Time to make some order
Since 2014 I am Dean at Jacobs University. It has been difficult to keep up regular posting on this blog. so I made a bit of order, as many do in the times of COVID19, and deleted many of the outdated material here. More fresh material to come, real!soon!now!
Call for Papers for a Roundtable Issue on
Interdisciplinarity in Research on Emotion
Inspired by a vivid discussion in the International Society for Research on Emotion (ISRE), Kodikas/ Code – Ars Semeiotica – An International Journal of Semiotics invites submissions for its roundtable issue on Interdisciplinarity in Research on Emotion.
Bringing together scholars from different disciplines across the world, ISRE’s focus on interdisciplinarity reaches back to its foundation in 1984 and has just recently been reaffirmed at its biennial conference in Berkeley (ISRE 2013). In his inaugural address, newly elected president Arvid Kappas placed emphasis on the importance of interdisciplinary research in a broad sense, interconnecting not only natural sciences, computer science, and engineering but also social sciences and humanities. To institutionalize this emphasis, Kappas created a Task Force on Interdisciplinarity that sparked the discussion of interdisciplinarity among ISRE members.
Through its roundtable issue, Kodikas aims to provide an open forum for discussing the opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinary research on emotion. In line with ISRE’s objective to facilitate research across decisively different fields, submissions are welcomed from scholars of all disciplines. The subject area comprises, but is not limited to:
- opportunities, conditions, obstacles, and limits of interdisciplinary research on emotion,
- epistemological questions of interdisciplinary research on emotion,
- interdisciplinarity and affective computing,
- interdisciplinarity regarding research on emotion in contexts of practical application,
- a historiography of research on emotion within and across traditional discourse boundaries,
- micro studies or ethnographies of interdisciplinary research on emotion,
- interdisciplinarity, internationality, and culture,
- communication, symbolic systems, and misunderstanding in interdisciplinary research on emotion,
- interdisciplinarity, reputation, and academic careers,
- interdisciplinary research on emotion and academic education,
- organizing, managing, and institutionalizing interdisciplinary research on emotion, and
- administrative and scholarly views on interdisciplinary research on emotion.
The issue’s roundtable format grants contributors the opportunity to comment with a maximum of 1000 words on the other authors’ contributions. These comments will be published in the same issue.
A journal of semiotics that promotes the interdisciplinary research characteristic of semiotics, Kodikas is keen to witness how scholars communicatively make sense of emotion as a subject within and across individual disciplines. Authors are thus encouraged to address the subject from their own points of view and not bound to a semiotic angle.
Manuscripts should be between 4000 and 7500 words in length and formatted in accordance with the Kodikas Style Sheet. The deadline for paper submission (including an abstract of up to 200 words) is June 30, 2014. Submissions and requests for further details may be directed to guest editor Robin Kurilla (email@example.com).
Website: Kodikas/Code – Ars Semeiotica – An International Journal of Semiotics
Editors: Prof. Dr. Achim Eschbach, Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ernest W.B. Hess-Lüttich, and Prof. (em.) Dr. Jürgen Trabant
I just come back from the biannual meeting of the International Society for Research on Emotions (ISRE), which was held at UC Berkeley in August. The conference was, as always, inspiring. Meetings like this are important at many different levels. There are formal presentations, for example. However, there are also many informal exchanges with members which touch on many different issues. A copy of the program can be found here.
However, this particular meeting was of special significance for me as I was elected president of the society. I took over from Prof. W. Gerrod Parrott who shepherded the society into a period of growth and stability. My term will be for a duration of two years. In this time I will try to help the society grow and prosper. I will also occasionally use this platform to link forth and back between society business and my regular blog.
Arvid besucht die Große Show der Naturwunder
In 2010 I was already once a guest in the Große Show der Naturwunder mit Frank Elstner und Ranga Yogeshwar ... and on July 11, 2013, there was a second one. This is a wonderful show that bridges science and education in a game format where some well-known contestants answer questions about science and technology.
This time, I was involved as an expert on visual perception and specifically faces. The show is available online for a few more days and you can check it out here. Note that the show is in German, and the segment starts at 1:08:30 ...
Here is some related literature:
Olk, B. & Kappas, A. (2011). Eye tracking technology as a tool for visual research. In E. Margolis, & L. Pauwels (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Visual Research Methods (pp. 433-451). London: SAGE Publications.
Kappas, A., & Olk, B. (2008). The concept of visual competence as seen from the psychological and brain sciences. Visual Studies, 23, 162-173. doi:10.1080/14725860802276313
Today, Earth welcomes back Cmdr Chris Hadfield who touched many people, not only Canadians with his tweets and Youtube videos from board of the International Space Station (ISS). One of the last things Cmdr Hadfield did was to post a very cool rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity. The music was recorded on earth and the singing on board of the ISS. The text is slightly altered from the original and rarely has this song been so relevant than here with Cmdr Hadfield leaving the ISS just a few hours later - looking one last time at Earth from that perspective ...
I must admit, it brought a few tears to my eyes. The video was powerful - the music has so many associations for me, it was a particular moment in time that would never come back (you can do something for the first time only once). So why were there tears?
Crying has been one of the interesting riddles - what is the function of crying? What is the evolutionary perspective on crying? Is crying good for you or bad for you?
As it turns out, there are no easy answers. Darwin already was not completely sure what do with crying. Quote from Darwin (1872)
(p. 172) In considering how far this view is probable, we should bear in mind that the eyes of infants have been acted on in this double manner during numberless generations, whenever they have screamed; and on the principle of nerve-force readily passing along accustomed channels, even a moderate compression of the eyeballs and a moderate distension of the ocular vessels would ultimately come, through habit, to act on the glands. We have an analogous case in the orbicular muscles being almost always contracted in some slight degree, even during a gentle crying-fit, when there can be no
So the idea here is that forceful crying in the infant leads via mechanical reasons to the secretion of tears. Over time particular situations get associated with this type of fit, which in turn gets more and more controlled in the adult and so crying when adults are sad is a sort of remnant of this process. You can read the argument in more detail here.
Since then many researchers have studied the mechanics and chemistry of crying and tears. It is still a complicated story though ... is it satisfying? Can it cope with sentimental crying? What about crying for joy?
One of the key researchers on crying is Ad Vingerhoets from Tilburg University. Here is a brief article from the Guardian that refers also to Ad's recent book Why only humans weep.
I have also tried my hand at the topic, but then - Ad's books are probably the best place to start ...
In the meanwhile - Cmdr Hadfield answers the question what happens to tears in space ...
Darwin, C. (1872). The expression of the emotions in man and animals. London, UK: Murray.
Kappas, A. (2009). Mysterious tears. The phenomenon of crying from the perspective of social neuroscience. In: Thorsten Fögen (ed.), Tears in the Graeco-Roman World (pp. 419-438) , Berlin & New York,: DeGruyter.
I decided to start a second blog that focuses on Affective Computing. It is called Affective Computing Science and it will be a bit more technical and also contain links and or comments in that special field.
The ironic thing is of course that I do not have enough time for this blog, but then ... it is a challenge ... :-)
This will focus on making machines more emotional or deal in more intelligent ways with human emotions. Check it out ...
Today my latest article was published at Frontiers in Psychology. The name of the article is Social Regulation of Emotion: Messy Layers Frontiers is an open access journal so the article can be easily downloaded and shared.
My article deals with the relationship of emotions and regulation. I believe that emotions regulate our behavior and the behavior of others. We and others are motivated to affect our emotions in turn due to their intrinsic properties. For example to make them go away, to change them, to replace them, or to strengthen them. Thus, the notion of emotion without thinking about regulation does not make much sense. I have developed these arguments over the last few years in several chapters and articles.
Here is the abstract of the new article:
Emotions are evolved systems of intra- and interpersonal processes that are regulatory in nature, dealing mostly with issues of personal or social concern. They regulate social interaction and in extension, the social sphere. In turn, processes in the social sphere regulate emotions of individuals and groups. In other words, intrapersonal processes project in the interpersonal space, and inversely, interpersonal experiences deeply influence intrapersonal processes. Thus, I argue that the concepts of emotion generation and regulation should not be artificially separated. Similarly, interpersonal emotions should not be reduced to interacting systems of intraindividual processes. Instead, we can consider emotions at different social levels, ranging from dyads to large scale e-communities. The interaction between these levels is complex and does not only involve influences from one level to the next. In this sense the levels of emotion/regulation are messy and a challenge for empirical study. In this article, I discuss the concepts of emotions and regulation at different intra- and interpersonal levels. I extend the concept of auto-regulation of emotions (Kappas, 2008, 2011a,b) to social processes. Furthermore, I argue for the necessity of including mediated communication, particularly in cyberspace in contemporary models of emotion/regulation. Lastly, I suggest the use of concepts from systems dynamics and complex systems to tackle the challenge of the “messy layers.”
It has been way too long that I posted something in this blog.
Of course, as many people, I am somewhat swamped with things to do and this means that I have to prioritize projects. I do have the plan to continue the issue of the Fridlund study I discussed in the previous post - or more conceptually, the question what determines facial activity, but that will take a bit more writing time. In the meanwhile just a pointer to an old post - there was something on emotions and soccer that seems quite relevant due to current soccer related events and a new post in the open positions section. If you have a masters degree in psychology or a related disciplines and are interested in pursuing a PhD that links to emotions, empathy, and robots (yes!) then check out the open positions section ...
2011 – the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s NEVERMIND, Pearl Jam’s TEN, and Fridlund’s paper on IMPLICIT SOCIALITY. While I have seen whole special issues and disks covering Nirvana’s album and some long articles on Pearl Jam’s first album, I have not seen any special issue, or even long article on Alan Fridlund’s article. A shame. A lacuna that needs to be taken care of, so let me remind you of, or introduce you to:
Fridlund, A. J. (1991). The sociality of solitary smiles: Effects of an implicit audience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 229-240.
This is a very important empirical study that has serious implications for the way that we (should) think about facial activity. Everybody who works in research and engineering on projects that involve the relationship between what people feel and what people show on their face should know about this study and its findings. They should know it well.
Imagine, you hear about a psychological study that involves a task you should perform with a friend – so you bring a friend along to the lab. Once there, the experimenter tells you that the two of you are going to watch a funny movie together (actually a series of five clips, spliced together, totaling a bit over 13 minutes). While watching the clip, the activity of a couple of facial muscles is measured using electrodes glued to your face. If you must know, a pair of electrodes on your left cheek, your right cheek, and the left brow. The cheek site relates to the muscle Zygomaticus Major, that we use for smiling. The brow site assesses activity at the site of Corrugator Supercilii, a muscle we use to frown by pulling the brows together and down. To make it less explicit that facial activity was at the center of the researcher’s interest there were also some electrodes on other sites, the top of the head or the hand and the experimenter said something about recording brain waves … After the end of the funny clips you answer how you feel using some scales, in fact you had also answered the same questions at the beginning of the experiment. Not complicated. (Fridlund refers to this condition as explicit coviewing)
In a parallel universe, you arrive with your friend, but the experimenter in this world tells you that you will watch a funny movie in one room while your friend watches the same movie at the same time in a different room. Again, your facial activity is measured and you indicate after the experiment how you feel. (= implicit coviewing)
In yet another universe, you arrive with a friend, but this time the experimenter tells you the good news that you are going to watch the funny clip while your friend is filling out something that does not relate to this at all – it is part of a different study. (= implicit irrelevant task)
Surprisingly, there is even a parallel universe where you are not aware of any experiment involving friends – you come to a study alone where you are being told that you will watch a funny movie etc etc. (= solitary participation)
So now that you picture the four situations in your mind – like in Sesame Street: One of the foursituations when you are watching the clip is different. Which one? The one where two people watch a movie together – in the other three you are alone in a room watching the movie, having electrodes attached to your face, and answering questions.
According to the predominant view regarding the relationship of feelings and emotional expressions at the time, one would predict that there should be no difference in the expression across the three solitary conditions – or, for that matter, the subjective experience in the three conditions where you are alone. Why? The assumption would be that when we are alone, we show simply what we feel – which would be the same in all three. There is no need to modulate what you show for reasons that it might be inappropriate, or that somebody would expect something from us – in contrast, when we are together with others, then different rules would apply – what Ekman and Friesen have referred to as “display rules”.
I remember, when I was in grad school at Dartmouth College, in the late 80’s, I received a description of this study and was asked what my predictions were for the findings. I do not remember exactly what I answered, but I do remember that I was wrong, once the results of the study were revealed – The ingenuous study by Alan Fridlund demonstrated that the most smiling occurred when friends watched the clip together, OK, no surprise here, but rather than all the other situations being the same, it mattered what the subjects thought their friend was doing. If you thought your friend was watching the same film in another room concurrently, then you smiled more than when your friend was supposedly doing something else. For Fridlund this was not surprising – he argued that it does not only matter who is actually physically present, but who is present in our head – something he referred to as implicit sociality. The next surprising thing was that the subjective experience was the same all cases independent from the intensity of the smiles – from this Fridlund concluded that emotions do not matter – that facial activity is determined only by the social context – whether explicit or implicit.
I do not agree with the latter conclusion – and I have reasons not to, but I will talk about that in the next installment of the blog. In the meanwhile, if you find this interesting, go and get a copy of the paper and read it – including the theoretical explanation that relates to behavioral ecology – Fridlund explained this much better than I could do here in a couple of paragraphs. In fact, you will find that there were also a couple of hypothetical studies – one involving “a small sample (n = 5) of advanced graduate students and doctoral candidates studying the face and emotion at a major northeastern university” (p. 235) that did not predict these results (to illustrate the point that the pattern of findings is not trivial) … you know one of these students I guess ;-)
Arvid Kappas is Professor of Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen. He has been conducting research on emotions for over three decades in the US, Canada, and in several European countries.