The Component Process Model of Emotion, and the Power of Coincidences

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An Interview with Andrea Scarantino (March 2015)

Klaus Scherer is Professor emeritus at the University of Geneva. He has published over 200 scientific papers and over 100 book chapters, co-founded ISRE, co-founded the Consortium for European Research on Emotion (CERE), co-founded the journal Emotion, founded and co-edited the Emotion and Social Interaction series for Cambridge University Press and the Affective Science series for Oxford University Press, and founded and successfully administered the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences from 2005 to 2013. His influential theory of emotions – the Component Process Model (CPM) – holds that emotions are instantiated when dynamically varying appraisal check outcomes causally determine the adaptive synchronization of different response systems (motivation, physiological changes, motor expression). CPM has provided a fruitful framework for investigating the elicitation of emotions, facial expressions, feelings, categorizations of feelings, musical emotions and emotional intelligence.

 

You grew up in Germany. What are your memories of family life as a young man? Was being a scientist an early dream of yours?

Klaus' first school day in 1949

Klaus’ first school day in 1949

After recovering from a shell-shock resulting from our bunker being bombed during an air raid in 1944 (by being submerged in very cold water by my mother), I grew up in a drab industrial city (Leverkusen) near Cologne in Germany. I was an only child, with a mixture of progenitors from very different parts of Germany, without any strong attachments to a place or a dialect (which possibly facilitated later culture hopping).

I was not destined to go to high school or university (at the time in Leverkusen this used to be reserved for the offspring of the scientists working for a big chemical/pharmaceutical company), except that, by chance, just at the right time there was an initiative for pupils of the secondary modern school to switch to the “Gymnasium” (the gateway to university). My teacher suggested to my parents to let me take an examination that would allow a transfer, and luckily, they agreed. This was the first of a large number of fortuitous coincidences that have collectively shaped my career.

So here is coincidence #1: A Spickzettel (“cheat sheet”) gets me into university. Let me explain. Together with two other candidates I took the exam during a normal class at the high school. While we had no problem with the German and Geography questions, the Math problem turned out to be unsolvable for us. After gloomy 15 minutes, a piece of paper stealthily made its way to our benches. I never quite knew where it came from, but it had the right answers, and it opened the doors to university for me and my fellow exam takers. That door may have never opened for me had it not been for the mysterious “cheat sheet”. Sobering thought.

Other important influences on my career dating back to that time are: Being fascinated by the different voice qualities in “The Archers” on the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Cologne [►voice research]; founding and running a “tape recording club” with some of the first commercially available tape recorders in Leverkusen (producing radio plays and documentaries) [► High-tech research]; Experiencing British culture in Elm Park, Essex, Great Britain, during a pupils’ exchange and making a lifelong friend [► Cross-cultural comparison]. At this time, I had no inkling that I wanted to become a scientist – this happened gradually during my first years at the university.

You studied economics and social science at the University of Cologne, and then left Germany to attend the London School of Economics first and Harvard University later. Why did you decide to leave your home country to pursue studies abroad?

with wife Ursula at New Years eve 1963

Klaus with his wife Ursula on New Year’s Eve, 1963

I financed my undergraduate studies as a freelance for the local pages of a major local newspaper (the Neue Rhein-Zeitung) and had decided to become a journalist. That is why I studied Volkswirtschaft (theoretical economics), a diploma curriculum which also required taking courses in finance, law, sociology, and social psychology. This is what probably laid the ground for a permanent dissatisfaction with sticking to a single discipline. I first veered toward sociology (due to the fascinating lectures of Professor René König on Durkheim and Parsons) and then to social psychology (being attracted more by the individuals in a society rather than society as an abstract cultural concept).

I happened to go to the London School of Economics (LSE) as I was active in student associations and tried to negotiate exchange programs (for example, with the LSE). The then chancellor of the LSE didn’t like the idea of exchange programs but bribed me by offering to accept me as a “special student” for a year (presumably thinking that I would stop proposing the exchange program). I mostly worked in social psychology with Bram Oppenheim and Hilde Himmelweit, but also attended lectures by the many luminaries at the LSE, such as Karl Popper and Ernest Gellner. Another faculty member of the LSE social psychology department, Norman Hotopf, kindled my interest in the relationship between language and thought, particularly Benjamin Lee Whorf, and Roger Brown (via the latter’s fantastic book Words and Things, Brown, 1958). So I went back to Cologne to get my diploma (in Economics and Social Science) and wrote my diploma thesis, in a Whorfian spirit, on an empirical study I conducted on how different languages (German, English, French) affect scientific thinking. I found that they did but I am not sure the methods would hold up today.

Young Klaus as General Secretary of the European Economics Student Association, 1963

Young Klaus as General Secretary of the European Economics Student Association, 1963

I then applied for a prestigious German stipend to go to Harvard to get a Ph.D. with Roger Brown in the social psychology of language. I had been particularly impressed by his paper (with Albert Gilman) “The pronouns of power and solidarity” in which the authors provide a brilliant analysis on how, in languages that have formal and familiar personal pronouns, social structure is mirrored in the often asymmetric use of these pronouns (familiar downwards, formal upwards – even between parents and children). It all worked out and in 1967 I went to the US on the MS Europa being seasick for 6 out of 7 days crossing the Atlantic (flying was expensive then and the German Academic Exchange Service had booked me into a four-berths cabin with a bull hole). I soon found out that Roger Brown had by then focused his research interests almost exclusively on children’s acquisition of language, adopting a structuralist, Chomskian, framework (which has never been my favorite approach to language).

Which scholars or classes had a strong impact on you at Harvard University, where you obtained your PhD in Social Psychology in 1970? What did you write your PhD thesis on and with whom?

Klaus working with audiotapes for his thesis, 1963

Klaus working with audiotapes for his thesis in the late 60ies, splicing together random snippets

My three years of graduate school at Harvard’s then famous Social Relations Department (sociology, anthropology, and psychology) have undoubtedly had the most important influence on my career. It started with SocRel 101, nicknamed the parade of the stars, where most of the famous faculty members presented their work (and had us write term papers) – among others Talcott Parsons, Alex Inkeles, Seymour Martin Lipset, David Riesman, John and Beatrice Whiting, Evon Vogt, David McClelland, Robert Freed Bales, Thomas Pettigrew, and Herbert Kelman. My interest in evolution was particularly kindled by the extraordinary enthusiasm displayed by Jerome Bruner’s linking phylogenesis and ontogenesis.I still remember the glowing way in which he described the central role of the opposability of the thumb and the index finger for the evolution of human cognition.

I became a teaching fellow for Roger Brown’s intro course to social psychology, enjoying his brilliant lectures, and was a tutor at one of the Harvard houses (in 1968!). When it came to choosing a topic for the Ph.D. research, I went back to my old favorite, the voice, and planned to study the voice of charisma to better understand the contribution of voice quality and intonation to rhetorical persuasion. There was little research on the expressive functions of voice at the time (except some pioneering work on voice and personality and its diagnostic use in clinical psychiatry). The major problem was to separate the effect of the person who spoke and what was said (the words) from how it was said (voice quality and intonation).

Trying to solve the problem, I developed the “randomized-splicing” technique to render speech unintelligible but keep the voice quality (low tech: cutting the audio tape into little pieces, mixing them in a salad bowl, and splicing them back together). But it turned out that charismatic speakers (Churchill, Hitler, and Kennedy) were immediately recognized even in their spliced version. So I studied the voice as an indicator of personality (as measured by peer ratings) in mock jury sessions which I organized in Cambridge, Mass. and Cologne — and in which the Randomized-Splicing technique worked beautifully (an audio file with an excerpt of a schizophrenic patient – normal and random spliced can be heard by clicking on the link below; for an overview of different masking techniques see Scherer, Feldstein, Bond, & Rosenthal, 1985).

Klaus in Harvard yard 1970, graduation day

Klaus in Harvard yard 1970, graduation day

Out of several traits, extraversion (but not dominance, as I had thought) had clear acoustic cues and was recognized with better than chance accuracy, being communicated by the voice more distinctly than any other trait. The thesis was jointly supervised by Roger Brown and Robert Rosenthal – for whom I worked as a research assistant and who had really become my mentor at Harvard. He has been a model for research enthusiasm, methodological rigor, and scientific integrity throughout my career.

And now we come to coincidence #2: Paul Ekman gives a colloquium at the Harvard Ed School. After his talk, I chatted with him and he invited me to visit his lab in San Francisco. This turned out to be the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration on face and voice which has produced many collaborative studies and joint publications (and edited book series), and was ultimately seminal to the creation of ISRE (see below).

How did you transition from being a PhD student to finding a job at the University of Pennsylvania? And why did you ultimately decide to leave the US to go back to Germany? Was it easy to find a job back in your homeland?

Coincidences, coincidences, coincidences. First, a brief chat in a Porsche on the way to a party cost me a job at Stanford: How that? I had been told that I did not need to give a talk, I had the job and that they had flown me out to convince me to take it. The eminent faculty member driving me and a visiting German professor to the party incidentally asked me what I was working on. I was mistaken as a psycholinguist when I mentioned that I work on the voice. They had just hired a psycholinguist and so I was told a week later that they could not hire me! (Coincidence #3).

Then, a brown bag luncheon got me a job at the University of Pennsylvania: a fellow graduate student who had enjoyed my talk recommended me as he could not take the job offered to him at Penn having to serve in the army. I spent two formative years as an Assistant Professor at Penn, which were enjoyable intellectually and socially (great parties!), the highlight being teaching a joint course on language and nonverbal communication with the linguist William Labov, the anthropologist Erving Goffman, and the ethologist W. John Smith. But my wife and I decided to go back to Germany (among other things, it was difficult to find good bread in Philadelphia at the time), so I started actively seeking employment back in Germany.

Klaus doing voice research at the University of Giessen in the early eighties, with speech researchers Ladd and Silverman

 

Coincidence #5: I applied for professorships at three universities – Kiel, Münster and Giessen – offering to come give a talk at my own expense. I felt entitled to do this as I was already a “professor” (although only an Assistant one), had 8 publications in peer-reviewed journals and two submitted, as well as a small book on Nonverbal communication (in German).

Münster and Giessen took me up on the offer. I didn’t get the job at Münster because the Marxist student group Spartakus noted in the acknowledgements of one of my papers that a computer used in voice research with a collaborator at MIT had been co-funded by the US Army. This was considered war research and they opposed my getting the professorship. When I got back to Philadelphia, I found in the mail an official offer from Kiel for an Associate Professorship in Psychology. I got to Kiel in 1972 and half a year later I received an offer for a full professorship at Giessen in social psychology where I stayed until 1985.

Klaus in his University of Geneva office, 1987

Klaus in his University of Geneva office, 1987

Coincidence #6: I talked on the phone to Willem Doise (a student of Serge Moscovici’s and then professor of social psychology in Geneva) about a workshop we were going to organize at the European Laboratory of Social Psychology at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris. After having settled the matter, we chatted a bit more and Willem asked me what I was working on at the moment. I said: “Emotion”. And he said: “We have a position for “Socioaffectivité” in the department at the University of Geneva to be filled right now”. I did not quite know what that meant in 1985 but I have been there ever since.

Your highly influential theory of emotions is labeled the Componential Process Model, which you first introduced in 1982 (Scherer, 1982). Could you summarize its main tenets, explain what led you to develop it, and illustrate what you take to be the main empirical evidence for synchronization amongst emotion components?

This was due to another coincidence, #7: In 1980 Norbert Bischof organized a congress of the German Psychological Society in Zurich. For the first time in German psychology, prestigious one-hour long keynote presentations are introduced, with competitive bidding. I thought it would be nice to give one of those and tried to think of a promising topic. I recalled my review of the primordial role of emotions in the triggering of aggressive behavior for a book on aggression (Scherer, Abeles & Fischer, 1975), which I had written with two fellow graduate students from Harvard a few years after our Ph.D. I noted that the valence (positive vs. negative) and power (strong vs. weak) dimensions of emotional feeling (as postulated by dimensional theories of emotion ever since Wundt) corresponded directly to Richard Lazarus’ proposal of primary (good – bad for me) and secondary (can – cannot cope) appraisal as determinants of stress and emotion. Specifically, I assumed that the position on a particular feeling dimension was directly produced by the result of the respective appraisal check.

I reread Lazarus (1968, 1970) and decided to suggest a new conceptualization of emotion by elaborating on the nature and structure of the different appraisal criteria or checks and their consequences on the different components of emotional responses. Briefly put, I argued that it should be possible to predict complex emotional feelings by differentiating the appraisal process sufficiently, using many different criteria or “checks”, to account for the major emotions. I imagined that this must happen in a process as situations and evaluations unfold over time. Given my exposure to evolutionary functionalism at Harvard, I speculated that this mechanism must serve some purpose, presumably the preparation of adaptive behavior (such as aggression as a result of frustration).

I elaborated these ideas on long walks during a vacation with my wife in the Swiss Alps and submitted a keynote proposal in 1980 called “Wider die Vernachlässigung der Emotion in der Psychologie” [Against the neglect of emotion in psychology; Scherer, 1981], combining the proposal of a new approach to studying emotion with an attack on the domination of the field by an exclusively cognitive orientation. The keynote was accepted, the talk well attended and well received, and the paper that appeared in the Proceedings a year later is, strangely enough, still one of my most cited papers (although mostly in German publications). I presented the theory at Stanford a bit later and discovered that Ira Roseman and Phoebe Ellsworth had developed a very similar approach, emphasizing the centrality of appraisal and proposing a list of differentiated criteria to predict major emotions (at the time documented only in the form of a mimeographed text that circulated among the cognoscenti).

The Component Process Model (CPM) of emotion was developed on the basis of evolutionary considerations. I argued that animals dealing with ever more complex environments and a social organization could not manage with simple stimulus-response chains based on innate instincts or simple learning and that thus emotions progressively replaced these rigid response modes with a more flexible mechanism without losing the advantage of very rapid response preparation. In other words, the “decoupling” of a reflex-like adaptive response from a specific class of elicitor together with the possibility of modulating and regulating the reflex-like response over time, based on constant revaluation of an evolving situation.

The key feature of such a mechanism is the sophisticated evaluation or appraisal of important events that require a response and possibly adaptive action. For this, it is necessary that the probable causes and consequences of the event and the organism’s options for action (control and power) are assessed in an ongoing, recursive appraisal process (as events often unfold and change and as coping options become available). As in responding to many important events, time is of the essence, and the reactions of the organism need to be continuously adjusted to reflect changes in appraisal outcomes. In addition, it is often necessary to prepare several courses of potential action (or action tendencies) such as fight, flight or freeze when encountering, say, a predator. As many important events require the mobilization and coordination of all of the resources the organism can muster, the different organismic subsystems (or components; see Table 1 below) need to be concerted and synchronized for optimal performance.

In sum, the CPM argues that a series of constantly varying appraisal check outcomes causally determines adaptive changes in different response systems (motivation, physiological changes, motor expression) which consequently become synchronized (and desynchronized) in the process of emotion unfolding.

Table 1: Reproduced from Scherer, K. R. (2001, p. 93).

Table 1: Reproduced from Scherer, K. R. (2001, p. 93).

These synchronized changes are monitored by central, integrative representation systems to allow regulation (as each subsystem has essential functions of its own and needs to return to baseline). In humans (and possibly also higher animals) this central representation constitutes (often, but not necessarily conscious) emotional experience. In addition, after the acquisition of language, humans can, optionally, categorize and label these bouts of experience with words or expressions. Early on, I suggest a formal definition based on this kind of an architecture (see Figure 1): “emotion is defined as an episode of interrelated, synchronized changes in the states of all or most of the five organismic subsystems in response to the evaluation of an external or internal stimulus event as relevant to major concerns of the organism (Scherer, 1986, 2001).”

Figure 1: The dynamic architecture of the Component Process Model (Reproduced from Scherer, 2010, p. 50)

Figure 1: The dynamic architecture of the Component Process Model
(Reproduced from Scherer, 2010, p. 50)

However, as there are already hundreds of definitions of emotion around, and because researchers generally preferring to develop their own, there is little chance of my proposal having much of an impact. Trying to remedy this unsatisfactory situation, which generates much confusion in the field, the philosopher Kevin Mulligan and I recently attempted to propose at least a list of elements for a partial, working definition “x is an emotion only if x is an affective episode, x has the property of intentionality (i.e., of being directed), x contains bodily changes (arousal, expression, etc.) that are felt, x contains a perceptual or intellectual episode, y, which has the property of intentionality, the intentionality of x is inherited from the intentionality of y, x is triggered by at least one appraisal, x is guided by at least one appraisal” (Mulligan, & Scherer, 2012). Maybe such a working definition can at least help to increase the mutual understanding of researchers from different disciplines…

As to the evidence for synchronization, this is probably one of the most complex research challenges in the affective sciences. But we are working on it. And there is growing attention and empirical evidence for the existence of coherence or synchrony – see the special issue of Biological Psychology in Volume 98 (2014) “Whither Concordance? Autonomic Psychophysiology and the Behaviors and Cognitions of Emotional Responsivity”. In our contribution to this special issue (Gentsch, Grandjean, & Scherer, 2014) we explore the link between brain activity (measured by electro encephalography, EEG) and facial expression (measured by electromyography of the facial muscles, EMG) in response to experimentally manipulated appraisal. This provides indirect evidence that the appraisal results of the goal conduciveness and power to cope checks are producing with a slight delay, the innervation of specific facial muscles (e.g., m. zygomaticus).

What is currently missing is an appropriate mathematical-statistical toolbox to empirically determine the degree of synchrony of different organismic subsystems, both with respect to the concordance of discrete events and the synchronization of time series. This is essential, at least in my book, to determine the threshold of synchronization that can be considered to determine the onset of an emotion episode and the intensity of the emotional reaction.

In your entry “emotion theories and concepts (psychological perspectives)” in the Oxford Companion to Affective Sciences you edited with David Sander (Scherer, 2009), you distinguish between three main traditions in the scientific study of emotions: the basic emotions tradition, the constructivist tradition and the appraisal tradition. The CPM belongs to the third tradition, but does it borrow insights from other traditions as well?

Of course, we are always standing on the shoulders of giants. And so am I. Aristotle was one of the first, arguing against Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul (which assigned a specific compartment to emotion) and highlighting the strategic function of emotion expression in rhetoric. Descartes of course, and most importantly, Darwin, with respect to both anchoring emotion in a functional, evolutionary perspective and his trail blazing work on expression. William James had a strong impact because of his rehabilitation of the bodily components of emotion and his interest in “subtle” emotions.

Unfortunately, his abhorrence of contemporary emotion theories led him to overstate his case to the point of, in the words of Phoebe Ellsworth (1994), generating “a century of misunderstanding”. He used the term “feeling”, a single component denoting the subjective experience process, as a synonym for emotion, the total multi-modal component process. As a consequence, he produced a fruitless debate which is still ongoing (thanks to constructionism). Arguably, when he asked “What is an emotion?” in 1884, he really meant “What is a feeling?” For me, James has been the first appraisal theorist. Addressing his critics, James wrote, 10 years after his initial paper: “The same bear may truly enough excite us to either fight or flight, according as he suggests an overpowering “idea” of his killing us, or one of our killing him” (James, 1894).

One of your central theoretical interests is appraisal, the complex evaluative process that initiates the synchronized changes with which you identify emotions. You have introduced several seminal distinctions over the years, concerning the existence of different levels of appraisals and the structured nature of the appraisal process. Could you briefly summarize how you came to be interested in appraisal, and how your theory of appraisal differs and resembles other models of appraisal?

Given the central, causal role of appraisal in the CPM, I have attempted to develop an inventory of appraisal criteria or checks that are sufficiently general to be applied to many different situations but that are also sufficiently exhaustive to allow adequate differentiation between emotions. James’ bear coming out of the woods is a perfect example: The sudden appearance of the grizzly at your picnic site is appraised as novel and relevant, two major appraisal criteria. After that it depends, if you are a bear hunter this event is very conducive to your goal, especially if you have your gun within easy reach (the coping potential check). If however, you are hiking, just enjoying nature, the bear is likely to be a major threat, obstructive to your goal of survival. The criterion of goal conduciveness or obstructiveness is obviously of central importance, followed by the coping potential criterion – distinguishing between joy and fear. Anger is a consequence of appraising that one’s progress toward a goal is blocked (for example, the bear wanting to eat your food) but only when you feel stronger than the bear (appraising a high coping potential.

It comes as no surprise that most of these criteria are also found in other appraisal theories, although the labels used, the foci of attention, or the use of the concept of appraisal, may differ. I think my CPM mainly differs in that I have postulated a recursive, sequentially cumulative process for appraisal and that I have attempted to produce detailed and testable predictions about the causal effects of the appraisal results on other components, such as motivation, physiological responses, facial and vocal expression, as well as categorization and labeling of subjective feeling (see Scherer, 2001, 2009). This recursive, sequential and cumulative architecture is illustrated in Figure 2 below which shows on top the various systems involved in appraisal processing, the specific appraisal checks for each major criterion, and the efferent effects on the different organismic subsystems (i.e. the other components).

Scherer Figure 2Claiming such a complex architecture may have been a bit too idealistic, but I am very happy to note that, as pertinent research is progressing and literature is accumulating, many of these predictions have been confirmed. In a recent review paper for Emotion Review I have summarized some of the major predictions and the empirical evidence currently available (Scherer, 2013). Predictions that are not confirmed may need to be refined or revised with further evidence — after all, that is the nature of theoretically guided empirical research. The problem is that this kind of research requires the collaboration of specialists in several domains and is thus rather lengthy and costly – which explains why progress is slow.

Some have suggested that your sequential model of appraisal, which demands 14 Stimulus Evaluation Checks performed in a logical sequence, is hard to reconcile with the speed of emotional elicitation and with the fact that creatures without concept mastery like infants and animals can have emotions. How do you respond to these worries?

These “worries” have accompanied the CPM for all the over 30 years of its existence. Unfortunately, my counter-arguments and explanations are hardly ever taken into account. In 1987, I published a paper with Howard Leventhal demonstrating that the appraisal checks in the predicted sequence can occur on different levels of cognitive processing, explaining how animals and infants can have differentiated emotions (Leventhal, & Scherer, 1987).

I now distinguish four different levels of processing : (a) a low-level neural circuit, in which the checking mechanisms are mostly genetically determined and the checking criteria consist of templates for pattern matching and similar mechanisms (cf. the notion of “biological preparedness”, e.g. for snakes or baby faces; (b) a schematic level, based on memory traces from (social) learning processes and occurring in a fairly automatic, unconscious fashion (e.g., childhood memories of odors); (c) an association level, involving various cortical association areas, which may occur automatically and unconsciously or in a deliberate, conscious fashion (e.g., schemata in social perception), and (d) the conceptual level, involving propositional knowledge, and underlying cultural meaning systems, requiring consciousness and effortful calculations in prefrontal cortical areas (see Scherer, 2009). The different levels continuously interact, producing top-down and bottom-up effects. So — if the amygdala can perform relevance appraisals – how much faster can you get?

The problem is that many of our colleagues react to a connotation implying frontal cortex activity when they hear the word “appraisal”. However, the correct denotation of this word is “evaluative processing of information” — and that can be as low-level as information processing gets (involving subcortical structures). As to the “slow and cumbersome” sequence of appraisal checks, we now have hard evidence from three mental chronography studies using EEG – Grandjean & Scherer (2008), Gentsch, Grandjean & Scherer (2013), and van Peer, Grandjean & Scherer (2014). We experimentally manipulated different appraisal checks and showed with the help of precisely timed event-related potentials (ERPs) and brain activity mapping that in the initial phase after an event onset novelty, intrinsic pleasantness, goal conduciveness, and power are all processed, in this sequential order, within 600-800 msecs. That seems pretty fast….

Another worry concerns the primary source of evidence for the existence of appraisal dimensions, which I take to be self-reports. Some have argued that self-reports fail to capture the sort of automatic processes involved in a great many forms of appraisal, and, most importantly, that self-reports do not necessarily unveil the causal structure of the elicitation process but rather the conceptual entailments between folk emotion concepts and other concepts (e.g. the concept of fear and the concepts of something being goal-relevant and goal-incongruent). Why do you think that self-reports provide us with reliable evidence of the relevant causal processes? Other than self-reports, which other experimental techniques are available for the study of appraisal?

From the very beginning of my publications on the CPM I have presented a big table (reproduced as Table 1 in a recent update article: Scherer, 2009) in which I made predictions on how the results of different appraisal checks will affect physiological responses as well as facial and vocal expressions. Table 2 below provides an illustration of component patterning predictions for two of the appraisal checks – novelty and intrinsic pleasantness. By the way, for reasons documented in the same paper, I have always insisted on clearly separating the appraisal checks of intrinsic un/pleasantness and goal conduciveness/obstruction, a distinction which is also centrally important for the understanding of aesthetic emotions (see below for the case of music).

Stimulus Evaluation Checks (SECs) Organismic / Social functions Component patterning
Novelty (Abrupt onset, familiarity, predictability)Goal relevance (Does the event have consequences for my needs or goals?) Novel and goal relevant: Orienting, Focusing/ Alerting Orienting response; EEG alpha changes, modulation of the P3a in ERPs; heart rate deceleration, vasomotor contraction, increased skin conductance responses, pupillary dilatation, local muscle tonus changes; brows and lids up, frown, jaw drop, gaze directed; interruption of speech and action, raising head (possibly also preparatory changes for subsequent effort investment given relevance appraisal at this stage, in particular increased cardiac contractility as indicated by, e.g., decreased pre-ejection period)
Intrinsic Pleasantness (Is the event intrinsically pleasant or unpleasant, independently of my current motivational state?) Pleasant:Incorporation/Recommending      Unpleasant:Rejection/Warning Sensitization; inhalation, heart rate deceleration, salivation, pupillary dilatation; lids up, open mouth and nostrils, lips part and corners pulled upwards, gaze directed; faucal and pharyngeal expansion, vocal tract shortened and relaxation of tract walls (“wide voice” – increase in low frequency energy, F1 falling, slightly broader F1 bandwidth); centripetal hand and arm movements, expanding posture, approach locomotionDefense response, heart rate acceleration, increase in skin conductance level, decrease in salivation, pupillary constriction; slight muscle tonus increase; brow lowering, lid tightening, eye closing, nose wrinkling, upper lip raising, lip corner depression, chin raise, lip press, nostril compression, tongue thrust, gaze aversion; faucal and pharyngeal constriction, vocal tract shortened and tensing of tract walls (“narrow voice” – more high frequency energy, F1 rising, F2 and F3 falling, narrow F1 bandwidth, laryngopharyngeal nasality, resonances raised); centrifugal hand and arm movements, hands covering orifices, shrinking posture, avoidance locomotion.

Table 2: An illustration of component patterning predictions based on the Component Process Model (CPM) of emotion

 

I have strongly advocated using objective measures such as brain activity, autonomic system change, or facial/vocal expression indices to provide empirical evidence for the occurrence of specific appraisals. But such research is time consuming and costly and requires an extraordinary amount of expertise. It is thus not surprising that it has only been relatively recently that massive evidence for appraisals based on EEG, facial EMG, autonomic indicators, FACS coded facial expressions, and acoustic analysis of voice quality has appeared (much of which has been produced by the members of my group). I hope that the long list of pertinent references which can be downloaded here will convince researchers who still believe that appraisal is only about self-report.

At the same time, I refuse to accept the implicit assumption that self-reports are worthless. Yes, they can be affected by all kinds of biases such as folk concepts and other beliefs, memory bias, and response styles. Yet, I don’t think that there is much empirical evidence showing that such biases render self-report worthless. I think people often have good access and sufficient reporting capacity to their evaluations of relevance, pleasantness, agency, justice, morality, etc. And for some of these higher levels, particularly compatibility with norms, values and moral prescriptions, it will be very difficult to find objective indicators (for example, evaluations of music with respect to its cultural value).

However, Brosch et al. (2011), using fMRI, were able to show that context-dependent neural reward sensitivity biases reflect (and may even determine) differences in individual value hierarchies. Of course, it is hard to use the scanner in the field and so I suggest that we continue to use self-report for those cases where there is no viable alternative – of course with all due caution. The key is to have several different measures to obtain a convergent pattern of evidence.

You have spent a great deal of time trying to understand emotional expressions, in the face, posture and voice. First, which of these three sources gives us the most reliable evidence for inferring that a certain emotion is occurring? Second, what is your view on universality vs. context-dependent cultural influences in emotion production and perception? Third, what is the Geneva Multimodal expression corpus for experimental research on emotion perception?

This is difficult to answer in a few words. I will try: 1) As to the reliability of inferences, face and voice have different expression and communication affordances. The face is a very good indicator for the valence dimension (e.g., happiness or disgust) all it needs is a smile vs. pulling up the upper lip. On the other hand the voice is a more appropriate and reliable indicator for the power and arousal dimensions, e.g., in anger and fear. A loud and firm voice communicates power; a thin, high-pitched voice is a sure sign for powerlessness. Also, high pitch and loudness variation together with high speech rate are very indicative for high arousal. These differences in signal information and reliability explain why it is always best to use multimodal expressions as a source for inference as the channels complement each other.

As to 2), universality vs. cultural relativity in expression, I have always thought that the most plausible position would be to assume that the basic mechanisms are universal, as we are all humans, having similar brains and bodies and face similar social and environmental challenges. At the same time, there clearly are many cultural differences in social behavior and so it would be odd, if emotional expression which is eminently social, would not show any differences. This hunch has been supported by a comprehensive review of emotional expression research (Scherer, Clark-Polner, & Mortillaro, 2011). The upshot: People can decode expressions from other languages and cultures, but they are best in their own. I think that the notion of expressive dialects, as suggested by Elfenbein and others, is very useful in this context.

As to 3), the Geneva Multimodal Expression Portrayal corpus (GEMEP) is a set of actor enactments of 18 different emotions, recorded in high-quality video and audio, based on Stanislavski-like procedures of reliving emotional experiences (Bänziger, Mortillaro, & Scherer, 2012). It is currently used widely in expression research and automatic emotion detection in affective computing approaches. It is shared with researchers in this area (further info: http://www.affective-sciences.org/gemep). One is frequently criticized for using actor enacted stimuli for emotion expression research but there is simply no practical alternative if one wants to have a minimum of experimental control (e.g., different emotions expressed by the same person in similar contexts). To date, there is no appropriate corpus with real-life expressions – due to ethical constraints and the enormous investment needed. Critics often forget that if the Stanislavski emotional reliving technique is used, there is only a gradual difference to “real” emotions, especially as most often, every-day emotions can also be faked for strategic purposes, or at least severely regulated.

Another one of your interests concerns the way in which emotions are impacted by music. What do you think are the key mechanisms of elicitation? Can music elicit any emotion whatsoever? What sort of music works best for you as an emotion elicitor?

I started experimenting with music a long time ago in 1972. While I was at Penn a student told me that he was working in the music department and that they had gotten one of the first music synthesizers – the MOOG. I suggested that we do an experiment to orthogonally manipulate amplitude and pitch variation, pitch level and contour, tempo, envelope, and harmonic filtration and have them rated on emotional expressiveness. The results showed that two-thirds to three-quarters of the variance in emotion attributions could be explained by the manipulation of the acoustic cues, and that a linear model of the judges’ cue utilization seemed to be a good approximation to their response system (an example of two MOOG sounds can be downloaded below; see Scherer, & Oshinsky, 1977)

What do I think are the key mechanisms of elicitation? Contrary to some researchers (e.g., Patrik Juslin), I do not think that musically-evoked emotions are just like any other garden variety of emotions. Of course, music can produce “normal” anger (for example, when my neighbor plays heavy metal at 2 a.m. in the morning) – but the object of the anger is not the music but the behavior of my neighbor (see Deonna & Scherer, 2009, on the importance of a proper definition of the object of emotion).

I have argued that when the music is the object, the emotions are different, mostly aesthetic or epistemic emotions (see Scherer, 2004). Based on this conviction, our group has developed the Geneva Emotional Music Scale (GEMS; Zentner, Grandjean, & Scherer, 2008), using a bottom-up approach, continuously refining lists of emotion terms commonly used by listeners and evaluating them in laboratory and field studies. The scale measures the following 9 factors: Wonder, Transcendence, Tenderness, Nostalgia, Peacefulness, Power, Joyful Activation, Tension, and Sadness. The scale is now widely used in music research and the paper has, surprisingly, become one of the most cited papers in Emotion.

What are the key mechanisms for elicitation of these special emotions? With my collaborators (Marcel Zentner and Eduardo Coutinho), I have postulated five routes to emotion induction by music: 1) appraisal (e.g., aesthetic judgment of beauty due to harmony); 2) memory (e.g., fond memories of the Mendelsohn wedding march); 3) entrainment (e.g., a beat of ¾ time inducing waltzing); 4) emotional contagion (e.g., weeping during a mournful adagio); and 5) empathy (e.g., with the emotion expressed by a singer). These mechanisms are mediated by many context factors, such as the place and the public, the piece and the composer’s intention, the interpreter’s excellence and execution, the listener’s personality and mood) that we have tried to summarize in rule systems. (for further details see Scherer, & Coutinho, 2013).

What music is best for what purpose? I tend to believe that classical music has the most potential to produce subtle and highly differentiated aesthetic and epistemic emotions. For pure entrainment, marches and heavy metal might be preferable. And so on. I think it depends on the route.

In 1984, you joined forces with several other prominent emotion researchers, including Paul Ekman, Nico Frjida, Joe Campos and Robert Zajonc, to found ISRE. Looking back at the past 30 years, are you happy with how ISRE has developed since? How would you like to see it developing in the future?

As mentioned above, I was a member of the European Laboratory of Social Psychology (LEPS) at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme [with Serge Moscovici, Henri Tajfel, Willem Doise, Augusto Palmonari, and Mario von Cranach] and used to spend quite a lot of time in Paris. The idea to create ISRE emerged while walking the streets of Paris with Paul Ekman. We asked Joe Campos whether he would be willing to become the first general secretary and organize the first meeting (held at Harvard University in 1985 – see the group photo of the participants below).

2 together Harvard ISRE 85.jpeg

Harvard 1985 legend - 0002

When he agreed, we drew up a list of leading emotion researchers from different disciplines and with Clemens Heller, the director of the M.S.H., and Adriana Touraine, the secretary of the LEPS, we called the founding meeting (see document posted by Arvid Kappas here http://emotionresearcher.com/isre-matters-disgust-issue/#). I think that without ISRE, the development of emotion research would have been quite different. The society managed to build a truly interdisciplinary spirit among its members and several excellent conferences, in addition to personal exchanges, have created contacts and collaborations that would not have materialized otherwise.

Having been a staunch advocate of the interdisciplinary affective sciences for a long time, having co-founded a book series with that title in 1993 and having created the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (a Swiss National Competence Center for Research) in 2005, I am disappointed that ISRE missed the chance to broaden its scope in the direction of the affective sciences and to involve the affective neurosciences which have been largely absent from the ISRE activities. It may not be too late, especially on the international level, and I would certainly like it to develop in this direction. Based on the discussions on ISRE-L, it seems that some of our colleagues in the humanities are reticent to use the term “science” with respect to their activities claiming that, at least in English, the term is strongly connoted as “natural sciences”. This is historically true, of course, but again, I think this is an undue perseveration of a connotation that has lost its raison d’être (given the proliferation of labels such as “social and behavioral sciences”, “literary science”, etc.).

Another one of your (many!) research interests is Emotional Intelligence. Since this issue of Emotion Researcher is devoted to EI, I thought I should ask you what you think of the ongoing controversies over whether the construct has scientific validity and is predictively relevant.

Much of the copious EI research in past years has, to my mind, started from misconceived preconceptions, focusing too strongly on the intelligence or the personality/adjustment model. I have suggested to conceptualize and measure EI as “emotional competence” (EC) involving ability, genetically endowed or acquired in the course of socialization, and skills that can be learned in a relatively short lapse of time (Scherer, 2007). The concept of EC should not only be compatible with widely accepted theories of emotion; it should in fact be directly based on theoretical models of the emotion mechanism and the available empirical evidence.

I propose to use the CPM as the basis of competence conceptualization, as it is one of the broader theories, encompassing many of the pertinent components, including cognition, and highlighting the dynamic nature of the emotion process. As key constituents of EC, I suggest 1) appraisal competence (evaluating pertinent events in an accurate fashion with respect to both the personal implications of the events and one’s ability to cope with the consequences), 2) regulation competence (the capacity to react in an appropriate fashion both with respect to promising action tendencies and situational contingencies), and, 3) communication competence (the ability to produce emotion signals in accordance with strategic aims and cultural norms and to correctly infer the emotions of others on the basis of outward expression and to empathize with others under appropriate circumstances). Our own work has mostly focused on emotion recognition as part of the communication competence constituent (e.g., Bänziger, Grandjean, & Scherer, 2009; Schlegel, Grandjean, & Scherer, 2014)

A high level of competence in these three key constituents ought to produce adaptive outcomes; in other words, high EC persons are likely to be resilient in stressful situations, unlikely to suffer from emotional disturbances, and likely to enjoy a high level of life satisfaction. In consequence, high EC should correlate at least moderately with a number of affect-related personality traits and measures of emotional stability. In consequence, it is probable that EC contributes to adaptation to real-world social environments (for a nice nomological network see Schlegel, Grandjean, & Scherer, 2013). However, it would be erroneous to deduce from this correspondence that it is sufficient to measure personality and satisfaction constructs with the help of self-report, as it is generally not advisable to measure outcomes in order to understand determinants.

Most importantly, apart from the serious biases and artifacts affecting self-report, EC is only one determinant of adaptive adjustment and the degree of contribution to professional success and well-being is likely to vary over individuals. If one wants to improve EC through appropriate training, it is essential to diagnose EC directly by assessing emotional performance in order to identify the sources of insufficient competence and to suggest appropriate remedial training. More on our activities and some tools that we share with other researchers can be found on our new EC webpage (http://www.affective-sciences.org/ec).

You have been critical of psychological constructionism, the recent wave of theories that reject discrete approaches and offer a ‘core affect’ based account. What are your main critiques of psychological constructionism?

I have discussed my misgivings about the constructionist approach in several places. Here is a brief summary in four points:

(1) As shown in Figure 1, the CPM model makes it clear that feelings are just one of the components of the emotion process (albeit an important one, as feelings monitor the emotion episode through integration and representation of changes in the other components). Furthermore, verbal labeling is an additional, and not even necessary, step.

In some of the writings by psychological constructionists, there is a tendency to blur the distinction between emotions, feelings and verbal labeling. Here is one example: “discrete emotions emerge from a conceptual analysis of core affect … Specifically, the experience of feeling an emotion … occurs when conceptual knowledge about emotion is brought to bear to categorize a momentary state of core affect” (Barrett, 2006, p. 49). Here is another:  “[i]f some people do not have a concept of anger, then [a] constellation [of components such as a scowl, blood pressure increase, and a feeling of offense] will never exist as anger for those people (i.e., it is not that they are truly angry and don’t know it)” (Barrett 2012, 420). On my view, we should distinguish between anger, the feeling of anger and the categorization of oneself as angry. These distinctions are admittedly present in the writings of other psychological constructionists (e.g. Russell distinguishes between being angry and having the meta-experience of anger once the concept of anger is applied). My point is that failing to clearly distinguish between ’emotions’, ‘feelings’ and ‘categorized feelings’ muddles important conceptual distinction and leads to rampant confusion.

(2) Psychological constructionists claim that “core affect”, a point in a low dimensional valence x arousal space, is a central psychological “primitive”, and that it is a core ingredient of prototypical emotion episodes. It is true that people can reliably describe their feelings on these dimensions but this is easily explained by a projection from a high-dimensional qualia space to a lower dimensional space, especially if provided with explicit valence and arousal scales. It is not clear in what sense and why valence and arousal feelings are considered as more “core”, “primitive”, or “basic” than other internal representations (for example, of appraisal configurations).

These dimensions are not verbalized spontaneously. We asked a quasi-representative sample of the Swiss population what emotion they experienced on the previous day. They described the situation and labeled their subjective experience, their feelings, in their own words. Only a very small percentage of the more that 1000 respondents used general or positive valence labels (5.8%), and almost none used direct arousal terms (Scherer, Wranik, Sangsue, Tran, & Scherer, 2004). Apparently, the low-dimensional description does not spontaneously come to mind – although this is what one would expect if it were a primitive.

Maybe Russell and Barrett mean the word “core” in the sense of the most important dimensions in low-dimensional space which they take to be valence and arousal. However, our recent work on the semantics of emotion terms, using a theoretically anchored feature profile based similarity assessment, yields four reliable factors in over 25 languages, with arousal coming in only third, after valence and a control/mastery/power factor (Fontaine, Scherer & Soriano, 2013). It seems reasonable to assume that control/mastery/power are very prominent criteria for adaptive responses and should be part of a primitive or core feeling read-out. The same is true for unexpectedness or novelty which weighs in as the fourth factor. Indeed, there is an enormous amount of literature showing the “basicness” and “primitivity” of novelty detection in all organisms. Why should this central factor in perceiving and evaluating the world not be represented in “core affect”?

Furthermore, constructivists do not spend much effort to describe the mechanisms whereby core affect is produced, except providing a laundry list of factors possibly involved in this process, including appraisal. However, as far as I can see, to date no specific, experimentally testable hypotheses or mapping rules, comparable to the appraisal based predictions, have been generated by constructivist theory. It is thus not clear how core affect is differentiated. This omission is particularly worrisome, as an enormous amount of information needs to be compressed and integrated to yield a single point in low dimensional space, reflecting only evaluation (valence) and (arousal) response information. How does this work? One also wonders what happens to the large number of factors that are supposed to influence core affect. Are they not represented in feeling space or do the representations get lost once projection into low-dimensional space has occurred? And would those not be important to fine tune the adaptive action?

It is equally unclear how, out of the constant flux of valence by arousal variation, an attribution to an object or the assignment of a conceptual category occurs. As core affect is supposedly primitive and primary, waxing and waning, there must be some quality of core affect, a threshold or another criterion, that triggers the attribution and categorization processes. What are these? It cannot be the evaluation of the objects or events, because if it were, it would not be clear how the theories differ from appraisal theories, except for an underspecification of the respective mechanisms.

(3) I have often been unable to find concrete predictions, susceptible to targeted experimental testing and falsification, in constructivist writings. Barrett (2009, p. 1294) claims that her conceptual act model generates “four specific hypotheses that are currently being operationalized and tested in the lab”, namely 1. There are psychological primitives (e.g., core affect), 2. Emotions are like books of recipes (not mechanisms) with psychological primitives as elements in a well-stocked pantry that can be used to make any number of different dishes, 3. Since emotional primitives partake in both emotional and non-emotional processes, emotion, cognition and perception are not distinct in kind, and 4. Emotion words are powerful in affecting experience. While the latter can be taken for granted, there are serious issues with the first three. It is difficult to consider these as “specific hypotheses”. How can they be falsified, especially as much seems to rest on definitional matters? What does it mean that emotion, cognition and perception are not distinct in kind? And how can this be tested in the lab?

(4) The tendency of constructionism to avoid committing to specific causal mechanisms is no accident: it results from the programmatic attempt to make each emotion episode the result of a unique, on-the-fly, idiosyncratic, individual construction. Although it is certainly the case that the categorization of immensely variable qualia feeling involves many idiosyncratic features that will be difficult to predict and examine empirically, the abandonment of the nomothetic approach threatens to lead to the abandonment of theory-guided empirical investigation, the hallmark of a scientific approach. Barrett (2009) uses the metaphor of a “book of recipes” for her theory. This is helpful, but recipes generally imply rules for combining ingredients, not free construction. And these rules can be investigated: The proof of the pudding lies in the testing.

You have been exceptionally productive as a scholar and exceptionally adept as an editor, program builder and administrator. Just to mention a handful of your many achievements, you have published over 200 scientific papers and over 100 book chapters, co-founded ISRE, co-founded the Consortium for European Research on Emotion (CERE), co-founded the journal Emotion, founded and co-edited the Emotion and Social Interaction series for Cambridge University Press and the Affective Science series for Oxford University Press, and founded and successfully administered the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences from 2005 to 2013. How on earth did you manage to do all this? What is your daily routine? Do you have any organizational secrets to share with the rest of us?

No secrets. I like research, especially theoretic elaboration of plausible mechanisms and subsequent empirical testing. I work hard. And I had and have many excellent collaborators.

If you compare the incentive structure for scientists 30 years ago and today, do you think things are better off now? What would be your advice for young scholar who want to become successful emotion researchers?

The good news is that finding pertinent literature has become much easier with web searches and PDF downloads rather than scouting around in libraries. And data analysis and manuscript processing is a cinch with the software available now (when I did my thesis at Harvard I had to bring a box of punched cards to the computer center in the evening and come back for the results the next morning, often only to find that I had made an error on a control card…). The bad news is that there is much more literature these days and it is often difficult to know what is really relevant. And then there is the unhealthy pressure to publish a lot, fast, and only spectacular results with wide appeal– which does not necessarily improve quality. My advice: Find a topic you are really enthusiastic about. Try to approach it from a theoretical vantage point or at least elaborate the mechanism that you expect to drive the phenomena you study. And brush up your competence in methodology.

What are your hobbies?

Although it is part of my work, I love statistical data analysis. It is so satisfying to search for interesting patterns. I also like to travel, particularly exploring historically and artistically interesting towns, churches/temples, and museums. As to outdoor activities, I am not much of sports person but I love hiking, particularly in forest and mountains. I always liked to go to the theater, but I must confess that good new plays are few and far between and most classic plays are butchered by egomaniac directors. The same pattern is increasingly found in opera, unfortunately. What remains is pure music!

You now live in Geneva, Switzerland. What do you like and what do you dislike about the city? What are a handful of your favorite restaurants in Geneva (this may come handy for attendants to ISRE 2015!)? Do you enjoy cooking, and if so do you have a favorite recipe to share?

Geneva: Like – its location near the mountains and easy to reach France, Italy, and Germany; its cosmopolitanism despite remaining basically a small city; the rural area and villages around, great for easy hiking. Dislike – the traffic! Below is a short list of restaurants in Geneva. It comes from my address book where I have kept the addresses of restaurants we have been to several times and where we may go again. These are not cheap but also not expensive restaurants – for Geneva, where restaurant food (and everything else) is more expensive that elsewhere.

  •  Restaurant du Parc des Bastions, 310 8666 , nice terrace in a park
  • Le Lyrique 328 0095, on Place Neuve, crowded at lunch and especially on opera and concert evenings, very Genevan atmosphere on those nights
  • Café des Négociants 300 3130, on tram 12 in Carouge, spin off of a Michelin starred restaurant (Châteauvieux),
  • Olivier de Provence 342 0450, close to tram 12 in Carouge, go to the bistrot part, nice atmosphere on the terrace
  • Perle du Lac 731 7935, on the lake, with a nice terrace, beautiful view, good food, quite posh. Bistrot less interesting dishes but more affordable prices

For all of these restaurants it is best to make reservations. And each phone number starts with 022. You will find restaurant descriptions and ratings here http://www.resto-rang.ch/. The website is in French and English.

Cooking: I have never done any serious cooking (I don’t think I have the knack) but I am very good at appreciating and criticizing food. If forced to I could perhaps manage to prepare a dish that I like very much and that my wife has served to guests for a very long time now:

Papillote de poisson à l’aneth

 Ingredients:

  • Per person about 150 gr. of white firm fish (sole, monkfish or others), cut into pieces
  • 1-2 mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • ½ tomato, skin and kernels removed, sliced into small cubes
  • a few tiny pieces of shallot
  • a small piece of butter
  • salt, pepper
  • a little dry white wine
  • a piece of aluminum foil

Procedure:

  • Lay out the foil
  • Arrange the fish on the foil lengthwise
  • Distribute the butter in pieces over the fish
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprinkle the shallot pieces over the fish
  • Arrange the mushrooms and the tomato on top
  • Salt and pepper again
  • Fold the foil over the fish
  • First close the long side, then one of the short sides
  • Fold the other short side over the packet so that you can open it again
  • Put the packet into the fridge
  • Prepare a sauce
  • Boil down (at medium to low heat to avoid spluttering) some cream (normal or double), in the end you should have 2 to 3 tablespoons per serving
  • Chop some dill, reserve it for later
  • Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and lemon juice
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • Pour wine into the packet and close the fourth side
  • Put into oven for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish and your Preference for medium or well done, open one of the packets after 10 mins to check
  • If you serve the dish to friends you can now sit down with them and relax
  • Heat the sauce, stir in dill just before serving
  • Put packet on warm soup plate,
  • Open it and shove the contents into the plate, the dish has the consistency of “poisson à la nage”, “swimming fish”
  • Pour a little sauce over it and eat with a spoon

Bon appétit

What are you working on these days?

The main effort of my current work is directed at empirical testing and further development of my CPM model. Much of the past work has been devoted to empirically demonstrating the predicted effects of appraisals on other components, using laboratory experimentation. Currently, we are putting an emphasis on defining and analyzing component synchronization or coherence in the data sets we gathered over the years. In addition, we are trying to empirically assess appraisal bias as a disposition, especially with the perspective to identify risk factors that can account for the difference between normal and abnormal emotions, particularly depression. Another topic generated by the CPM is the effort of refining the concept of emotional competence and developing appropriate tests. I am also continuing work on facial and vocal expression and we are currently using path analysis to testing a comprehensive model of emotion expression and recognition. Apart from this, I am working with philosophers, literary scientists, and musicologists on the definition and assessment of aesthetic and epistemic emotions and developing tools and running studies on the mechanisms underlying emotion induction by music

Please list five articles or books that have had a deep influence on your thinking

Roger Brown – Words and things, Glencoe: Free Press, 1958

Charles Darwin – Expression of emotion in man and animals, London: John Murray, 1872

Leonard Berkowitz – Aggression, NY: McGraw Hill, 1962

Neil Smelser – Collective behavior, Glencoe: Free Press, 1958

Lazarus, R. S. Emotions and adaptation: Conceptual and empirical relations. In W. J. Arnold (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 16). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1968.

What do you think is the main question that future affective science should be focusing on?

I don’t think that there is one main question. The phenomenon of emotion is incredibly complex as it integrates so many organismic systems and functions, involving many different social contexts. In consequence, the issues need to be attacked from several angles, using many different approaches, involving different disciplines and subdisciplines. The problem is that at some point the results of all of these efforts need to be integrated and in order to do this, one needs a comprehensive perspective that allows to accumulate the findings and to relate them to each other. Unfortunately, that common perspective is exactly what is missing at the moment, given that we can’t even agree on a convergent definition. I believe that the challenge will be to focus on the mechanisms of emotion and to adopt a perspective that highlights recursive processes!

References

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Barrett, L. F. (2009). Variety is the spice of life: A psychological construction approach to understanding variability in emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 23(7), 1284-1306.

Bänziger, T., Mortillaro, M., & Scherer, K. R. (2012). Introducing the Geneva Multimodal Expression Corpus for Experimental Research on Emotion Perception. Emotion, 12(5), 1161-1179

Bänziger, T., Grandjean, D., & Scherer, K. R. (2009). Emotion recognition from expressions in face, voice, and body: The multimodal emotion recognition test (MERT). Emotion, 9(5), 691–704

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Brown, R. (1958). Words and things. Glencoe: Free Press,

Darwin, C. (1872). Expression of emotion in man and animals. London: John Murray.

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Fontaine, J.R.J., Scherer, K.R., & Soriano, C. (Eds.). (2013). Components of emotional meaning: A sourcebook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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