Brain & Behavior Laboratory

Physical Properties of Pleasant Touch

What feels good? In a collaboration with textile designer Sophie Horrocks and Professor Darwin Lau, our lab explores the pleasure associated with touch from different materials such as plastic, denim, paper or velvet. One goal is to see what aspects of the material correlate with subjective reports of pleasure and whether these correlations differ for C-tactile appropriate (i.e., stroking speed between 1 - 10 cm/s) and inappropriate touch (e.g., stroking speek < 1 cm/s). C-tactile afferents can be found in hairy skin and seem to underpin our appreciation for affectionate social touch.


Vocal Expressions Modulate Listener Cognition

How do affective voices influence visual attention? Another focus of the lab is the influence of vocal expressions on the mental processes in listeners. To this end, one current project examines how angry and neutral voices influence visual attention. Emotions have been found to capture attention in a single modality task. When attended, they enhance or maintain attention, and when unattended they divert attention. However, it is still unclear whether this is true in a two modality setting and how effects may depend on whether the task focus is on one as compared to both modalities (similar to when you are driving a car and having a conversation with a passenger).


Rhythmic Entrainment and Emotional Expression

Can we entrain social perception? Social perception, or more specifically the ability to infer another’s emotions and behavioral intentions from subtle nonverbal signals, is a critical determinant of success in life. However, a number of clinical conditions (e.g., autism, schizophrenia) exist that impair social perception and for which successful nonpharmacological treatments are still lacking. Therefore, we pursue a novel approach to enhancing social perception. Specifically, we aim to explore whether and how rhythmic entrainment might benefit sensitivity to emotional expression. Entrainment often occurs naturally when two people interact and converge on a common interactional rhythm. It also occurs to non-interactional rhythms such as a train of notes. Possibly, non-interactional rhythms could be used to facilitate interactional processes.



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