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If you want to measure emotion, think of 2016 as the Year of Cognition

Dec 06, 2016

There has been some reporting in the CX press recently on the measurement of emotion. Having had a little bit of experience in this area, leading and interfacing with teams looking at emotional measurement through deep statistical and survey based processes, IAT, Complexity Theory, verbatim measurement, social media, immersion and neuroscience, I felt I should respond.

Not a long post, you understand, as rather like asking: what is the meaning of CX? (its the 'subjective' experience the customer has) or what is the ROI of CX? (what's the ROI of a Telephone, it gives optionality), these questions are rather easy to answer: at least at a top level of abstraction. They only get complex if you are trying to sell me something.

So, what about measuring emotions?

Emotions and cognition are interlinked around personal meaning

Well firstly, get it out of your head that emotions and cognition are separate constructs. They are not, they are closely aligned. So to say 'lets create happiness, or any other emotion' is not an answer since emotions derive from what they mean to the individual (their core relational theme).

Hence to exclude such cognitive underpinnings of emotion (I said nothing about rationality or conscious thinking) is dangerous and will lead firms to conclude that what matters is some abstract and prototypical emotion term. And that way only leads to endless debates on how to 'delight or make it easy for the customer' why? Or how the functional is different from the emotional! Oh really! I'm quite pleased when I get a 'functional' discount.

The principles I refer to are well known in cognitive psychology and I direct the reader to Lazarus (Emotions and Adaptation) and Oatley (Best Laid Schemes): Personally it amazes me that CX professionals talk about emotion and then refuse to engage with cognitive psychologists who have spend the last 3 or more decades researching these things.

So, from this 'cognitive appraisal first' point of view, we should endeavour to unpick the goal hierarchies and sub-goal hierarchies inherent in any encounter based on what is cognitively meaningful to the individual (core relational themes).

Unfortunately outside the psychology literature (Clore, Ortony) I don't see much evidence of this in Journey Mapping!

The emotion -cognition link can be measured

So if we accept we need both cognition and emotion is there a problem in measurement? Well, its certainly not straightforward, but that doesn't make it impossible.

Emotions can be measured, but only in a quali-quant not quant alone way.

The great cognitive psychologist, Keith Oatley, himself talks about measuring emotions using semi-structured interviews ( webinar to be posted on my forum - just contact me at www.allaboutexperience.co.uk). My own favourites are story metrics (sensemaker); non-conscious response measures (emotix) and immersion.

So I see measurement as multi-method: a set of complex approaches for a complex system.

However, let me be clear, measurement DOES become a problem if firms continually:

(1) push out this or that scale of emotion without consideration of the emotional landscape (the qualitative piece)

(2) fail to account for emotions often fleeting nature (something not picked up post hoc by survey)

(3) assume that some text algorithm can replicate the surface meaning of a verbatim comment into some definite feeling

(4) miss out the often non-conscious cognitive underpinnings of emotional response (see my discussion with Dr Simon Moore https://youtu.be/aZtcpPcihtU)

(5) believe physiological reaction is the same as emotion

(6) believe that machine data is the same as how customers feel: hence totally missing out the situational and personal relevance of an emotion.

So all in all emotion is a system that depends on personal meaning - the core relational themes based on how we appraise. So rather than measure emotion, best start with cognition then!

Its how you interpret experiences as personally meaningful that counts: from which emotions derive.

2016 is the Year of Cognition!

Don't fall for the daftest question in CX: what's the ROI of emotion! Well, it depends what you do and how you do it. Emotion is not some fixed asset like a washing machine.


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