases what causes bitter-
ness is the peculiar harm and injustice of being humiliated
It is an emotion caused by a situation in which a person
addresses another with arrogance, presumption, almost as
in a power abuse.
In any case, A feels that harm (the goal thwarting) is ir-
reversible:
Then, with time passing, (relations) improved, but they
have never been again as before.
To sum up, the ingredients of bitterness in its prototypical
cases are the following:
1. goal A has a goal G
2. responsibility A believes B is responsible for the fulfilment of G
3. commitment A believes B is committed to G’s fulfilment
4. expectation A expects B will cause/allow the fulfilment of G
5. involvement A is involved (wants to have positive relations)
with B
6. disappointment A’s expectation is disconfirmed
7. goal thwarting A’s goal G is thwarted
8. irreversible In an irreversible way
9. injustice This is unjust for B
A feels bitterness when his goal G is thwarted in an ir-
reversible way causing injustice to A, and when A believes
that the responsible for this thwarting is another person B,
with whom A is affectively involved, whom A expected
would allow or cause the fulfilment of G, who A believes
was committed to fulfil it, and who disconfirmed A’s expec-
tation.
Yet, in some examples of our pilot study not all of these
ingredients are present:
The case in which I felt bitterness was during the oral
examination at Grammar School, because it did not go the
way I would have liked, and I immediately felt bitterness
since in my opinion I could have done more, but it was
late.
In this case, the person A believes was committed to ful-
fil G is A herself, and the ingredient of injustice does not
seem to be present. At most, A feels she betrayed herself:
J Multimodal User Interfaces
she somehow feels guilty toward herself, responsible for an
irreversible harm she inflicted to herself.
Thus, a common ingredient of bitterness, either caused
by others or by oneself, is responsibility for a non-achieved
goal. As put by a subject.
Bitterness is an emotion you feel when you had the possi-
bility to do something to achieve a goal, but this was not
done and as a consequence the goal has not been achieved.
The sense of bitterness due to disconfirmed expectation
and inequity may be also caused by the disproportion be-
tween personal investment and actual results.
After years of study, fatigue and striving I still can’t find
my own realization in the work domain.
In other cases, the salient ingredient is only injustice, due
to non-motivated harm.
I, for example, felt bitterness when something happened
that caused pain to someone without an acceptable mo-
tivation and no one could contribute to soften such pain.
When the father of a friend of mine died, I used to feel a
deep bitterness while thinking of her suffering, but I did
not know how to soften her pain.
Actually, some of the ingredients of bitterness, goal
thwarting,expectation, involvement, the other’s responsibil-
ity, and injustice, are typical ingredients of anger. But goal
thwarting following an expectation is the core of disappoint-
ment [11], while another aspect likens bitterness to sadness:
a feeling of impotence to react, to recover the damage un-
dergone, because those who caused the injustice are stronger
than we are.
In fact, you typically feel bitterness when you struggle
with very powerful agencies, like, say, mafia, or a judiciary
system that is unjust and iniquitous: you feel them too more
strong and powerful than you, and conclude you have no
chance to win over them. Your sense of injustice is high, but
you feel you cannot do anything to overcome it; if, as [3]
puts it, “an expression of bitterness begins its life at some
point as intended anger”, you start feeling that your cry of
anger has no point, no weapons to win, and anger becomes
restrained anger, since it cannot find anyone to listen.
Beside impotence to react, bitterness also entails the very
impotence to express one’s disappointment. It is a kind of
restrained disappointment that lasts in time, just because re-
strained. As goes a subject’s definition,
Bitterness is a sensation you can feel after a great dis-
appointment. Disappointment can leave you this sense of
void, of bitterness, that can last in time.
What is the process that leads to bitterness? When a per-
son believes she is subject to injustice, anger may be felt.
But if she also feels impotence to react, because the one who
caused the injustice is too strong that one cannot oppose it,
this triggers sadness. This mix of sadness and anger that ac-
tion cannot rescue, and that cannot be expressed, gives rise
to a long-lasting disappointment and sadness, which results
in bitterness.
Moreover, if the injustice that caused bitterness is brought
about by another person, or simply you believe another
is the cause of your bitterness, then you also start to feel
grunge toward the other, with grudge being a restrained
anger toward someone that one cannot act out [14]. Thus,
bitterness might be considered the individual—non social—
side of grudge.
5 A quanti-qualitative analysis of bitterness
The pilot study above resulted in a set of ingredients that
we hypothesize define the emotion of bitterness. By taking
them as a working hypothesis, in a subsequent study 110
subjects (35 males (32%) and 75 (68%) females), between
14 and 78 years old (32.9 m) were submitted another ques-
tionnaire, slightly modified with respect to the former, of
18 open, yes-no and multiple choice questions. A quanti-
qualitative analysis of the answers will be overviewed in a
subsequent work; here we test the psychological validity of
the ingredients found in the pilot study by focusing on the
questions concerning the definition of the emotion, its fields
of occurrence, its relation to other emotions, its communi-
cation, and the question on impersonating bitterness.
We obtained a corpus which counts 14058 (V ) occur-
rences with 2811 (N) different words and a medium lexical
richness index [(V /N ) ·100], equal to 19,99%.
An automatic quanti-qualitative analysis was performed
on the subjects’ answers by TalTa c (Trattamento Auto-
matico Lessicale e Testuale per l’Analisi del Contenuto,i.e.
“Lexical and Textual Automatic Processing for Content
Analysis”: [2]), a software for textual data analysis based on
a “lexicometric approach”: an application of statistical prin-
ciples to textual corpora. The “textual statistics” [8]aimsto
extract the semantic level in a text starting from the list of
words obtained by statistical analysis; for example, in the
specificities’ analysis, the software extracts a list of signif-
icant words obtained by a statistical comparison between
sub-parts of text according to selected variables.
5.1 Textual and lexical analysis
The lexical analysis includes some descriptive information,
particularly interesting for the understanding of bitterness,
like theme words which represent the most frequent words
out of all occurrences, adjective analysis and time analysis.
Theme words. Theme words show the main topics con-
sidered in the answers of the questionnaire: the definition
J Multimodal User Interfaces
through similar emotions like disappointment (77 occur-
rences), resentment (15), sadness (37); the main modality
of expression (silences,silence, respectively 29 and 18 occ.)
and some ingredients of bitterness like expectation (15 occ.)
and trust (14).
Adjective analysis. We used the dictionary of positive and
negative adjectives present in TalTac2 by analysing the neg-
ative index1to identify polarization through positive or neg-
ative lexicon. The index reveals that the characteristics of
negative polarity of words in the corpus is as high as 76%,
that is higher than the reference value (40% according to a
research based on Italian corpora; [1]). The adjectives are
focused on the negative emotional experience surrounding
bitterness: among the most frequent, wounded,powerless,
sad,empty.
Time analysis. Time analysis reveals an orientation to the
past, because out of all verb frequencies our subjects express
time information most frequently as past tense (68%, as op-
posed to 29% present and 3% future), but out of the three
categories of age, “up to 25”, “from 26 to 40”, and “from 41
on”, this percentage increases up to 70% for the third one.
So in defining bitterness they tend to describe the time of the
emotion as time told rather than time lived, possibly to put
distance between themselves and their feeling, and to have a
more complex interpretation of facts. Such an interpretation
is also supported by the frequent use of reflective verbs like
considered, believed, expected, thought; this is also coher-
ent with the idea of bitterness as an emotion of memory, of
a negative past, and as a way to ruminate over one’s wrongs
[3], as well as with the ingredient of failed expectation seen
above.
I expected more collaboration from my collaborators, col-
leagues and workers ...
– When a person at work that I believed trustworthy in
many ways tried to stop me
For instance when a person I considered a friend con-
cealed me important things
5.2 The peculiar lexicon of bitterness
Beyond the absolute value of words, the key words or pecu-
liar lexicon [2] are the words that result over-represented in
the text under analysis by comparing the corpus to an ex-
ternal frequency lexicon, taken as a reference model.2The
measure of the variance from the reference lexicon is rep-
resented by the standard deviation, which is the deviation
between the form frequencies in the analyzed text and in the
frequency lexicon [2].
1The index is obtained by calculating the ratio between the total of
negative occurrences and the total of positive ones (tot. Occ. Neg/tot.
Occ. Pos·100).
2In this case we used the standard Italian, resource in Taltac.
Table 1 Personal investment
s.d Graphical form s.d Graphical form
Relational trust 14.45 Boyfriend
33.37 Reliable 13.17 Engaged
33.37 Trusted 5.77 Girlfriend
26.59 Trust 13.17 Engaged
23.92 Confident 11.25 Engagement
20.89 to trust Commitment
20.89 Being confident 33.37 Commit myself
Affection 27.15 Profuse
65.63 Friend 12.11 Ttraining
43.02 Friendship 4.32 Engagement
36.18 Feelings Giving verbs
19.05 Friends 19.01 Giving him
13.17 Friendly 11.66 Gave
From the corpus of answers we extracted some seman-
tic areas that are quite close to the ingredients of bitterness
previously hypothesized. First, a very large area of PER-
SONAL INVESTMENT (Table 1) is mainly represented in
terms of relational trust (to trust,trust,reliable,confidential,
confident), AFFECTION (friend, friends, friendship, affec-
tion, emotion, girlfriend, boyfriend, care), COMMITMENT
(to commit myself, engagement, training), and corresponds
toverbsofgiving(giving, gave, offered).
The second semantic area refers to a central aspect of bit-
terness: FAILED EXPECTATIONS. Subjects often use the past
tense of estimation verbs like expect,believe,think, attribut-
ing the cause of bitterness to past and to beliefs of betrayal.
Further, some terms recurrently refer to a SENSE OF INJUS-
TICE and to BAD FAITH or DECEPTION, a tendency to at-
tribute a heavier responsibility to the “betrayer” (Table 2).
Bitterness is then an emotion caused by rumination about
an enduring injustice; in this line the feminist approach [3]
admits that it does not involve only gender but in general
disadvantaged groups, including, as to persons the divorced,
disabled, ill, and as to groups, the working class. She points
out the positive role of bitterness as “refusal to forgive and to
forget (...) to maintain a sense of the wrongs one has been
done” [10, 146], as a way to store the condensed injustices;
in this sense is bitterness an emotion of memory.
While talking of bitterness, participants frequently imply
a semantic core of impotence, powerlessness, to be inter-
preted in two senses. One is impotence of doing something
to overcome injustice or to change a situation, due to one’s
low level of control over circumstances.
To feel bitterness means that you cannot change things
when you really would like they were different
A feeling that expresses the impossibility of achieving the
goal one imagines to achieve
The impossibility of modifying the situations one is living
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Table 2 Failed expectation
s.d Graphical form s.d Graphical form
Cognitive expectation 8.67 I knew
82.00 You expected 7.66 We expert
70.94 You believed Sense of injustice
65.95 Expectations 49.90 Unjustly
35.78 I believed 34.96 Injustice
29.19 I expected 12.61 Unjust
28.13 Expected Bad faith/reception
27.15 They were foreseeing 56.77 Betrayed (fem.)
26.34 Certainties 47.19 Betrayed (pl.)
25.93 Right 35.58 Betrayal
23.63 Esteem 33.37 Naughty things
23.44 Broken 20.89 Artificially
20.89 You thought 15.36 Deceptions
19.01 Disappointed 11.66 Betrays
10.22 Expectation 8.15 Deception
9.15 Failed 7.66 Trap
The second sense of impotence is the difficulty of ex-
pressing bitterness. Often subjects confirm they didn’t ex-
press bitterness to the person who had caused it, although
they express it to other people.
Now I know that to feel better I should have expressed my
bitterness, and I understand it from my own attitude, from
how nervous I feel
I wouldn’t have managed to express my affective state,
it is difficult to manifest one’s feelings to someone who
showed not very sensitive
It is not a feeling I can express or describe easily; it is a
feeling of anger and regret that I feel mainly toward my-
self
The lexical analysis of Table 3shows words like silence,
silent, depression, apathy, closeness, close myself, others
mentioning non-verbal communication like gazes, face, and
finally verbs of dissimulation like mask,conceal,hide,for-
get. Finally a deep uneasiness is represented by a nervous
mood expressed by words like irritation, snorting, impre-
cating.
5.3 The characteristic lexicon of bitterness
The analysis of specificities aims to identify the character-
istic lexicon by comparing different sub-parts of text. The
characteristic lexicon is created by dividing a corpus into
sub-texts (so called sub-occurrences) according to the differ-
ent levels of a chosen variable (e.g., to characterize a lexicon
by gender, you divide the corpus into male and female sub-
texts). Then the different sub-texts are compared, by a t-test
analysis, to extract a list of words over-represented or under-
represented with respect to a normal distribution3[2,8].
In the present study, we chose two main variables, age
(up to 25 years old; from 26 to 40; from 41 on) and type
of work (worker, housewife, student, self-employed). In the
young subjects we find a sort of “light bitterness” oriented
toward something external (towards, towards someone;p<
0.01), mainly injustice about University or in a competition
(score,injustice;p<0.01). The frequent graphic form who
might be an impersonal way to define bitterness by mention-
ing a case in which the subject is not involved.
Here are some of the participants’ accounts.
When there are people who waste thousands of euros for a
car and others that really can’t afford one this is injustice
When a friend of mine had a better grade and he had stud-
ied less than I had
When I quarrelled with a friend of mine, long time ago,
during a game between friends
Furthermore, the youth consider it possible to express the
negative emotion (express, felt) and to improve the damaged
relation (as in the case of improved below):
Slightly better, because I got rid of what I was feeling
inside. The relationships improved
It was a way to give vent to it: I expressed it by trying to
have a dialogue and understand why
With subjects from 26 to 40, two ingredients starts to
appear. One is the sense of IMPOTENCE,emergingforex-
ample in conditionals like would be (p>0.01); the other
is POINTLESS COMMITMENT and striving, mainly at work.
Bitterness in organizational contexts make the quality of life
at work go worse.
Because it would have been self-defeating
Because it would have been pointless
Too difficult to find the words, and I thought it would have
not be useful, may be worse
Notwithstanding commitment and devotion there was no
acknowledgement of the quality and value of my work
After so much of a striving, I saw my job stolen by an
incompetent girl with no experience, but “intimate”
Useless commitment can also be seen in subjects who,
again at work, committed their esteem to someone who did
not deserve it
I felt bitterness as I realized I had trusted and esteemed a
person who did not deserve it. I was disappointed by the
betrayal of my trust
3The characteristic element index is calculated for all the units with
a frequency of more than 5, with a probability threshold set at 5%
through T-test [2, 145].
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Table 3 Impotence s.d Graphical form s.d Graphical form s.d Graphical form
Impotence 47.19 To give vent 13.17 Melancholic
52.10 Impotence 42.45 Nervousness 12.48 Ridde
38.02 Impotent 36.47 Physically 12.11 Silent
23.44 To be able (for myself) 33.37 Close myself 11.66 Annoyance
9.70 Impossibility 33.37 Puffing 5.86 Pessimism
9.39 To be able (for it) 33.37 imprecations Dissimulation
Difficult to express 31.20 Grimaces 22.15 Impersonate
520.53 Silences 27.99 closure 16.69 Dissimulate
289.52 Gazes 27.15 Silent 13.83 Mask
191.70 Espress it 27.15 Depressed 9.49 Conceal
100.54 Facial 27.15 Apathy 7.25 Remove
87.92 Expression 27.15 Masse 5.89 Disappear
55.65 Silence 26.61 Cold 5.66 Forget
51.59 Mood 19.01 Shy 4.71 Hide
50.26 Face 16.75 Cry
Table 4 Light bitterness (up to 25 years old)
Grafic form tot occ. sub occ. p-value
Score 5 5 0.01
Feelings 11 8 0.01
Felt 28 16 0.01
So that 6 5 0.02
Bettered 6 5 0.02
Injustice 6 5 0.02
Who 14 9 0.02
I was feeling 8 6 0.03
Express 8 6 0.03
Toward 28 15 0.03
Friend 13 8 0.05
Towards 13 8 0.05
Subjects from 41 on acknowledge a “deep bitterness” us-
ing words of high intensity (pain, deep, feeling of empti-
ness, wound); they report an inner bitterness closed in them-
selves: they strongly remember (memory,p<0.01) but re-
frain from expression (silence,p<0.01).
Finally, different types of work entail different ways to
live bitterness. Factory workers, housewives and shop as-
sistants tend to explain it in from a subjective point of view,
as a way to understand and to find a sense of this emotion,
lived with high intensity; they define it in terms of memory,
emptiness, reason, pain, soul, empty out, lived (p<0.05),
just like in Campbell’s [3] definition of bitterness for the
disadvantage group.
To the contrary, bitterness is described by autonomous
workers, doctors and students in a more relational way:
they adopt external attribution, identifying causes and re-
Table 5 Deep bitterness (from 41 years old)
Grafic form tot occ. sub occ. p-value
Memory 6 5 0.01
Pain 26 13 0.01
Deep 11 7 0.01
Sadness 48 20 0.02
I thought 7 5 0.02
Empty 16 8 0.04
Strong 6 4 0.05
Wound 6 4 0.05
Death 6 4 0.05
Silence 23 5 0.02
sponsibilities or other contextual aspects (expectations, job,
waited, detached, improved, vote, towards, who;p<0.05).
6 General discussion
The manual and automatic qualitative analyses performed in
the two studies provide a coherent picture of the mental in-
gredients and processes of bitterness. The ingredients found
in the pilot study were confirmed and enriched through by
the automatic analysis. Take the focus on temporality, which
points to the importance of rumination for the very defin-
ition of bitterness. As an expectation is disconfirmed you
may feel disappointment, but only thanks to rumination can
bitterness be felt: re-living your past experience contributes
to make you feel how irreversible the goal thwarting is. The
relevance of time may also account for why bitterness is
more deeply felt by older than younger people: older people
J Multimodal User Interfaces
have had more time to ruminate, but also to discover how ir-
reversible the damage was. And irreversibility is even more
severe if you have, not only more time in you past, but less
time in your future, to recover from irreversible damage. So
while in a young person bitterness may be overcome by op-
timism and hope in the future, and the wrong cured, in an old
one there is no more time and the wrong remains pending.
7 Conclusion
A clear and detailed representation of emotions may help
to construct Multimodal Interfaces capable of sophisticated
interaction and empathic communication.
Bitterness is an emotion that may have a relevant impact
on people’s quality of life in everyday affective relations and
in work. This paper aimed to find the mental ingredients of
bitterness, the beliefs and goals represented in the mind of a
person who is feeling it.
Bitterness is a negative emotion caused by a somehow ir-
reversible thwarting of a goal. Something in between anger
and sadness, like anger it is often due to a sense of injus-
tice, sometimes also caused with full responsibility;butit
entails a sense of impotence—impotence both to react to in-
justice and to cry out one’s anger—which makes it similar to
sadness. Its feeling is due to the disappointment of an expec-
tation about the behaviour of oneself, of another person one
is affectively involved with, or of some agency one believes
should guard justice. The disappointed expectation may take
the form of a sense of betrayal, but sometimes simply comes
from a disproportion between lavished effort or commitment
and actual outcomes, and, when processed through rumina-
tion, results in bitterness.
Acknowledgements This research is partially supported by the Sev-
enth Framework Program, European Network of Excellence SSP-
Net (Social Signal Processing Network), Grant Agreement Number
231287.
We are indebted to Vincenzo Zuccaro for careful preparation and
processing of the questionnaires, and to the anonymous reviewers for
pointing at interesting implications of our analysis.
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