The most prominent tasks in emotion analysis are to assign emotions to texts and to understand how emotions manifest in language. An important observation for natural language processing is that emotions can be communicated implicitly by referring to events alone, appealing to an empathetic, intersubjective understanding of events, even without explicitly mentioning an emotion name. In psychology, the class of emotion theories known as appraisal theories aims at explaining the link between events and emotions. Appraisals can be formalized as variables that measure a cognitive evaluation by people living through an event that they consider relevant. They include the assessment if an event is novel, if the person considers themselves to be responsible, if it is in line with their own goals, and so forth. Such appraisals explain which emotions are developed based on an event, for example, that a novel situation can induce surprise or one with uncertain consequences could evoke fear. We analyze the suitability of appraisal theories for emotion analysis in text with the goal of understanding if appraisal concepts can reliably be reconstructed by annotators, if they can be predicted by text classifiers, and if appraisal concepts help to identify emotion categories. To achieve that, we compile a corpus by asking people to textually describe events that triggered particular emotions and to disclose their appraisals. Then, we ask readers to reconstruct emotions and appraisals from the text. This set-up allows us to measure if emotions and appraisals can be recovered purely from text and provides a human baseline to judge a model’s performance measures. Our comparison of text classification methods to human annotators shows that both can reliably detect emotions and appraisals with similar performance. Therefore, appraisals constitute an alternative computational emotion analysis paradigm and further improve the categorization of emotions in text with joint models.

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All authors contributed equally.

Action Editor: Saif M. Mohammad

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