Affect plays a major role in the individual's daily life, driving the sensemaking of experience, psychopathological conditions, social representations of phenomena, and ways of coping with others. The characteristics of affect have been traditionally investigated through physiological, self-report, and behavioral measures. The present article proposes a text-based measure to detect affect intensity: the Affective Saturation Index (ASI). The ASI rationale and the conceptualization of affect are overviewed, and an initial validation study on the ASI's convergent and concurrent validity is presented. Forty individuals completed a non-clinical semi-structured interview. For each interview transcript, the ASI was esteemed and compared to the individual's physiological index of propensity to affective arousal (measured by heart rate variability (HRV)); transcript semantic complexity (measured through the Semantic Entropy Index (SEI)); and lexical syntactic complexity (measured through the Flesch-Vacca Index (FVI)). ANOVAs and bi-variate correlations estimated the size of the relationships between indexes and sample characteristics (age, gender), then a set of multiple linear regressions tested the ASI's association with HRV, the SEI, and the FVI. Results support the ASI construct and criteria validity. The ASI proved able to detect affective saturation in interview transcripts (SEI and FVI, adjusted R2 = 0.428 and adjusted R2 = 0.241, respectively) and the way the text's affective saturation reflected the intensity of the individual's affective state (HRV, adjusted R2 = 0.428). In conclusion, although the specificity of the sample (psychology students) limits the findings' generalizability, the ASI provides the chance to use written texts to measure affect in accordance with a dynamic approach, independent of the spatio-temporal setting in which they were produced. In doing so, the ASI provides a way to empower the empirical analysis of fields such as psychotherapy and social group dynamics.
Keywords: affect; affective saturation index; heart rate variability; meaning; physiology; text analysis.