Invited Speakers

TED Style Talk

Tobias Brosch, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Emotions for the planet: How can affective science contribute to sustainable development?

Concern about the environmental crisis is growing. Emotions exert major influences on human thinking and behavior and may play a critical role for a sustainable behavior change as well. Using examples from our research, I will illustrate how emotions can be leveraged to promote sustainable actions, and I will suggest a road map for affective science research in the sustainability domain.

Erika Forbes, University of Pittsburgh, USA

Staying on the Fun Path: Adolescence, Anhedonia, and the Brain’s Reward System

Adolescents pursue fun as they explore and become independent. What happens when sensitive reward systems tip the other way, and this becomes an age of vulnerability to anhedonia, or reduced motivation and positive emotions? Those who experience depression and anhedonia have a pernicious clinical course and often don’t respond to conventional treatments. To keep adolescents on the path to fun, a solution could lie in targeting the brain mechanisms of anhedonia.

Madelijn Strick, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Finding comfort in jokes: Humor in the face of adversity

“If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide,” Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have once said. What makes humor such a powerful antidote to despair and depression? What is the advantage of humor over other positive emotions in this regard? And do all types of humor work equally well? I explore these questions through a mix of academic studies and real-life examples.

Keynote Dialog: Consciousness

Kristen Lindquist, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

Can studying emotions help us understand consciousness?

There is no doubt that understanding consciousness remains a “hard problem.” Understanding the psychological and neural mechanisms that give rise to emotion may help shine light on how the brain represents qualia, more generally. I will present an embodied predictive processing model that explains individual differences in subjective experiences of emotion, in subjective social perceptions, and even why emotional experience may become less intense in later adulthood.

Matthew Lieberman, University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

Four centuries under Galileo’s thumb: Consciousness, Seeing, and Emotion

The first goal of this talk is to point out that the materialist approach to studying consciousness is doomed to failure and this includes any attempt to use neuroscience to explain consciousness.  My second goal is to nonetheless take up this doomed approach of using neuroscience and my theory of ‘seeing’ as a way to understand the conscious experience of emotion.

Keynote Symposium: Neglected Senses

Research in the domain of Affective Science has traditionally relied heavily on one channel, visual stimuli, to induce and measure emotions and affective states. Facial emotional expressions are predominant in the domain of inducing emotional states and are used to probe emotional competencies such as emotion recognition, or to categorize a wide diversity of emotional states. In this symposium, however, we would like to address other sensory modalities, including the sense of smell and taste in relation to emotional processing, the human voice as a carrier of emotional states, and physical touch as an expression of emotions and as an important part of social emotion regulation. We look forward to an exciting symposium with Géraldine Coppin, Marc Pell, and Annett Schirmer.

Geraldine Coppin, UniDistance Suisse, Brig, Switzerland

The disregarded sense of smell in affective sciences 

Humans’ sense of smell tends to be considered as less accurate and reliable than other senses, such as vision or audition. Yet, olfaction has critical roles for humans (e.g., guiding food intake and avoiding environmental hazards) and olfactory dysfunction comes with significant life impairments. In this talk, I will discuss humans’ olfactory abilities and illustrate that they are much better than often believed. I will then describe the close relationship between olfaction and emotions. Finally, I will say few words on emotional communication through body odors. Overall, this talk will give a glimpse of the often-disregarded richness of olfaction for affective sciences.

Marc Pell, McGill University, Canada

Communicating stance:  a socio-affective function of the voice

Humans use their voice to communicate complex socio-affective meanings, such as their attitude or stance towards other people, topics of conversation, or ideas under discussion. In this talk, I will present perceptual and neurophysiological evidence showing that listeners rapidly take vocal stance into account to form impressions of the speaker and to interpret what is meant by a communicative situation, for example, in the context of irony, politeness, or confidence.

Annett Schirmer, University of Innsbruck, Austria

C-Tactile Afferents and the Give and Take of Social Touch

C-tactile (CT) afferents, a group of low-threshold mechanoreceptors, have taken center stage in human touch research. Available data suggest that these receptors evolved as a mechanism for humans and other animals to enjoy gentle physical contact with other individuals. In this talk, I will present research examining such contact and the role CTs and other mechanoreceptors play in its profound effect on human affect and well-being.