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					A FFECT
                                                                                    October 2006
                                                                                Volume 1, Issue 1




Staff Newsletter of the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences, Geneva




 Introducing Affect
 One of the things that NCCRs set up by the federal government are mandated to do is to
 communicate about their work and their research programs. When we think of an
 organization communicating, we tend to think first of external communication: telling
 the outside world about what we’re doing. But there’s also internal communication,
 where we let each other know what we are doing. This latter kind of communication is
 particularly necessary in a geographically diffuse and multi-disciplinary organization like
 ours. It is all too easy for us to focus on our own project and lose track of what
 everyone else is doing.

 There is a deeper issue involved here. It is that of interdisciplinarity. Now in one sense,
 this is already a fact about our institute. We are the only institute in the world that is
 studying emotion interdisciplinarily. Not only have we
 got the usual psychologists on board, but philosophers
 are there too, and economists, lawyers and historians of
 Antiquity.      The other sense in which we are
 interdisciplinary is that the whole is greater than the sum
 of the parts. By working interdisciplinarily we hope to
 cross-fertilize our different disciplines. We all need to
 ask ourselves if we are really doing that. I may have
 plenty of experience working with people in my own
 discipline, but how about other disciplines I may know
 next to nothing about? If interdisciplinarity is going to
 succeed in our Centre as an approach, as a core value,
 we have all got to take it on board and make our own
 personal commitment to it. As it happens, this is what          Ivory tower or place of dialogue?
 this newsletter is all about too.

 This is our “internal organ”. It will come out every two months. It will be as
 informative as all of us can make it. So let us know what you are doing. Let us know of
 any prizes, publications and achievements – but also challenges, growing pains and
 baffling problems. Anything really significant that is emerging from your work and that
 everyone should know about.

 This newsletter will be principally in the English language, which is the lowest common
 denominator of communication here. Occasionally things will appear in French as well.

 Is this NCCR going to be another ivory tower - a cluster of ivory towers - or is it going
 to be a place of humane dialogue? It’s up to us. It’s up to you.
Page 2                                                                               Affect


The Child’s Experience and Understanding of Emotion

Paul Harris, visiting professor this year
at the NCCR, has arrived in Geneva.
Prior to that, he held an appointment in
psychology at Harvard. He spoke to
Terence MacNamee about his work.



TMcN: How did you first become
interested in the psychology of
emotion?

PH: When I had an appointment at
Amsterdam in the 1970s, I was teaching
                                                        Paul Harris, new visiting professor
developmental psychology, and there
was quite a bit of application to clinical work going on there. One day I was describing
processes by which a small child tries to solve a problem. Obviously impatient with this
arid exposition, a student asked: “But don’t you want to help children?” At first, I was
annoyed by this remark – I retorted: “Don’t you want to understand children?” – but in
the aftermath, I felt guilty about it and decided that the student had a point. So I started
seeing if I could in fact help.

I was trained as a cognitive developmental psychologist. There was research work at that
time on “meta-memory” (how do children come to understand and regulate their
memory?). It occurred to me that we could ask similar questions about emotion: how do
children learn to understand and regulate their emotions? If there is meta-memory,
could there be meta-emotion too? This work on children’s understanding of emotion
eventually converged with a larger effort. People began to conceive of “the child as
psychologist”. How does a child come to understand the working of the mind? At the
same time there were attempts to understand the problem of childhood autism in these
terms. Primatologists were also doing interesting parallel work asking whether non-
human primates understand each other’s mental states. This whole area of research
began to take off.

So, even though I was, as I said, a cognitive psychologist, my work had brought me into
contact with emotionally disturbed children and their problems. That was how I got into
studying emotion. My cognitive interest has remained the core of what I do – I have
used that approach to study emotions, as well as imagination, and children’s
understanding and acceptance of others’ statements – what I call “testimony”.

TMcN: What is the relationship between your work and what is currently known as
“child’s theory of mind”?

PH: My work became a part of research on the child’s theory of mind, a theory that
includes such things as beliefs, desires, emotions and intentions – the whole domain of
social cognition. In Piaget’s work, social cognition was recognized to some extent, but all
it meant in his case was the study of how children overcome their initial egocentricity.
But how do children come to understand mental life at all – their own as well as other
Affect                                                                            Page 3

people’s? Piaget did not tell us much about this. Let me say, too, that Piaget’s work,
despite his appeal to biological realities, was not comparative at all. The theory of mind,
on the other hand, is comparative – it involves comparison between species, and also
intra-species, involving pathology such as autism, and more recently the problems of deaf
children.

TMcN: How has your research program changed over the years?

PH: I began by studying normal development, and then began to focus on individual
differences in the understanding of emotion, and notably the impact of language on such
differences – I mean language in a particular sense: “family discourse”, the things that are
talked about between parents and children.

TMcN: What do you see as the major challenges to developmental research on
emotion?

PH: Let me say what the challenges are for me, anyway. What is the relationship
between children’s developing insight into emotion and their actual experience of
emotion? That is a challenging problem. For example: understanding guilt is difficult for
four- or five-year-olds. They don’t seem to have it in their repertoire. They only seem to
understand guilt around age seven. Surprise, pride and shame are also emotions that
children don’t understand until middle childhood, whereas happiness, sadness, anger and
fear are understood by four or five years. So, there is a developmental history to
children’s understanding of emotions somewhat reminiscent of Piagetian stages. But we
know very little about the impact of that developing understanding on children’s
experience of emotion. That is certainly worth studying.

TMcN: Will research on children’s theory of mind really end up helping children, then,
as your Amsterdam student demanded?

PH: I think so. My own work has already been incorporated into one psychometric test
for children. But I also think we shouldn’t rush into applied work too quickly. Let’s take
the time to study emotional development – involving both the experience and
understanding of emotions. This work is bound to be relevant to children having
difficulties. So, it will certainly spill over into the applied field. But you can’t rush it.
The whole thing needs a solid grounding in theory first.

TMcN: What do you hope to achieve this year as a visiting professor at the Centre?

PH: I want to pursue the development, of children’s understanding and experience of
guilt. I hope to work with other people here on this and gain insights.

TMcN: Are you going to be giving some talks at the Centre in the near future?

PH: There is nothing scheduled as yet, but I am certainly willing to speak on anything
useful to people here. I am already involved a bit with the philosophers’ group. I’m sure
there will be plenty of opportunity to interact with different researchers in the year ahead.
Page 4                                                                                    Affect

Recently, in the Revue européenne des sciences sociales, our director, Klaus Scherer,
published a thought-provoking essay on the future of the emotions in our media-dominated
world. In this piece he talks about everything from TV news to cell phones in a convincing
and often surprising way. Here you can read a shortened version of the essay.



Quel avenir pour les émotions?
par Klaus Scherer

Les émotions sont devenues un sujet très apprécié
dans la recherche et les publications se font
nombreuses. La tendance actuelle de privilégier le
cerveau comme lieu d’investigation psychologique
par excellence entraîne un intérêt croissant pour les
études essayant de déterminer la localisation
cérébrale des phénomènes émotionnels. Il s’agit
d’une entreprise louable, mais le danger de négliger
la nature essentiellement sociale des émotions
subsiste.

Du fait d’un changement social toujours plus rapide,
on pourrait imaginer que la genèse, l’expérience et la       Klaus Scherer reflects on the future of
régulation des émotions changeront, en même                  emotions in a media-dominated world
temps que leur fonction sociale.

« Tu n’as pas honte ? »

Prenons l’exemple de la honte et de la culpabilité. Ces émotions se classent parmi celles
qui se prêtent le plus difficilement à l’analyse scientifique. Elles ne figurent souvent pas
sur la liste des émotions « fondamentales ». La honte et la culpabilité se produisent
quand une personne évalue son comportement comme incompatible soit avec son idéal
de soi, soit avec les normes et valeurs socioculturelles. Ainsi, je ressentirais de la honte si
l’on me voyait jeter des ordures dans la rue afin de gagner du temps – alors que je me
considère par ailleurs comme une personne respectueuse de l’environnement.

Etant donné la relation étroite entre la honte ou la culpabilité et les valeurs
socioculturelles ou l’idéal de soi, la nature et l’incidence de ces émotions devraient varier
considérablement selon le changement des normes dominantes, des valeurs et des idéaux
propres à chacun dans une culture particulière à un moment donné.

Une évolution sociale continue devrait avoir un grand impact sur l’expérience de la honte
et de la culpabilité. Ces émotions ont souvent été considérées comme des émotions
« socialisantes ». Or, il est généralement observé que les contraintes normatives
s’affaiblissent et que les valeurs perdent leurs fonctions de contrôle dans nos sociétés
contemporaines. On pourrait donc présumer que l’atténuation croissante des valeurs
pro-sociales et des standards propres à chacun diminuera l’incidence de la honte et de la
culpabilité dans la société moderne.
Affect                                                                            Page 5


Les émotions collectives dans les médias
En général, les émotions sont produites par des évènements importants que nous vivons
ou par l’observation des émotions expérimentées par autrui. Dans le second cas, il peut
s’agir notamment des émotions ressenties face à un reportage ou aux commentaires
relatifs à un évènement dans les médias. Une étude dans les années 1980 a trouvé
qu’environ 20% des expériences émotionnelles rapportées avaient été générées par la
radio ou les nouvelles télévisées, les articles de journaux, etc.
Les émotions produites par les médias diffèrent-elles de celles induites directement par
des objets ou évènements de la vie quotidienne ? Une différence principale pourrait être
que l’évènement montré ou rapporté dans les médias est généralement d’une certaine
importance pour un grand nombre de personnes, et ainsi nécessairement d’importance
moindre pour chaque personne considérée individuellement. Il s’agit plus généralement
de valeurs partagées culturellement, telles que la justice ou la conformité aux normes. En
outre, puisque l’exposition aux médias et l’état émotionnel résultant peuvent
potentiellement être partagés avec d’autres, cela rend une comparaison, une
amplification, voire une contagion sociale possible.              Notons que les médias,
particulièrement la télévision, utilisent de plus en plus un matériel fortement émotionnel
pour garder l’intérêt de leur public et pour vendre leurs produits. Par exemple, plutôt que
d’analyser les sources structurales de mécontentement qui a mené à une grève, les
nouvelles présenteront souvent un ouvrier fâché, exprimant son émotion. Dans les
fictions télévisées par contre, le téléspectateur est exposé à un scénario fictif et non à un
évènement réel, pour susciter son émotion.
Nous pourrions nous demander ce que ces mécanismes présagent pour le futur de
l’émotion. Une possibilité est que la proportion relative des « commotions » à émotions
augmente. Etant donné l’omniprésente exposition à des phénomènes émotionnels
transmis par les médias, les téléspectateurs peuvent éprouver plus fréquemment que par
le passé des commotions produites par empathie et contagion. On peut alors s’interroger
sur les répercussions de tels phénomènes sur la vie émotionnelle. Une possibilité est que
ces phénomènes, particulièrement quand ils sont d’intensité élevée, submergeront les
capacités émotionnelles des spectateurs, ne laissant que peu de place pour des émotions
véritablement ressenties et dues à des évènements réels. Une autre possibilité est que ces
stimulations affectives constantes activent en effet la sensibilité émotionnelle.


Les émotions individuelles médiatisées
La grande majorité des épisodes émotionnels intervient dans un contexte d’interaction
sociale, produit par le comportement, souvent communicatif, d’autres personnes. Tandis
que dans un passé pas si lointain la plupart des épisodes émotionnels se déroulaient dans
des interactions de face-à-face, l’utilisation croissante des technologies modernes de
communication (téléphones cellulaires, e-mail, chats sur Internet) conduit à une
proportion toujours croissante d’émotions interpersonnelles médiatisées.
Prenons l’exemple du téléphone portable. L’augmentation du nombre d’utilisateurs de la
téléphonie mobile a été phénoménale et il y a peu de raisons de penser qu’elle diminuera
dans un proche avenir. Tandis qu’il existe maintenant une certaine réglementation quant
à l’utilisation des téléphones portatifs dans les espaces publics (par exemple, salles de
concert, églises, etc.), la plupart des personnes semblent être tout à fait tolérantes par
rapport à leur utilisation dans un grand nombre de contextes sociaux.
Page 6                                                                              Affect


Comment est-ce que cette tendance en constante augmentation à utiliser les téléphones
portatifs en public affectera-t-elle les émotions ? Une conséquence évidente d’une telle
utilisation est que la production des émotions dans ces espaces est susceptible
d’augmenter. Beaucoup de nouvelles plaisantes ou désagréables, qui peuvent donner lieu
à des éruptions immédiates d’émotions positives ou négatives, sont communiquées par
téléphone. De même, l’utilisation croissante du téléphone pour toutes sortes de
négociations et d’arrangements semble favoriser les démonstrations d’émotions en
public. Ces comportements ont des conséquences intéressantes, notamment en ce qui
concerne la régulation émotionnelle. En effet, dans beaucoup de sociétés, il a été d’usage
de traiter les émotions comme une affaire privée, voire de décourager l’expression de
l’émotion en public. On peut se demander ce qu’il adviendra du recours au téléphone
portable dans de telles sociétés, et en particulier quelles en seront les conséquences sur
l’expression des émotions.
L’acceptation croissant du téléphone portable dans tous les contextes publics mènera
probablement à un changement dans les normes de comportement. Ainsi, les gens
trouveront à l’avenir parfaitement normal que la personne assise à côté d’eux dans
l’autobus ou à la table voisine au restaurant pleure de tristesse, crie de bonheur ou hurle
de colère. Par ailleurs, les individus éprouvant ces émotions pourraient également
trouver de plus en plus normal de les exprimer de façon toujours plus désinvolte en
public. Après tout, si on ne s’inquiète pa de discuter de sujets plutôt personnels à haute
voix dans les lieux publics, pourquoi se soucierait-on d’exprimer ouvertement ses
émotions – qui font souvent partie intégrante d’une telle discussion. Un relâchement si
général des contraintes émanant des règles de conduite peut mener à une augmentation
de l’expressivité et, par conséquent, de l’importance de l’expression émotionnelle dans les
interactions interpersonnelles conduites en public (en probablement aussi en privé).
Un autre sujet d’étude est l’expression et l’expérience émotionnelles vécues tout en
participant aux sessions de groupe sur Internet (par exemple, jeux vidéo interactifs,
forums de discussion, etc.). Il peut y avoir une intégration des expériences émotionnelles
de différentes origines et un débordement des émotions virtuelles dans la réalité. La
difficulté croissante de se libérer du monde virtuel pourrait amener une fusion entre
réalité et fantaisie.
L’utilisation de la technologie moderne de communication peut promouvoir une
expression émotionnelle plus libre ou même désinhibée aussi bien qu’une déconnexion
du vécu affectif de la réalité.


Nominate your favourite articles
Do you occasionally come across interesting articles in your own or other fields that you
would like to share with everybody else ? Now there is a way of doing this. Near the
printer at the entrance to the Battoirs office you will see a hanging folder labelled
“Favourite Articles”. Put a copy of any good article in there for others to peruse. Why
not put your name and phone or e-mail at the top, so people can discuss it with you if
they want to. A list of these articles will also be printed in future issues of Affect.
Affect                                                                             Page 7


Philosophers come clean on shame and guilt
                                                The Shame and Guilt Club has resumed
                                                its weekly sessions in the meeting room
                                                at rue des Battoirs. This is the name
                                                given to the regular internal seminar of
                                                the philosophy project, where staff
                                                members together with their professor,
                                                Kevin Mulligan, meet to discuss current
                                                publications in the area of moral
                                                philosophy        and       philosophical
                                                psychology particularly to do with the
                                                emotions of shame and guilt. The
                                                meetings are organized by postdoctoral
             A recent Club meeting              fellow Otto Bruun.


Over the next months the Club will meet every Thursday at 16:00 to discuss a series of
texts on shame and self-esteem, integrity, and shame and guilt in developmental
psychology.

Otto Bruun would very much like to stress the interdisciplinary nature of the aims of this
reading group, and to say that they would be very pleased if researchers from various
CISA projects were interested in coming to participate in these meetings. The texts to be
discussed will be announced a week in advance, so if any particular session should raise
your interest, do feel free to come. Suggestions for readings are also very welcome.




HUMAINE Summer School
held in Genoa
The Centre held its summer school in affective sciences
for doctoral and postdoctoral students in September at
the University of Genoa in Italy, in conjunction with
the European Network of Excellence HUMAINE. The
topic of the workshop was multimodal synchronization
in affective expression. Sebastian Korb was there and
sent us this report.
                                                          Sebastian Korb, graduate student at the NCCR



This workshop brought together researchers from disciplines as disparate as psychology,
neuroscience, ethology, cognitive sciences, and informatics.

Klaus Scherer emphasized the importance of looking for discrete events of multi-channel
synchronization and provided theoretically and empirically based reflections upon the
necessary components for an Emotional Competent Agent (ECA).
 Page 8                                                                                      Affect

Tanja Baenzinger presented an important database which will, in the future, provide
emotion researchers with outstanding material for inducing emotions and testing
emotion recognition in the voice, the face, and the body. Ipke Wachsmuth, from the
University of Bielefeld, presented his computer generated virtual agent MAX, which has
recently been modified to appear more “emotional”. In this regard, important questions
about the structure of emotion and the role of emotions in social interactions came up
and were the subject of intense discussion.

The ethologist Magnus Magnusson introduced pattern theory and presented his program
THEME, which makes pattern recognition in discrete data possible. The most recent
version may even be used for pattern-analyses of facial expressions. The engineer Daniel
Arfib showed how pitch and rhythm of emotional audio/video recordings can be
modulated independently of each other and thus become ambiguous stimuli. Catherine
Pelachaud exemplified how video recordings of natural movements can be analyzed and
artificially “reconstructed”.

Our staff colleague, cognitive scientist Etienne Roesch, presented the development and
the first preliminary results of the “Grid study”, which tries to assesses the meaning and
structure of emotion words in various countries and languages. Marcello Mortillaro, a
psychologist, recommended, on the basis of his experimental work, the integration of
several channels (physiology, voice, subjective feeling) in the study of emotions.

Other interesting themes were pattern recognition in peripheral emotional signals, as
described by Thierry Pun, and ethological approaches to behavior and motivation
analysis in robots by René de Boekhorst.




Upcoming Events
Workshop in Singapore: A workshop on Human Emotions in                                      Affect
Voice and Body: Approaches from the affective sciences and virtual reality       is the staff newsletter of the
will be held in Singapore on December 14-15, 2006. It is being               Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences
organized and presented by the Swiss Centre for Affective                         A research centre for the
Sciences and MIRALab, Geneva, and the Swiss House,
                                                                               interdisciplinary study of human
Singapore, with the participation of speakers from Singapore
                                                                                emotion, funded by the Swiss
institutions of learning and research. This event is held in
                                                                                     federal government
conjunction with the International Symposium on Chinese
Spoken Language Processing (ISCSLP) 2006.                                             7, rue des Battoirs
Alpine Brain Imaging Conference: Patrik Vuilleumier is                                  1205 Genève
pleased to announce that next year again he will organize the                            Switzerland
"Alpine Brain Imaging Conference" in Champéry (Switzerland),
                                                                             e-mail your contributions and ideas
from January 14 to 18, 2007. The program and details can be
                                                                                         to the editor:
found at the website http://labnic.unige.ch/ABIM07/
                                                                              Terence.MacNamee@cisa.unige.ch
For all upcoming events, log on to the Intranet from the NCCR
website www.affective-sciences.org and click on “Events”.

				
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