Emotion Template Matrix Analysis

Emotion Template Matrix Analysis (ETMA) builds on the ideas about the key role emotions play in our life, yet it derives its inspiration from a philosophical line of inquiry that goes back to American pragmatism and that explores emotions from a sociological rather than a psychological perspective. Psychologists start with the premise that our feelings, actions, and thoughts reflect relatively stable, predictable personality patterns which persist over time and manifest themselves across situations. Psychological testing tends to privilege tools that reveal enduring personality traits and discriminate against personal qualities which attest to the volatility of our actions and sentiments.

ETMA finds such indeterminacy to be a normal reflection of conflicting social pressures. It treats human beings as nonclassically propertied objects akin to particles in micro physics: when we don’t look at a particle, it is everywhere at once, it is a bundle of probabilities that require a measurement event to materialize as a particle with a definite mass, position, momentum, and other properties. In a similar fashion, our affect continuously and subconsciously scans the world for saliency; it generates conflicting feelings, it is pulled in different directions at once, and it takes a special occasion for a human agent to adopt an emotional attitude. Predictable though such an attitude might be, it is only a matter of probability that a person will show this or that affective stance in any given situation.

This is how an article published in the New York Times described George Steinbrenner, owner of the Yankees baseball team: “As always, there are at least two distinct sides to him: brash bully and charitable gentleman. . . . He is a loyal friend who turns distrustful. He’s the calm and the storm. Kindness turns to cruelty. He is just as apt to tear apart as blow up.” Rather than seeing such inconsistency as an aberration, ETMA treats it as a common occasion and focuses on the patterns of uncertainty and structures of indeterminacy distinguishing human existence in the world.

ETMA offers a broad gauge of human agency as it finds itself in the world with a particular body to inhabit, social status to enjoy, opportunities to take advantage of, and disabilities to contend with. Affect is understood here as a body index of arousal; affects are the body indicia of the arousal the agent experiences in a situation that implicates the agent's well-being, calls for an appraisal, and requires taking a stance. Emotion is an affect filtered through the symbolic grid supplied by culture; emotions are affects aroused by a situation, processed through a rhetorical frame, and disposing the agent to react in a certain fashion. E-motions (emos) designate affectively charged motions, actions, and situations that signal how the agent is likely to feel/act under the circumstances (e.g., “playful,” “alienated,” “stoic,” “subservient”). Human agency is a somatically-grounded, emotionally-laden, self-referentially guided, culturally informed, and structurally-constrained capacity for action. Given that affect is an unlabeled emotion and emotion is a recognized affect, we can define the unconscious as a mislabeled affect and a misrecognized emotion.

ETMA operates with a chart that functions as a kind of a periodic table of emotions that features four primary color emotions – Joy, Anger, Fear, and Serenity (ataraxy). These emotions mirror the distinction between four humors or temperaments – sanguinic, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. The term “ataraxy” comes from stoic philosophers who used it to stress the importance of tranquility, self-mastery, and ethical action. Although less precise, the term “serenity” is used here as a better known equivalent. ETM Chart is segmented in several ways. Its coordinates point to the intensity/valence of affect and the strength and the type of agency. The upper half of the chart harbors positive emos that gain in affect strength as we move upward. The lower half is the region of negative emos that intensify as we move downward. The left side denotes the outwardly directed agency, which increases leftward, and the right side points to the inwardly directed agency, which gains momentum as we move to the right. The intersection of the coordinates signifies a zero point where affect is neutralized, the outwardly directed agency turns inward, and vice versa.

Each quadrant contains 5 columns, comprising e-motions of roughly the same affect strength. There are 10 templates in a column and 50 templates in a quadrant, combining for a total of 200 emo labels in the chart. A template is identified by three digits, the first one indicating its quadrant, the second its affect strength, and the third one its position within the column, which in turn designates a qualitative aspect/dimension of human agency. Every template has counterparts in other quadrants mirroring its affective qualities. Thus, the 1.5.1 joyful emo “exhilarated” is echoed in the 2.5.1 choleric emo “infuriated,” the 3.5.1 fearful emo “terrified,” and the 4.5.1 serene emo template “nirvanic.” There is a total of 50 matched e-motion sets, with four templates in each set.

All e-motion terms are calibrated to express a particular dimension in which the agency is appraised. The number alongside a template points to the dimension in question. If you scan the identically numbered templates diagonally, you can see how the sense of agency changes from one column to another and from one quadrant to the next. The following 10 dimensions map human agency as it is apprehended by the agent or by outside observers:

1. Vitality/Mood – the sense of well-being, felt quality of life, emotional tone.
2. Energy/Arousal – agency mobilization, affect strength, proactive stance, stress level
3. Self/Confidence – temporal orientation, confidence, self-esteem, self-mastery
4. Charity/Others – generosity, gratefulness, willingness to cooperate, attitude toward the other
5. Recreation/Romance – desire, romance, sublimation, ritual action, competitiveness
6. Wit/Discursivity – discursive prowess, wordplay, humor, edifying discourse, dissimulation
7. Polity/Society – the public sphere, civic virtue, political leanings, the sense of justice, ecumenical sentiments
8. Community/Civility – the private sphere, manners, ethical bearings, volunteerism, community involvement
9. Sacred/Infernal – the sacred sphere, blessedness, supernatural powers, evil tidings, ominous feelings
10. Power/Status – authority, public standing, leadership style, the subordinate-superordinate status

ETM Survey offers a kind of "mood count" -- hence, we call this technique MoodCounts. Intended for individual and group development, the survey encourages participants to explore their emotions, feelings, and moods, to understand their affective cultures. However, the survey is not a psychological tool testing some enduring qualities or comparing the respondent to a norm. Rather, it is a sociological instrument based on the premise that our sentiments are situational, that we often have contradictory feelings about ourselves, and that our actions reflect the ambivalent way in which we experience the world and its crosscutting pressures.

The ETM Survey can be used to compile e-motional profiles for individuals, groups, and cultures. The e-profile scores show areas where our emotional life is particularly intense and where our affect remains flat. Cumulative indexes reveal overall patterns of affect, such as the e-motional ambivalence and the ratio of positive to negative emos. Quantum affect dynamics postulates that no agent falls squarely into one quadrant or maintains the same affect strength. Nonclassically-propertied objects that we are, we leap from one quantum emotional field to another, appropriating discrete labels from the culturally certified terminological frames in terms of which we can terminate indeterminacy in any given situation. Many people lean toward one or another ideal-typical family of e-motions in their self-construction, but it is the movement across the affective boundaries that reveals the most enduring and interesting patterns in our affective life.