Mergenthaler and his research group use text analysis to characterize key moments in psychotherapy sessions. They developed a computer program called TAS/C that focuses on two language dimensions— emotional tone and abstraction. According to Mer-genthaler's theory, emotion-abstraction patterns occur periodically in psychotherapy sessions with insight processes (abstraction) following emotional events (emotion) with a time lag (Mergenthaler, 1996).
For the analysis of emotional tone, defined as the density (rather than the valence) of emotion words, a dictionary with more than 2,000 entries was developed. The final list of emotion words comprises three dimensions (pleasure, approval, and attachment) and captures roughly 5% of the words of a text (Mergenthaler, 1996). Abstraction is defined as the number of abstract nouns in a text. Abstract nouns are identified via suffixes such as -ity, -ness, -ment, -ing, or -ion. The abstraction dictionary includes 3,900 entries and captures about 4% of the words of a text.
TAS/C analysis of emotion-abstraction patterns has been applied to verbatim therapy protocols (Mergenthaler, 1996) and attachment interviews
(Buchheim & Mergenthaler, 2000). More recently, TAS/C has been extended to include a measure of referential activity. Referential activity refers to the ability to verbalize nonverbal experiences and is characterized in speech by concreteness, specificity, clarity, and imagery (Mergenthaler & Bucci, 1999). The TAS/C approach is instrumental in its aim, is thematic in its approach, and concentrates on two specific stylistic aspects of language use in psychotherapeutic settings.
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