Affect and consciousness
How do affective feelings influence our perceptions of the external world? In traditional models of perception, what we perceive is assumed to come entirely from the outside world My research suggests that affective feelings not only influence perception but are an integral part of the construction of conscious perception and that incidental affective feelings have a powerful influence on our judgments of others.
In this line of work, I try to understand what's happening in the body when we feel emotion. In a recent meta-analysis, I explored whether there were autonomic "signatures" in the body for each emotion (e.g. sadness, happiness, etc.). Instead of finding signatures, our analysis revealed that bodily responses during emotion are dynamic and that variability in autonomic reactivity during emotion depends on the situation.
In another project, I am exploring the way that changes in the peripheral nervous system in older adulthood influence the experience of emotion. Specifically, I am interested in whether, as our peripheral connections degrade, our feelings become less embodied and more cognitive.
I'm interested in the way that information from the body (called interoception) influences how we react in evocative contexts. In one study, we demonstrated that people who are more aware of their heartbeats have a stronger relationship between their feelings and their physiology.
In an ongoing project, I am exploring the influence of interoceptive awareness on whether, and to what extent, people synchronize their physiology during evocative, interpersonal interactions.