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UniversityofCambridge: The Psychology of Emotions: An Introduction to Embodied Cognition

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This fascinating introduction to the cognitive psychology of emotions explores how, when we see others’ emotions, not only the mind, but also the body is engaged in the recognition. You will explore how to measure our ability to understand the feelings of others.

The Psychology of Emotions: An Introduction to Embodied Cognition
5 weeks
2–5 hours per week
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Starts Dec 8

About this course

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Psychology is not just the mind, this course introduces and explores the idea that our mind is rooted in our body and that perhaps it is time to move on from this dichotomy. This course will touch on the fundamental principles of cognitive psychology with a specific focus on emotional social and embodied cognition, which theorizes that many functions of human cognition (even those linked to logic, reasoning and decision making) are aided by our entire bodies’ feelings and sensations.

Discover what might shape our ability to understand others and the importance of a functional emotional processing for every kind of interaction with others. This increased understanding can improve decision making processes, with knowledge of cognitive neuroscience sitting alongside human factors, and introduces new concepts to include in a view of mental health.

Learners will be encouraged to reflect on crucial and thought-provoking concepts such as the mind-body dualism and reductionism. The course is likely to make learners self-aware of how they express their emotions as well as how they read and interpret other persons’ emotions. Learners will know both the complexity and simplicity of the cognitive process that takes place whenever we try to recognize facial expressions, and how easily we can misinterpret others’ emotions.

During the course we will focus on the main theories of embodiment and hypotheses and on how researchers investigate and address them. In doing so, we will learn about the main methods and materials used to explore emotional embodiment and to measure our ability to recognise other people’s facial expressions. This will include the main experimental designs, behavioural and neuroimaging methods adopted.

At a glance

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Cognitive Psychology, Neuroimaging, Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Research, Human Factors, Decision Making, Self-Awareness

What you'll learn

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* Key theories and concepts in psychology of social cognition and emotions:

  • Discuss nature v nurture, the relationship between the mind and the brain and the role of automatic vs controlled processes in shaping human behavior.

* How we study emotions: Emotional processing and social cognition research methods

* We are what we feel: The foundations of the theories of embodied cognition

  • How our understanding of other's emotions is an interpretation of emotional signals

* Develop a critical approach to the literature and research questions of the field.

What is Cognitive Psychology: an overview

This week will provide an overview of key findings, theories and research methods of cognitive psychology.

How we feel emotions: introduction to the psychology of facial expressions and to theories of embodied emotional processing

This week will provide an introduction to the main concepts and theories of social cognition. In particular, videos explore the extent to which mirror neurons shape our ability to understand others and our ability to understand that others might have mental states that differ from our own (theory of mind reasoning).

How do we study emotions? Emotional processing and social cognition research methods

This week explores the key research methods of embodied emotional processing and social cognition. It will outline the most important techniques in the broader cognitive psychology and evaluate the contribution they can make to emotional processing research and embodiment theories. It will also introduce the role of neuropsychological research in understanding how brain lesions can help us understand how the brain normally functions. Key methods of neuroimaging techniques covered will be specifically focused on electroencephalogram (EEG) and electromyography (EMG).

How do we recognise the emotional facial expressions of others? Feeling me to feel you - from theory-theories to the simulation theory

This week will provide an introduction to the main theories of emotional facial expression recognition. It will include an overview of the theory models as well as of the simulation theory models. It will also illustrate the key findings on facial mimicry often associated with better facial expression recognition.

Is it always easy to understand others' emotions? The influence of context and expression ambiguity on mimicry during emotional recognition

Any emotional expression is a communication channel that has the intrinsic intention of conveying a message. The expression finds its meaning in the interaction with another person and its sense in the social context.

This week provides an overview of the factors that influence the emotional understanding in a natural social situation. This week will outline some of the main factors that are thought to affect the way we have insights about other’s feeling and intentions. This includes our attitude towards the other (for instance our motivation to understand their emotions), prior knowledge that we have about them and the ambiguity of the facial expression itself.

Learner testimonials

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‘It was extremely enjoyable to learn from this course. I have been introduced to many new ideas that I was not aware of before. My favourite part was about dualism and reductionism, it really provoked some critical thinking!

The course has made me very self aware of how I express my emotions as well as how I read and interpret other persons emotions.

I am really looking forward to learning more about emotional intelligence in the future, and how to acquire it.

Thank you!’

Frequently Asked Questions

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Will this course provide me a background for academic works associated with cognitive science?

The course does provide academic background of cognitive psychology especially in regards to neuroscience research methods (with specific focus to neuropsychological research, EEG and EMG), some key findings and theories of cognitive psychology in general, such as the discovery of mirror neurons and the Theory of Mind.

Will this courses introduce the basic theory about emotional and social cognition using specific academic papers?

The course is strictly research based and each week will consider a suggested and an optional (in-depth study) reading lists of academic papers.

What can I read prior to the course to increase the benefit of the course?

There is a list of books provided in the presentation of the course. In terms of articles, those listed below are some of the key papers discussed during the course:

‘Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading’, Vittorio Gallese and Alvin Goldman, 1998, Trends in Cog. Sciences.

‘Fashioning the Face: Sensorimotor Simulation Contributes to Facial Expression Recognition’, Adrienne Wood, Magdalena Rychlowska, Sebastian Korb and Paula Niedenthal, 2016, Trends in Cog. Sciences.

‘Emotional Mimicry: Why and When We Mimic Emotions’, Ursula Hess and Agneta Fischer, 2014, Social and Personality Psychology Compass.

‘Simulationist models of face-based emotion recognition’, Alvin I. Goldmana, Chandra Sekhar Sripada, 2005, Cognition

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