The science of measuring emotion

There are good reasons to look after the emotional well-being of your team and your organisation – and they’re backed up by science.

Read more about the fundamentals of Kokoro’s digital tool, and our philosophy.

Why measure emotions?

Before we come to measure emotions, we need to understand what they are – and what they’re not. We know that emotions are constructed from our experiences; we know they are not universal, fixed, or innate. And we know emotion concepts are formed by cultural convention.

In Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, The Secret Life Of The Brain, she explains that the brain creates emotions through a complex system: the same one that regulates energy levels and expenditure. What we experience as spontaneous feelings are in fact a construct – the result of the relationship between culture, the brain, and our interpretations of our own bodily sensations.

We like to use weather analogies to explain emotion. Put simply, if emotions are the weather, then mood is the climate. Kokoro can take the temperature of a team, and pinpoint which way the winds are blowing. Over time, it can become your emotional meteorologist, guiding you to a deep understanding of the culture of your team or organisation – and pointing to how the weather might be tomorrow.

“The power of ‘the Eye of the Heart,’ which produces insight, is vastly superior to the power of thought, which produces opinions.” -E.F. Schumacher
Why measure emotions in teams?


When we think of team data, we tend to think of numbers and stats. But focusing solely on quantitative data means we miss critical signals. Opportunities to access insights and achieve breakthroughs are lost. For a complete picture, we need to turn our attention to the qualitative too.

Tapping into a different sort of data – the emotions of a team – gives us a clear view of what’s really happening. It enables us to make difficult decisions more quickly, and takes our work to a new level. Teams that process their emotions perform better than those that allow them to build up. They also have the ability to better attract, engage, and retain talent.

Teams need real-time analysis, and an on-demand tool with accurate data, both qualitative and quantitative. They need a tool that helps teams act in the now, and provide feedback on the go. Kokoro has built just such a tool – something that companies can integrate as they develop to become more human-centred.

“Yesterday's hierarchy is not nearly as important as today's project (team) structure.” -Seth Godin
- []({:target="_blank"}
- []({:target="_blank"}
What emotional themes do we measure?


The first two Kokoro themes are Workplace Satisfaction and Psychological Safety.

Workplace satisfaction takes the measure of morale, and employees’ enthusiasm. It recognises that the happier people are, the better their attitude, motivation, and performance will be.

We measure psychological safety as a combination of atmosphere, behaviours, and outcomes. At the group level, we ask six questions and then give recommendations according to the team scores. It’s our method of getting to the underlying ways in which teams interact, and the ability of the collective to take interpersonal risk without losing the team’s acceptance and respect.

“Ultimately the destruction of the Earth is due in part, perhaps in large part, to a failure of the imagination or to its eclipse by systems of accounting that can’t count what matters.”
-Rebecca Solnit
- []({:target="_blank"}
- []({:target="_blank"}
- []({:target="_blank"}
How do we measure emotions?

Human beings, as you’ve probably worked out in your time among them, are complex creatures. We can feel several emotions at the same time. We find it difficult to express emotions in words alone – and when it comes to prompting others to express theirs, the task is even harder.

Psychology and sociology have used both verbal and non-verbal instruments to measure emotion, and have linked it to the parts of the brain responsible for verbal and visual recognition: parts intimately linked with emotional recognition. So how do we bridge that gap?

We’re better at reading pictures than words – in fact, we even read words as pictures. Making better use of the direct link between visuals and meaning helps us avoid cognitive overload. Kokoro combines words and graphics to guide a person to express their emotional state more clearly. It’s intuitive, and it captures the emotional data that matters.

“The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.” -John F. Nash Jr., mathematician on Game Theory and Differential Geometry
- []({:target="_blank"}
- []({:target="_blank"}
- []({:target="_blank"}