What has happened since I visited The Affective Science lab, Boston 2010

June 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

While in the US in the Autumn of 2010 I visited Northeastern University’s Emotion research Lab. Suzanne Oosterwijk was working with Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett. They had stumbled onto the project’s website and contacted me. It was fascinating to see all the lab equipment and hear about their methods. fMRI is wondrous but not the be-all-and-end-all of brain research.

What really struck me at the time was their interest in experimental techniques and approaches. The area of emotion research was still very new with huge unknowns and questions to be answered.

I presented a signed print of the Emotionally}Vague Anger drawing to Dr. Feldman Barrett. She q2_anger_byquestionmentioned her view that anger is not a basic emotion with hard-wired brain circuits, but rather made of components that are conceptualised by culture and language as “anger”. I was intrigued.

We discussed a collaboration where they would adapt the Emotionally}Vague method into a scientifically testable version. Seeing the approach using Mechanical Turk, Qualtrix and statistical analysis of the resulting data was an eye opener.

A very similar research paper was published a couple of years ago by Nummenmaa et al. They had pipped us to the post but it spurred us on to publish the paper. Admittedly, it was Dr. Oosterwijk that had all the work to do!

I’m proud to be named as co-author with Dr. Suzanne Oosterwijk and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett. It was presented as a poster at the Design and Emotion conference 2016. You can read it on academia.edu here.


At the conference, I hung out with Suzanne and she explained the landscape of emotion research. Here’s a diagram I’ve thrown together based on a chat we had in a ferry to the conference dinner. Nice and overly simple!! theories-of-emotion-diagram

Dr. Feldman Barrett has since published her book presenting a radical new view on what emotions are. I’ve ordered it recently and it probably deserves it’s own post.

So there we have it. My final thought is how amazing the internet is that just by publishing a project on a website, a whole world of connections, learning and experiences can arise.








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