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The assessment of emotional awareness: can technology make a contribution? 

The assessment of emotional awareness: can technology make a contribution?
The assessment of emotional awareness: can technology make a contribution?
Philosophical Perspectives on Technology and Psychiatry

Robert S. Kruger


This paper attempts to address two related issues: (1) how well individuals can tell what emotions they and others are feeling; and (2) whether or not it is possible to measure this in a meaningful way that is clinically relevant. It is a tenet of folk psychology that emotions are private and privileged knowledge such that only the actor experiencing the emotion truly knows what it is. However, recent research on the communication of emotional expressions through non-verbal behavior and on ‘mind reading’ in autistic children leads to the conclusion that emotions may be publicly observed. Moreover, it is commonplace in psychotherapy that patients often experience difficulty in identifying their emotions. Accordingly, they may be said to be unconscious of their emotions to varying degrees. More recent research on the expression of emotion suggests that individuals also vary in their abilities to identify emotions in others. Being able to empathize is crucial for the establishment of attachments to others and, therefore, for psychological well-being. Accordingly, a deficit in one's capacity to identify and understand what others feel bodes poorly for one's mental health. The current widespread availability of videotaping has made possible the development of simple and easy to use assessment tools to measure how well children and adults can identify emotions in others and draw inferences from affective behavioral displays. This paper explores two such instruments and their potential use in clinical practice. Finally, I offer some thoughts on the educational implications of training children in emotional recognition and inferential thinking about emotions.

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