Main research lines and approaches

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Initial line of research: GAME & MEDIA VIOLENCE

I started by developing research on the emotional, cognitive and behavioral effects of exposure to violence (especially electronic games). I wrote a master's dissertation on the subject, a doctoral thesis, a post-doctorate with FCT scholarship, two projects with external funding (from FCT and Fundação Bial), and supervised several students from different study cycles in this line of research. This path started in the master's degree (1998-2000) and was subsequently developed in conjunction with two researchers, who worked in two different research fields, but complementary to my line of research: Maria Benedicta Monteiro and Francisco Esteves. Given the competencies developed in studying ​​affective processes through the years, research on the effects of exposure to violence in the media and entertainment had a greater focus, especially on emotions  (anger/hostility and emotional desensitization) and by studying their mediating role on interpersonal relations with an emphasis on aggressive behavior.

Main cross-cutting research path: Affective Processes

Currently, research interests continue to focus on the general domain of affective processes and emotions based on the areas of Social Psychology and Health Psychology, two scientific domains in which I have always worked.

The current lines of research are aligned with the United Nations Agenda 2030, in which I intend to make an active and relevant contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by conducting research targeting the following SDGs:

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Within the vast field of research on affective and cognitive processes, most of my contribution can be subdivided into the following interconnected sub-areas:

Conceptualization and Assessment of EMOTIONS

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What are emotions? How are they experienced and how can they be operationalized? What are the relationships between the different indicators of emotions? Emotions have a multimodal nature and are, in general, evaluated in three interrelated response systems: subjective, bioneurophysiological, and behavioral. I often tried to characterize emotional experience in terms of its structure (e.g., valence, arousal), but also considering its specificity, by investigating discrete emotions (e.g., anger, sadness, fear, kama muta, shame, guilt, joy / happiness, gratitude, pride, awe, ...).

Some hardware systems and software that I use include the following (see Zickfeld, Arriaga, Santos, Schubert. & Seibt (2020), in which many physiological measures were collected at the same time) 

Physiological

(e.g. EMG, ECG, EDA, RESP) 

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Software to analyze Heart Rate Variability

Ascendente próximo do olho
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Given that retrospective assessments of feelings do not allow access to the emotions that are felt during longer exposures (e.g. videos, music), we developed a system for continuous assessment of emotions, which we called Flowsense, to capture the subjective emotional flow in combination with physiological responses. This software has been tested in the evaluation of health promotion campaigns, in particular anti-smoking. (Read more @ products section). 

Functions of EMOTIONS

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Based on a functionalist approach, emotions have an adaptive purpose, mobilizing cognitive and behavioral processes towards efficient actions at an individual and interpersonal level, facilitating the interaction in a social and cultural context. Some of my research questions address the adaptive functions of emotions and their context. Some examples include the positive role of negative emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, and also other behavioral expressions, such as tears/crying, or touch.

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EMOTIONS Regulation

To study emotion regulating processes, I have focused on both internal (e.g. individual regulation of emotions such as reappraisal, suppression, acceptance, mindfulness) but also external sources, including social (eg hospital clowns), and materials (e.g., multimedia games, board games, videos) that have been developed to help children, adolescents, and adults to cope many different situations. This is one of the subareas in which basic and applied research most intertwined (e.g., clinical, educational, social settings). Many of my former and current Ph.D. students are conducting research on these topics (Read more @ subsection "team").

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EMOTION Artifitial Intelligence (Affective computing)

This fourth research subarea is multidisciplinary and is part of a broader domain of Artificial Intelligence (also called “affective computing”), which uses artificial systems to study and replicate the way humans express emotions, offering contributions to measure, simulate and react to the emotions and behaviors of humans. Examples of multidisciplinary research projects include AMIGOS, AWESOME, TaylorPhy, AGENTS (Projects section), and Ph.D. theses (Team section). This area has also been associated with the development of some products, including hardware and software (for example the robot Yolo, programmed to foster creativity in children (see the work of Patrícia Alves-Oliveira) or other software and digital games.