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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.

Research Themes

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.

  • Nonverbal Expressions of Emotion

    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).

    Key papers

    • Cheshin, A., Amit, A., & Van Kleef, G. A. (2018). The interpersonal effects of emotion intensity in customer service: Perceived appropriateness and authenticity of attendants' emotional displays shape customer trust and satisfaction. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 144, 97-111.
    • Fang, X., Van Kleef, G. A., Kawakami, K., & Sauter, D. A. (2021). Cultural differences in perceiving transitions in emotional facial expressions: Easterners show greater contrast effects than Westerners. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 95, 104143. 
    • Fang, X., Van Kleef, G. A., & Sauter, D. A. (2019). Revisiting cultural differences in emotion perception between Easterners and Westerners: Chinese perceivers are accurate, but see additional non-intended emotions in negative facial expressions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 82, 152-159.
    • Fischer, A. H., Pauw, L. S., & Manstead, A. S. (2019). Emotion recognition as a social act: The role of the expresser-observer relationship in recognizing emotions. In U. Hess & S. Hareli (Eds.) The Social Nature of Emotion Expression (pp. 7-24). Springer.
    • Fischer, A. H. (2019). Learning from others' emotions. In D. Dukes, F. Clément (Eds.) Foundations of affective social learning: Conceptualizing the social transmission of value (pp.165-184). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Fischer, A. H., Kret, M. E., & Broekens, J. (2018). Gender differences in emotion perception and self-reported emotional intelligence: A test of the emotion sensitivity hypothesis. PloS one, 13(1), e0190712.
    • Heerdink, M. W., Koning, L. F., Van Doorn, E. J., & Van Kleef, G. A. (2019). Emotions as guardians of group norms: Expressions of anger and disgust drive inferences about autonomy and purity violations. Cognition and Emotion, 33, 563-578.
    • Ilgen, H., Israelashvili, J., & Fischer, A. (2021). Personal nonverbal repertoires in facial displays and their relation to individual differences in social and emotional styles. Cognition and Emotion, 1-10.
    • Israelashvili, Y., Sauter, D., & Fischer, A. (2020). Two facets of affective empathy: Concern and distress have opposite relationships to emotion recognition. Cognition & Emotion, 34(6), 1112-1122.
    • Kamiloğlu RG, Boateng G, Balabanova A, Cao C, Sauter D. (2021) Superior decoding of positive emotions from nonverbal vocalisations compared to speech prosody. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Preprint: io/jqf8h
    • Kommattam, P., Jonas, K. J., & Fischer, A. H. (2019). Perceived to feel less: Intensity bias in interethnic emotion perception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 84, 103809.
    • Manokara, K., Duric, M., Fischer, A., & Sauter, D.A. (2021). Do People Agree on How Positive Emotions are Expressed? A Survey of Four Emotions and Five Modalities across 11 Cultures. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Pre-print:
    • Manokara, K., Fischer, A., & Sauter, D.A. (2021). Display rules differ between positive emotions: Not all that feels good, looks good. Pre-print:
    • Nikolić, M., Majdandžić, M., Colonnesi, C., de Vente, W., Möller, E., & Bögels, S. (2020). The unique contribution of blushing to the development of social anxiety disorder symptoms: results from a longitudinal study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 61(12), 1339-1348.
    • Nikolić, M., van der Storm, L., Colonnesi, C., Brummelman, E., Kan, K. J., & Bögels, S. (2019). Are socially anxious children poor or advanced mindreaders? Child Development, 90(4), 1424-1441.
    • Pauw, L. S., Sauter, D. A., van Kleef, G. A., & Fischer, A. H. (2019). I hear you (not): sharers’ expressions and listeners’ inferences of the need for support in response to negative emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 33(6), 1129-1143.
    • Sauter, D. A., Crasborn, O., Engels, T., Kamiloğlu, R. G., Sun, R., Eisner, F., & Haun, D. B. M. (2020). Human emotional vocalisations can develop in the absence of auditory learning. Emotion, 20(8), 1435-1445.
    • Sauter, D. A., & Russell, J. A. (Accepted/In press). What do nonverbal expressions tell us about emotion? In A. Scarantino (Ed.), Handbook of Emotion Theory Taylor & Francis.
    • Van Kleef, G. A., Cheshin, A., Koning, L. F., & Wolf, S. (2019). Emotional games: How coaches' emotional expressions shape players' emotions, inferences, and team performance. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 41, 1-11. 
    • Van Kleef, G. A., & Côté, S. (in press). The social effects of emotions. Annual Review of Psychology.
    • Van Kleef, G. A., Van den Berg, H., & Heerdink, M. W. (2015). The persuasive power of emotions: Effects of emotional expressions on attitude formation and change. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 1124-1142.
  • Emotional Experience

    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).  

    Key papers

    • Fischer, A., Halperin, E., Canetti, D., & Jasini, A. (2018). Why we hate. Emotion Review, 10(4), 309-320.
    • Fischer, A., & Giner-Sorolla, R. (2016). Contempt: Derogating others while keeping calm. Emotion Review, 8(4), 346-357.
    • Israelashvili J., Oosterwijk S., Sauter D.A. & Fischer A.H. (2019) Knowing me, knowing you: Emotion differentiation in oneself is associated with recognition of others’ emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 33(7), 1461—1471.
    • Mann, L., Feddes, A. R., Leiser, A., Doosje, B., & Fischer, A. H. (2017). When is humiliation more intense? The role of audience laughter and threats to the self. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 495.
    • Niehoff, E., & Oosterwijk, S. (2020). To know, to feel, to share? Exploring the motives that drive curiosity for negative content. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 35, 56-61.
    • Oosterwijk, S. (2017). Choosing the negative: A behavioral demonstration of morbid curiosity. Plos One, 12, e0178399.
    • Pauw, L. S., Sauter, D. A., van Kleef, G. A., & Fischer, A. H. (2019). I hear you (not): Sharers’ expressions and listeners’ inferences of the need for support in response to negative emotions. Cognition & Emotion, 33(6), 1129-1143.
    • Van Elk, M., Arciniegas Gomez, M. A., van der Zwaag, W., van Schie, H. T., & Sauter, D. (2019). The neural correlates of the awe experience: Reduced defaultmode network activity during feelings of awe. Human Brain Mapping, 40(12), 3561-3574.
    • Van Elk, M., & Rotteveel, M. (2020). Experimentally induced awe does not affect implicit and explicit time perception. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 82(3), 926-937.
    • Van Kleef, G. A., Heerdink, M. W., & Homan, A. C. (2017). Emotional influence in groups: The dynamic nexus of affect, cognition, and behavior. Current Opinion in Psychology, 17, 156-161
    • Van Kleef, G. A., & Lange, J. (2020). How hierarchy shapes our emotional lives: Effects of power and status on emotional experience, expression, and responsiveness. Current Opinion in Psychology, 33, 148-153.
  • Culture

    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.

    Key papers

    • Fang, X., Sauter, D. A., Heerdink, M. & van Kleef, G. A. (2021). Culture shapes the distinctiveness of posed and spontaneous facial expressions of anger and disgust. Preprint:
    • Kamiloglu R.G., Cong Y-Q., Sun R. & Sauter D.A. (2021) Emotions across cultures. In L. Al-Shawaf & T. Shackelford (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Evolution and the Emotions. Oxford University Press.
    • Manokara, K., & Sauter, D.A. (2021). Emotion universals: The foundation from which cultural variability of emotion emerges. Pre-print:
    • Pauw, L., Vu, T.V., Sun, R., Vuillier, L., Milek, A., Sauter, D. (2021). Emotion regulation and wellbeing: A cross-cultural study during the COVID-19 outbreak. Pre-print:
    • Sauter, D. A., Eisner, F., Ekman, P., & Scott, S. K. (2015). Emotional vocalizations are recognized across cultures regardless of the valence of distractors. Psychological Science, 26(3), 354-356.
    • Sun, R., Balabanova, A., Bajada, C. J., Liu, Y., Kriuchok, M., Voolma, S. R., ... & Sauter, D. (2020). Psychological wellbeing during the global COVID-19 outbreak. Preprint:
  • Embodiment and Mimicry

    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).

    Key references

    • Dijk, C., Fischer, A. H., Morina, N., Van Eeuwijk, C., & van Kleef, G. A. (2018). Effects of social anxiety on emotional mimicry and contagion: Feeling negative, but smiling politely. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 42(1), 81-99.
    • Fischer, A., & Hess, U. (2017). Mimicking emotions. Current Opinion in Psychology, 17, 151-155.
    • Oosterwijk, S., Snoek, L., Rotteveel, M., Barrett, L.F., & Scholte, H.S. (2017). Shared states: Using MVPA to explore neural overlap in emotion experience and emotion understanding. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 1025-1035.
    • Pavarini, G., Sun, R., Mahmoud, M., Cross, I., Schnall, S., Fischer, A., Deakin, J., Ziauddeen, H., Kogan, A., & Vuillier, L. (2019). The role of oxytocin in the facial mimicry of affiliative vs. non-affiliative emotions. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 109, 104377.
    • Sachisthal, M. S., Sauter, D. A., & Fischer, A. H. (2016). Mimicry of ingroup and outgroup emotional expressions. Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, 1(1-3), 86-105.
  • Emotions in Applied Contexts

    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).

    Key references

    • Abadi, D., Cabot, P. H., Duyvendak, J. W., & Fischer, A. (2020). Socio-economic or emotional predictors of populist attitudes across Europe. Pre-print:
    • Feddes, A. R., & Jonas, K. J. (2020). Associations between Dutch LGBT hate crime experience, well-being, trust in the police and future hate crime reporting. Social Psychology, 51(3), 171-182.
    • Keesman, L. D., & Weenink, D. (2020). Bodies and emotions in tense and threatening situations. Journal of Social Work, 20(2), 173-192.
    • Pauw, L., Vu, T. V., Sun, R., Vuillier, L., Milek, A., & Sauter, D. (2020). Emotion regulation and wellbeing: A cross-cultural study during the COVID-19 outbreak. Preprint:
    • Sun, R., Balabanova, A., Bajada, C. J., Liu, Y., Kriuchok, M., Voolma, S. R., ... & Sauter, D. (2020). Psychological wellbeing during the global COVID-19 outbreak. Preprint:
    • van Oorschot, I., Mascini, P., & Weenink, D. (2017). Remorse in context(s): A qualitative exploration of the negotiation of remorse and its consequences. Social & Legal Studies, 26(3), 359-377.
    • van Kleef, G. A., Cheshin, A., Koning, L. F., & Wolf, S. A. (2019). Emotional games: How coaches' emotional expressions shape players' emotions, inferences, and team performance. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 41, 1–11.
    • Wang, L., Restubog, S., Shao, B., Vinh, L., & Van Kleef, G. A. (2018). Does anger help or harm leader effectiveness? The role of competence-based versus integrity based violations and abusive supervision. Academy of Management Journal, 61, 1050-1072.
    • Wolf, S. A., Eys, M. A., Sadler, P., & Kleinert, J. (2015). Appraisal in a team context: Perceptions of cohesion predict competition importance and prospects for coping. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 37, 489–499.
    • Zwicker , M. V., Nohlen, H. U., Dalege, J., Gruter, G-JM., & van Harreveld, F. (2020). Applying an attitude network approach to consumer behaviour towards plastic. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 69, 101433.

Real Emotion

Research Priority Area

Research priority areas (RPA's) bring together researchers on specific research fields transcending disciplinary boundaries. Research priority area Real Emotion is a platform and community for affective scientists at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences with a goal of advancing the study of emotion by promoting interdisciplinary research to study emotions as they occur in real life.

Validity and generalisibility of insights

Research on emotion and how it affects daily lives has made great strides forward in the past decades. However, progress is now hampered by two major issues. One is the issue of the ecological validity of experimental psychological studies, which are often conducted in artificial laboratory settings with highly controlled stimuli; another issue is the generalisability of insights produced in anthropology, communication science, pedagogical and educational science, political science, sociology, and other social sciences.

Sharing interdisciplinary methodologies

Research priority area Real Emotion aims to bring together and further develop theories and methods to build a strong interdisciplinary foundation for an integrative understanding of emotions in real life. To attain this goal, Real Emotion focuses on sharing and advancing interdisciplinary methodologies and theoretical frameworks, with an emphasis on combining analyses across micro, meso, and macro levels.

Exchanging knowledge with general public

Members from different departments engage in methodologically innovative interdisciplinary research projects with a focus on bridging together micro, meso, and macro analyses. The centre organizes interdisciplinary conferences, symposia, and summer schools to foster collaborations with international researchers and train students in affective science. Finally, the members exchange knowledge with general public and stakeholders, write in magazines and newspapers, and participate in workshops and public conferences to reach to the general public.

Projects Real Emotion
  • Exploring emotional dynamics in Climate change conversations: a mixed methods approach

    Christel W. van Eck, Bert Bakker, Disa Sauter, Gijs Schumacher, and Marijn Meijers

    Our project aims to delve into the intricate interplay of emotions—facial, verbal, physical, and experiential—within conversations about climate change, with a focus on understanding how these emotions influence the trajectory of discussions and ultimately impact viewpoints on climate change interventions. Employing a mixed methods approach, we will conduct focus group sessions to gather comprehensive data on participants' emotional responses. Central to our methodology is the innovative MEXCA tool, designed to capture and analyze the multifaceted expression of emotions in these conversations by utilizing facial movement analysis, vocal characteristic assessment, and sentiment analysis of speech content. Key questions guiding our research include understanding the interactions between various emotional experiences and qualitatively examining how verbal expressions of emotions influence the direction of heated discussions about climate change. Our project team comprises a diverse interdisciplinary group, including communication scientists, psychologists, and political scientists.

  • Moving from co-regulation to self-regulation: the role of mother-infant attunement in emerging infant brain-body coupling during emotional and cognitive processing

    Milica Nikolic and Vanessa van Aast

    In the first few months of life, infants are limited in their ability to regulate distress. They highly depend on their caregivers to balance their state by means of so-called “co-regulation”. This entails a dynamic interplay between the infant’s and caregiver’s states in which the caregiver shifts from mirroring the infant’s state to a state that facilitates regulation of the infant. Next to learning how to regulate arousal in interactions with their caregivers, infants become self-regulated individuals through biological maturation, and the development of brain-body coupling (i.e., connections between the central nervous system and the autonomic nervous system) in particular. In this project, we examine the transition from co-regulation to self-regulation via brain-body coupling in naturalistic interactions between mothers and their 6-36 months-old infants. We also focus on the role of family socio-economic status and related parenting stress in the link between co-regulation and infants' self-regulation. Tracing this process does not only provide valuable insights in infant (self-)development, but also highlights the role of a caregiver, offering valuable insights for early prevention of psychopathology.