Researchers within AICE study emotions using a wide range of different methodological approaches. These include objective behavioural measures (e.g., systematic examinations of nonverbal expressions), self-report judgments (e.g., perceptual judgments or self-report of feelings), physiological measures (e.g., eye-tracking, EMG), neural (fMRI, ERP) and hormonal (oxytocin) measures, cross-cultural comparisons, content analysis, and developmental studies with children and infants.
In our work, we also use a wide range of statistical tools including multi-level analyses, network analyses, machine learning, multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA), and Bayesian statistics. Please find more information about the main strands of our research below. In each section, some key publications are listed; these lists are not exhaustive, please see the Publications page for more of our papers.
In our work on nonverbal expressions of emotion, we try to understand both what nonverbal expressions are caused by and what they are like (production), as well as how nonverbal expressions are seen or heard by others (perception). We examine a wide range of different kinds of expressions, including facial, vocal, and postural behaviours, as well as blushing. We also contribute theoretical work on nonverbal expressions of emotion (e.g., Sauter & Russell, 2021; Fischer, 2019; Fischer et al., 2019).
In our research on the production of nonverbal expressions, we make use of objective measures of nonverbal signals, including the Facial Action Coding Scheme (FACS), FaceReader (automated facial expression software), acoustic analyses, and blushing measures. Our work on the production of vocal expressions has investigated the influence of auditory learning on the development of emotional vocalisations (Sauter et al., 2020), and mapped out the vocal expressions of many different positive emotions (Kamiloglu et al., 2021). Our work on blushing has shown that blushing contributes to the development of social anxiety (Nikolić et al., 2020). We have also initiated research on the relationship between individual differences in personal styles with the display of micro expressions on the face (Ilgen et al., 2021). Members of AICE have developed a number of different stimulus sets available to other researchers. You can find out more here.
Our research on the perception of nonverbal expressions examines the relationship between emotion recognition and individual differences, including empathy (Israelashvili et al., 2020), and social anxiety (Nikolić et al., 2019), as well as gender differences (Fischer et al, 2018). We also investigate how culture (Fang et al., 2019; 2021) and inter-group processes (Kommattam et al., 2017) shape emotion perception. A strand of our work investigates the interpersonal effects of emotional expressions on others’ emotions, cognitions, and behaviours (van Kleef & Coté, 2022), both in dyadic (Cheshin et al., 2018; Pauw et al., 2019; van Kleef et al., 2015) and group settings (Heerdink et al., 2019; van Kleef et al., 2019), and we also examine norms and beliefs around emotional expressions (Manokara et al., 2021a, b).
A key facet of emotions is how they feel, and this is one of the foci of the research in our centre. Our work examines emotion granularity (degree of differentiation between emotional experiences) and how this relates to other individual differences, like emotion perception abilities (Israelashvili et al., 2019).
A particular emphasis at AICE is on interpersonal dynamics in relation to emotions. For example, we study how group processes and hierarchy dynamics shape how we feel (van Kleef et al., 2017; van Kleef & Lange, 2020). We also examine what people want and expect – and get – when they talk about their emotional experiences with others, a phenomenon known as social sharing (Pauw et al., 2019).
Some of our research focuses on individual emotions. For example, we investigate why we hate (Fischer et al., 2018), what contempt is and does (Fischer & Giner-Sorolla, 2016), what exacerbates humiliation (Mann et al., 2017), and what happens when we experience awe (van Elk et al., 2019; van Elk & Rotteveel, 2020). We also study what kinds of emotional experiences people seek out, including why people deliberately choose to expose themselves to intensely negative information (Oosterwijk et al., 2017; Niehoff & Oosterwijk, 2020).
The question of whether emotions are universal or culturally specific has long been a point of controversy in emotion science (Kamiloglu et al., 2021; Manokara & Sauter, 2021). Our research uses a wide range of methods to test cross-cultural hypotheses, and our work has established evidence for both consistencies and variabilities in different components of emotion.
Our research on facial expressions has, for example, investigated cultural similarities and differences in facial expressions of anger and disgust (Fang et al., 2021), and of nonverbal vocalisations of emotion (Sauter et al., 2015). We also employ large-scale cross-cultural collaborators to investigate emotional experience and wellbeing (Sun et al., 2021), as well as emotion regulation (Pauw et al., 2021), across cultures.
Emotions change what happens in our bodies – they prepare us to attack, defend, withdraw, or relax. In our research, we examine the link between conceptual representations of emotion and bodily states in relation to emotional mimicry, that is, the relationship between perceiving others’ emotional signals and producing matching emotional expressions ourselves (Fischer & Hess, 2017). We also study the role of embodiment (or simulation) in how people understand the emotions of others using computational neuroscience methods (Oosterwijk et al., 2017).
We examine mimicry in relation to interpersonal mechanisms like group belonging (Sachisthal et al., 2016), as well as individual differences like social anxiety (Dijk et al., 2018). We also study hormonal mechanisms involved in mimicry, such as the role of oxytocin (Pavarini et al., 2019).
At AICE we study emotion processes in a wide range of applied contexts. For example, we investigate how emotions can encourage sustainable consumer behaviours (Zwicker et al., 2020). We also study the role of emotions in populist attitudes (Abadi et al., 2020) and emotional processes in the context of leadership (Wang et al., 2018) and sports, in particular in relation to team performance (van Kleef et al., 2019; Wolf et al., 2015).
Our work also investigates wellbeing in the context of different kinds of stressors, including following LGBT hate crime experience (Feddes & Jonas, 2020), and in refugees. We also study wellbeing in relation to chronic stressors like the COVID-19 pandemic (Pauw et al., 2020; Sun et al., 2020). Our research also examines the experiences of social workers exposed to threatening situations in homeless shelters (Keesman & Weenink, 2020), and we also investigate how remorse is communicated and demonstrated by defendants in court settings (van Oorschot et al., 2017).