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Guided imagery-based Intervention on the well-being, socioemotional and cognitive development, physiologic activity, and academic success of children in school



YEARS: 2023-2026




Investigate the effectiveness of the "RegularMente" program by Vértices Association, which uses relaxation and guided imagery as a tool for enhancing children's well-being in schools.

A Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) will assess the impact of the program implemented over five months, on emotional, cognitive, and physiological outcomes of 3rd and 4th graders aged 8-11. Classes will be chosen from TEIP schools in Lisbon and randomly assigned to three groups: guided imagery and relaxation, only relaxation, and a control group. Data will be collected before, after, and six months after the intervention.

Developing an intercultural game as a pedagogic tool for the inclusion of pupils with migrant bacKground in new Learning environments

REFERENCE: KA220-SCH - Cooperation partnerships in school education

YEARS: 2023-2025






Develop intercultural board games to enhance the integration of migrant students into new educational settings. These games will be developed through a collaborative process involving students, their parents, and teachers. The focus will be on improving the communication and learning skills of children within the educational contexts of their new schools.



Automatic Generation of Humor for Social Robots


YEARS: 2021-2022



The current project funded by FCT is aligned with Raquel Oliveira's PhD project, also financed by FCT. Both projects focus on the study of Humor in the context of human-robot interaction, and Raquel Oliveira played a central role in both the development of the two projects, implementation, and the writing of the associated publications.


Humor is an important feature in human communication and is an essential and ubiquitous feature of everyday life. Humor has been linked to numerous positive outcomes. The AGENTS project will leverage the power of humor to create more naturalistic and lifelike interactions with socially embodied agents, in particular, social robots. 

The positive effect of humor can be increased through the delivery of user-personalized humor in naturalistic settings. In AGENTS, psychological models of humor and its’ everyday functions will be of use when attempting to create a top-down approach of humor that can be modeled to match each user’s preferences, fostering more natural and positive interactions with users. The end-goal of this process will be the implementation of user personalized humoristic interactions in the context of a multi-party interaction scenario with a card game involving more than one human and more than one robot. This is expected to lead to better interaction outcomes and increase the value perception of the robot, by contributing to greater user’s task enjoyment, engagement, and positive emotions.


Ana Paiva (PI; INESC-ID, IST-UL);  Patrícia Arriaga (CO-PI, Iscte-IUL), Louis-Philippe Morency (Carnegie Mellon University)

Raquel Oliveira, Rui Prada (INESC-ID, IST-UL), João Barreiros,  Sofia Batinha




YEARS: 2018-2021


Teresa Chambel (PI, FCIÊNCIAS.ID),

Patrícia Arriaga (CO-PI, ISCTE-IUL);

Thibault Langlois (FCIÊNCIAS.ID),

Manuel Monteiro da Fonseca (FCIÊNCIAS.ID),

Octavian Postolache (IT-IUL, ISCTE-IUL).



Awareness While Experiencing and Surfing on Movies through Emotions



Investigate the emotional dimension of movies, to further provide support for the classification, access, navigation, and visualization of movie collections, not only including previous descriptors (genre, actors) but also emotions expressed in their content and felt by the viewers, during and after watching movies. This holds the potential to increase emotional awareness and empower future users to regulate their emotions when accessing and watching movies.





Health Care Clown Pathways

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REFERENCE: 2019-1-IT01-KA202-007541-CUP G35G19000070006 YEARS: 2019-2021



Healthcare clowning is an umbrella term for a wide range of activities clowns undertake in healthcare, ranging from children’s hospitals to old folks’ homes, playing near the bedside, or accompanying medical procedures. 


I have conducted several research studies on the role of hospital clowns for children and I was involved in the creation of the International Network of HEALTHCARE CLOWNING RESEARCH (HCRI+), which is dedicated to the scientific study of healthcare clowning. Our network of researchers included partners from Portugal (Iscte-IUL, Minho University), Spain, Brazil, Italy, and the Netherlands). H-CRIN+’s mission is to promote the scientific study of healthcare clowning by testing multidisciplinary theoretical approaches that contribute to a better understanding of healthcare clowning interventions. It also aims to identify the best practices in this area. 

The Health Care Clowning Pathways project is a Strategic Partnership supporting innovation in the Educational and Vocational Training Sector (VET) for Health Care Clowns.

GOALS: design, test, and validate an innovative training proposal, aimed at defining the competencies requested to work as Healthcare Clown in a sharing and transferable manner at the European level; proposing the European level training standards to obtain the qualified profession as Healthcare Clown, referring to ECVET and EQF Systems.


Affect Modeling For Robots in Group Social Interaction

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YEARS: 2016-2019


Ana Paiva (PI, INESC-ID), Patrícia Arriaga (CO-PI, ISCTE-IUL), Francisco Melo (INESC-ID),  Iolanda Leite (Department of Robotics, Perception and Learning, Royal Institute of Technology, Suécia).





Emotions, especially empathy, are crucial in Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) for fostering social connections between a single robot and a user. This project explored how such emotional dynamics play out in extended social interactions and when a robot engages with multiple users. 

Although the traditional one-on-one HRI model is often investigated, there is limited knowledge about how perception and action selection systems, designed primarily for individual interactions, function in multiparty settings. Our research used computational emotion modeling to examine the role and adaptability of robots in group interactions, investigating if outcomes observed in one-on-one settings remain consistent in group scenarios.




Octavian Adrian Postolache (PI), Gabriela Postolache ((Instituto de Medicina Molecular e Instituto de Telecomunicações), Luísa Lima, Patrícia Arriaga, André P. Catarino (Univ. Minho), António Carmo, Mguel Dias Pereira (Escola Superior de Tecnologia, Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal), Pedro Girão (Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa), Raul Silva Oliveira (Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, UL), Rita Cordovil (Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, UL), Rui Miguel Madeira, Vítor M. R. Viegas (Escola Superior de Tecnologia, Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal)



A tailored information system was proposed in this project, enable to non-invasively/unobtrusively measurement of balance and movements, and to improve the effectiveness of physiotherapy based on serious games and augmented reality. The project included a comprehensive clinical reasoning process, addressing factors such as motor control, determinants of behavioral change, and heightened patient engagement.


Mobile application

(physical therapist)


Smart Sensors and Tailored Environments for Physiotherapy




YEARS: 2016-2019


Kinect Serious Game (patient)

Key outcomes and features of the completed project included:

1. Wireless Sensor Network (WSN):

Design a wireless body sensor network, to better capture and understand balance and movements.

2. Customized Virtual Environments:

Conduct usability tests for tailored virtual environments created specifically for physiotherapy interventions.

3. Holistic Information System:

Developed an integrated system for physiotherapy, seamlessly merging the strengths of the established WSN, serious games, and augmented reality.


  • Exergames for motor rehabilitation in older adults: An Umbrella Review. Physical Therapy Reviews, 24 (3-4), 84-99. LINK

  • Tailoring virtual environments of an exergame for physiotherapy: The role of positive distractions and sensation seeking. PsyEcology, 11 (1), 49-63. LINK

  • Tailored virtual reality for smart physiotherapy. 2019 11th International Symposium on Advanced Topics in Electrical Engineering (ATEE), 1-6. LINK



Patrícia Arriaga (PI, Iscte-IUl), Francisco Esteves, Maria Benedicta Monteiro (Iscte-IUL), Augusta Gaspar (Universidade Católica) & Jaime Vila (Granada University, Spain).

PLAYING with Violence

Playing with violence: emotional desensitization, empathy and helping behaviour toward victims of violence


YEARS: 2010-2013



The effects of violent computer games with virtual reality on physiological arousal, cognitions, affect and behaviour


YEARS: 2002-2006


Patrícia Arriaga (PI);  Francisco Esteves;

& Paula Carneiro






  • Playing for better or for worse? Health and social outcomes with electronic gaming. In M. M. Cruz-Cunha, I. M. Miranda, & I. Gonçalves (Eds.), Handbook of Research on ICTs for Human-Centered Healthcare and Social Care Services (pp. 48-69). LINK

  • Playing with violence: An updated review on the effects of playing violent electronic games. In M. M. Cruz-Cunha, V. H. Carvalho, & P. Tavares (Eds), Business, Technological and Social Dimensions of Computer Games: Multidisciplinary Developments (pp. 271-292). LINK

  • A "dry eye" for victims of violence: Effects of playing a violent video game on pupillary dilation to victims and on aggressive behavior. Psychology of Violence, 5 (2), 199-208. LINK

  • Are the effects of unreal violent videogames pronounced when playing with a virtual reality system? Aggressive Behavior, 34 (5), 521-538. LINK

  • Effects of playing violent computer games on emotional desensitization and on aggressive behaviour. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41 (8), 1900–1925. LINK

  • Violent computer games and their effects on state hostility and physiological arousal. Aggressive Behavior, 32 (2), 146-158. LINK

  • The relationship between playing violent electronic games and aggression in adolescents. In M. Martinez (Ed.), Prevention and control of aggression and the impact on its victims (pp. 129-135). LINK

  • Emotional Gaming. In Y. Baek (Ed.), Psychology of Gaming (pp. 11-29). Nova Science Publishers. LINK

  • Factores mediadores e moderadores dos efeitos dos jogos electrónicos violentos na agressão interpessoal. Revista Portuguesa de Pedagogia, 42 (2), 203-223. LINK  

  • Jogos de computador violentos e seus efeitos na hostilidade, na ansiedade e na activação fisiológica. Revista Lusófona de Ciências da Mente e do Comportamento, 8 (1), 191-209. LINK

  • Violência (ir)real? Contributo para uma reflexão acerca do impacto da violência dos jogos electrónicos nas crianças e nos jovens. Revista Caleidoscópio, 4, 95-106. LINK

  • Violência em jogos electrónicos e reacções emocionais a imagens da vida real: a hipótese da dessensibilização. In M. B. Monteiro, M. Calheiros, R. Jerónimo, C. Mouro, & P. Duarte, Percursos de Investigação em Psicologia Social e Organizacional (Vol. II, pp. 119-143). LINK

Facial Expressions and Emotional Empathy  

Interindividual differences in Emotional Empathy vs. the differential “visibility” of Emotions, and its social consequences


YEARS: 2010-2013





Augusta Gaspar (PI, Univ. Católica de Lisboa), Francisco Esteves (Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden); Patrícia Arriaga, Frederico Oliveira de Almada (ISPA), Miquel Llorente Espino (University Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Espanha), Susana Fonseca (ISCTE/IUL, Portugal), Olga Feliu Olleta (Mona Foundation, Barcelona)


Emotional Facial Expressions (EFE) serve as observable cues indicating underlying emotions. However, the interpretation accuracy of these cues can vary based on factors like maturity, personal experience, facial dynamics, and the relationship between the observer and the individual expressing the emotion.


Through this project, we addressed the pivotal question: "What do facial expressions truly convey?"

Our findings revealed that individual emotion expression can be influenced by a myriad of factors, including the advantages of conveying certain information and the inherent interactive nature of the emotion. We found that emotions intended for interaction tend to be more universally recognized, whereas others exhibit more individual variability.

One significant discovery was that individuals with a higher degree of emotional empathy were generally more adept at decoding emotional cues, especially when faced with subtle or less overt expressions.


Control of cognitive and emotional processing of faces 


YEARS: 2011-2014




Alberto Leal (PI, Centro Hospitalar Psiquiátrico de Lisboa), Patrícia Arriaga, Ricardo Lopes (CADIn), & Francisco Esteves (Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden),


Face processing is integral to human interpersonal relationships, and as such, the brain dedicates substantial resources to this function. Beyond the involvement of several posterior brain cortical regions, there is notable functional connectivity to the frontal lobes. This connectivity is believed to contribute to high-level tasks such as attention, memory, emotion, and error monitoring. Many studies have highlighted significant distant functional covariances, suggesting synchronization among the cortical rhythms of various regions. Among these, the limbic theta rhythm has been frequently posited as a potential synchronizing element. However, the exact causal relationship between this rhythm and its attributed functions remains unclear. In fact, it remains undetermined whether the correlation between EEG brain rhythms and information processing in the same cortical region is causal or merely coincidental.

To investigate this question, our project studied the functional connectivity between the frontal lobe and the posterior brain areas engaged in face visual processing, laying special emphasis on the theta rhythm. We employed Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to experimentally modulate the frontal lobe theta rhythm and observed its subsequent effects on face processing. To ensure the validity of our findings, we controlled for placebo effects using a parallel protocol with sham TMS. Our primary goal was to discern the specific role the frontal lobe theta rhythm plays in the visual processing of faces.

Love at first smell.jpg

Psychophysiological effects of human PHEROMONES


YEARS: 2007-2010




Francisco Esteves (PI, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden), Patrícia Arriaga, Mats Olsson (Karolinska Institutet, Sweden); Johan Lundström (Karolinska Institutet, Sweden); Pedro Barbas Albuquerque (Minho University); Maria Benedicta Monteiro; Paula Carneiro


Pheromones, chemical messengers that elicit distinct neuroendocrinological responses in conspecifics, have been thoroughly documented in various animal taxa. However, their role in human behavior and affect remains a subject of contention, with sparse and often equivocal empirical evidence. In light of the existing gaps in the literature, our research undertook an examination of the potential affective and behavioral impacts of androstadienone.


Our findings, based on structured experimental paradigms, revealed:
1. Modulation of non-verbal flirtatious behaviors in structured social-interaction settings.
2. Variances in psychophysiological indices, encompassing heart rate variability, skin conductance responses, and startle reflex modulation, upon androstadienone exposure.
3. Affective changes post-exposure, as assessed through verbal affective ratings.

Conclusively, our project contributed to the study of human pheromones, addressing the potential role of androstadienone in socio-affective modulation.


Psychophysiology of EMOTIONS 

Nonconscious learning




YEARS: 1999-2012


Over the past four decades, laboratory research has investigated the impact of evolutionarily "relevant" stimuli (e.g., dangerous animals from our ancestors' era) and compared them with ontogenetically fear-relevant stimuli (i.e., stimuli that evoke fear due to societal influences such as guns) and irrelevant-fear stimuli. Food stimuli are also noteworthy for their historical significance in human life and in eating disorders, but less explored. Overall, past studies indicated that fear learning and defensive reactions might stem from evolutionary roots. Physiological responses such as skin conductance responses were a primary method for measuring fear reactions, revealing that it is more challenging to diminish fear responses to those "evolutionarily relevant" stimuli (e.g., snake) than to less relevant ones (e.g., flowers). Moreover, the resistance to extinction in conditioning studies has been shown to be less evident with ontogenetic stimuli like guns. Furthermore, associative learning without awareness is typically observed with biologically fear-relevant stimuli, rather than with those relevant due to societal reasons.

In this research area, I will highlight two projects in which I was involved: one supported by FCT and the other by Bial Foundation, both conducted with my colleague Francisco Esteves, and one with my former PhD student, Pedro Rosa.

These projects aim to further explore and understand the nuances of these phenomena by investigating the subliminal processing of fear-relevant stimuli and its impact on attention and physiological responses, as well as the emotional responses to stimuli such as food, examining both conscious and nonconscious responses. Both projects seek to expand our understanding of how different types of stimuli, both evolutionarily and societally relevant, affect human emotional and physiological responses, and employ subliminal presentation, including conditioning paradigms.


YEARS: 2008-2012




Pedro Rosa (ULHT, Lisbon, Portugal)

Francisco Esteves (PI, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden),

Patrícia Arriaga

1) The first project was conducted with Pedro Rosa (+ Francisco Esteves), whom I also add the privilege to (co)supervise in both his master's dissertation (entitled "Exposure to Subliminal Affective Images and Fear of Snakes: their influence on affective and physiological states", 2008) and in his Ph.D. thesis (entitled "Effects of subliminal repetitive exposure to biological relevant stimuli on emotional states", 2012). 
It focused on the effects of emotional subliminal processing on attentional orienting and psychophysiological responses using snakes as stimuli. These studies aimed to determine if snakes could be processed pre-attentively due to their evolutionary importance, leading to increased attention and stronger psychophysiological reactions. Using visual attention tasks with eye tracking and physiological measures, we found that subliminally presented fear-relevant stimuli affected attentional orienting and activated the peripheral and central nervous systems.


YEARS: 1999-2002




Francisco Esteves (PI, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden),

Patrícia Arriaga, Paula Carneiro, & Anders Flykt  (Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden)

2) The second project, led by Francisco Esteves and funded by the Bial Foundation, concentrated on food stimuli. It aimed to explore emotional responses to food-related stimuli under both conscious and subliminal conditions. The studies found that while food stimuli are processed similarly to other emotional visual materials under conscious conditions, the results differed when presented subliminally. Specifically, heart rate changes appeared to be influenced by participants' attitudes towards food and body shape. However, the overall findings indicated a lack of subliminal effects, which contrasts with the past studies assessing associative learning with biologically fear-relevant stimuli. The hypothesis that food stimuli would elicit similar effects in participants concerned with food and body shape was also not supported. Regardless of the conditioned stimulus (food picture or neutral picture) and participants' food anxieties, there were no differences in autonomic responses, measured by skin conductance, during the extinction phase. These findings suggest that food stimuli do not receive preferential cognitive processing and do not trigger a fear response, aligning more with data from studies using fear-irrelevant stimuli.



On KAMA MUTA, Being Moved and Crying


Beate Seibt (University of Oslo), Thomas Schubert (University of Oslo), Alan Fiske (University of California, Los Angeles), Janis Zickfeld (Aarhus University, Denmark), Patrícia Arriaga... et al. 

kama muta

Watch this video by VOX in which the topic of crying (and its interplay with being moved) is presented by the main researchers working in this field


ECI 4.0: 
Smart Commercial Spaces


Improve multimodal platform for intelligent analysis of human behavior patterns in commercial areas

YEARS: 2021-2023




ISCTE-IUL: Luís Nunes, Tomás Brandão, Patrícia Arriaga, Simão  

AXIANS: Pedro Lourenço (PI), Joana Pereira Coutinho (Project Manager, Axians), João Faria, David Jardim, Rui Calmão.   
SONAE MC / WORTEN: Marlos Henrique Silva, Rui Calmão, André Filipe Azevedo, Vitor Dias Sousa



STREET ART & Emotions

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Street Art


Many of my research studies have concentrated on a research line that explores emotion regulation and the creation of interventions for well-being and socioemotional competencies in youth.


Here, I will present several outcomes of the research project focusing on Health Promotion for school engagement, developed by Anabela Caetano Santos. I had the privilege of (co)supervising her work, both for her master's dissertation and her Ph.D thesis. Her Ph.D. project was funded by FCT and her thesis was completed with distinction and praise in 2022.




RESEARCHERS: Anabela Caetano Santos + Supervisors: Celeste Simões (FMH-UTL)Patrícia Arriaga + Márcia Melo (IPUSP, Brazil)


  • A systematic review of the relationship between social and emotional competencies and student engagement in youth. Educational Research Review, 100535. LINK

  • Social and emotional competencies as predictors of student engagement in youth: A cross-cultural multilevel study. Studies in Higher Education, 48 (1), 1-19. LINK
  • Truancy: The relevance of resilience-related internal assets, student engagement and perception of school success in youth living with parents and in residential care. Child Abuse & Neglect, 142 (Part 1), 105819, 1-9. LINK

  • Portuguese validation of the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire short version in youth: Validity, reliability and invariance across gender and age. European Journal of Developmental Psychology. LINK

  • Emotion regulation and student engagement: Age and gender differences across adolescence. International Journal of Educational Research, 109, 101830. LINK

  • Psychometric validation of the Portuguese version of the Measure of Anxiety in Selection Interviews. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 29(2), 285–292. LINK  

  • Catching the audience in a job interview: Effects of emotion regulation strategies on subjective, physiological, and behavioural responses. Biological Psychology, 162, 108089. LINK


Psychological Impact of COVID-19

This section includes some of the projects that resulted in publications emerging from this particular interest during a time that affected us all. It represents a collaborative endeavor involving students at various academic levels (undergraduates, master's, PhD students, and post-docs) and international colleagues from over 84 countries.


YEARS: 2019-2022


These projects encompass a range of topics, from examining the psychological impacts of the pandemic,  exploring effective interventions to mitigate the negative effects, and strategies to effectively communicate information to promote health.

Through these publications, our goal was to enhance the broader understanding of how such unprecedented global challenges can impact mental health and well-being and to identify effective response strategies. Additionally, I had the opportunity to coordinate an editorial on this topic addressing the role of mass media during the pandemic. These studies received some funding from the Centre for Research and Social Intervention (CIS-ISCTE), supported by funds from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).





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