At the AACT Lab, we conduct research on affective and cognitive processes. Some of these processes are relatively automatic and occur without effort or even consciousness. In contrast, some of these processes are more deliberate, controlled and effortful. We primarily focus on the way that different types of cognitive processes influence emotional responding.
Different types of cognitive processing are thought to have an effect on emotional processing. We have studied what happens to an emotional response when people are distracting themselves, using cognitive reappraisal to reinterpret the events that lead to the emotion, or providing a verbal label for their emotional experience.
There are many different ways that emotions are induced, both in the lab and in real life. Some emotions are relatively automatic responses to things we encounter in the world—think of your involuntary jump when something unexpectedly brushes your arm. By contrast, some are the result of a slow burning mental fuse—think of all the ways in which we convince ourselves that life is more stressful and complicated than it needs to be.
We have demonstrated that these different types of emotion are represented differently in the brain and are exploring what important consequences those differences might have.
Although there are general principles that govern the way our brain handles emotion and cognition, there are also important differences in the way different people respond and regulate. We’ve studied differences including age, gender identity, everyday use of emotion regulation strategies, emotional awareness, traditional personality traits like neuroticism and extraversion, and whether or not someone has artistic training.