Main research lines and approaches
Initial line of research: GAME & MEDIA VIOLENCE
I began my research career focusing on the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral impacts of exposure to violence, particularly in electronic games. My journey included writing a master's dissertation, and a doctoral thesis, completing a post-doctorate with an FCT scholarship, and leading externally funded projects (by FCT and Fundação Bial). I have also supervised numerous students across various study cycles in this research area. This trajectory was initiated during my master's degree (1998-2000) and evolved through collaboration with two main researchers, Maria Benedicta Monteiro and Francisco Esteves, whose work in different but complementary fields enriched my research. With the skills I developed in studying affective processes over the years, my research increasingly focused on emotions and emotional desensitization and empathy. I explored their mediating role in interpersonal relationships, with a special emphasis on aggressive and prosocial behaviors.
Main cross-cutting research path: Affective Processes
My current research interests continue to focus on affective processes and emotions within the realms of Social Psychology and Health Psychology, areas where I have consistently worked. I am committed to making a significant contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through my research, which targets the following specific goals:
My lines of research are aligned with the United Nations Agenda 2030. I am committed to making a significant contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through my research, which targets the following specific goals:
In the broad field of research on affective and cognitive processes, my contributions can be categorized into several interconnected sub-areas:
Conceptualization and Assessment of EMOTIONS
Involves exploring what emotions are, how they are experienced, and how they can be operationalized. I investigate the relationships between different indicators of emotions, recognizing their multimodal nature. Emotions are generally evaluated across three interrelated response systems: subjective, bioneurophysiological, and behavioral.
My work has focused on characterizing the emotional experience in terms of its structure, such as valence and arousal, while also delving into the specifics of discrete emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, kama muta, shame, guilt, joy/happiness, gratitude, pride, awe, hope, among others.
For these studies, I employ various hardware systems and software (see Zickfeld, Arriaga, Santos, Schubert. & Seibt (2020), where numerous physiological measures were simultaneously collected.
(e.g. EMG, ECG, EDA, RESP)
Recognizing the limitations of retrospective assessments in capturing emotions during extended experiences, such as while watching videos or listening to music, we developed Flowsense. This system enables continuous assessment of emotions, integrating subjective emotional flow with physiological responses. We have tested Flowsense in evaluating health promotion campaigns, particularly those targeting anti-smoking initiatives. For more detailed information, please refer to products section).
Functions of EMOTIONS
From a functionalist perspective, emotions serve an adaptive purpose, mobilizing cognitive and behavioral processes for efficient action at both individual and interpersonal levels. This facilitates interactions within social and cultural contexts. My research explores the adaptive functions of emotions in these contexts. For instance, I examine the positive roles of typically negative emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear, as well as other behavioral expressions like tears/crying or touch.
In my studies of emotion regulation processes, I've concentrated on both internal mechanisms (such as individual strategies of emotion regulation like reappraisal, suppression, acceptance, mindfulness, and gratitude) and external factors. These external factors include social interventions (like hospital clowns) and material tools (such as multimedia applications, board games, and videos), all designed to assist children, adolescents, and adults in coping with various situations. Additionally, I have collaborated with researchers in several countries to investigate the impact of brief reappraisal interventions on emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This subarea represents a relevant intersection of basic and applied research, spanning clinical, educational, and social settings. Several of my former Ph.D. students have pursued research in these areas (Read more @ subsection "team").
EMOTION Artifitial Intelligence (Affective computing)
The fourth subarea of my research is multidisciplinary, situated within the broader field of Artificial Intelligence, specifically affective computing. This area involves using artificial systems to study, mimic, and respond to human emotional expressions and behaviors, contributing to the measurement of human emotions and behaviors. Examples of my multidisciplinary research projects include AMIGOS, AWESOME, TaylorPhy, and AGENTS, details of which can be found in the Projects section. My team's work, outlined in the Team section, includes several master's dissertations and Ph.D. theses.
Additionally, this area has led to the development of various products, including both hardware and software. For instance, the robot Yolo, designed to foster creativity in children (see Patricia Alves-Oliveira's work), and other software or digital games are outcomes of this research.