My primary research interest is "morbid curiosity". Although we know from real life that people regularly approach and explore highly intense negative stimuli, we know very little about this phenomenon from the perspective of psychological science. In this research project, I study why and when people experience morbid curiosity and how this experience is represented in the brain. This project was funded by a NWO VENI grant.
How the brain constructs emotion
In another line of work, I investigate how the brain constructs emotions and other mental states. I am particularly interested in the neural overlap between systems that generate emotional experiences in the self and systems that represent the emotional experiences of other people.
The embodiment of emotion concepts
During my PhD project I examined the link between conceptual representations of emotion and bodily states. Based on embodied cognition theories I hypothesized that bodily states that occur during emotional experiences are simulated when people use emotion concepts or understand emotion language. This hypothesis was supported by several behavioral and physiological experiments. For example, I demonstrated that spontaneous bodily reactions occur when people think about emotion or process emotion language. More recently, I examined how neural systems implement different forms of simulation when people process emotional states and non-emotional states in language.
I received my PhD from the University of Amsterdam in March 2011. Currently, I am working as associate professor at the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Amsterdam. I am a member of the Amsterdam Interdisciplinary Center for Emotions (AICE) and the Amsterdam Brain and Cognition center (ABC). In the past I worked with Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett at the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory (Northeastern University) in Boston.