Research Projects

Affective Relevance: Nature, Determinants and Effects

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What is the primary mechanism responsible for the elicitation of any emotion? This project argues that the appraisal of affective relevance corresponds to this key mechanism.

The notion of affective relevance captures the dimension of evolutionary significance, but also refers to other types of concerns. For instance, key models of emotion propose that emotions are elicited by events that are relevant to major concerns of an individual. Concerns are psychological representations that underlie or overlap with other motivational constructs such as needs, goals, desires, and values. Accordingly, our working definition of affective relevance considers that an object or situation is appraised as affectively relevant for an individual if it increases the probability of satisfaction or detriment toward a major concern of the individual. Only those events that are appraised as relevant may then elicit and shape a multiple emotional response (i.e., action tendency, autonomic reaction, expression, and feeling), and modulate various cognitive systems.

Our project aims to improve the conceptualization and the empirical study of the mechanisms underlying appraised affective relevance. More precisely, the project investigates:

• The nature of the appraised affective relevance (particularly the different types of affective relevance)

• The underlying neuronal substrates of affective relevance (particularly, the amygdala and its connections with brain structures involved in valuation).

• The determinants of appraised affective relevance (particularly goals, values and social appraisals)

• The effects of affective relevance on psychological functions (particularly attention, memory, decision-making, and moral judgment).

TEAM

David Sander
Director & Professor at Department of Psychology
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Olga Klimecki
Senior Researcher at CISA, University of Geneva
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Ryan James Murray
PhD Student
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Institution : University of Geneva

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Yoann Stussi
PhD Student
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Institution : University of Geneva
Discipline : Psychology
Thesis topic : My research focuses on the role of relevance detection in emotional learning by testing whether stimuli detected and appraised as highly relevant to the organism's goals benefit from faster and more persistent learning than stimuli with less relevance.
Supervisor : D. Sander

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Vanessa Sennwald
PhD Student, University of Geneva
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Institution : University of Geneva
Discipline : Psychology
Thesis topic : My research project aims to explain variations in the intensity of sexual desire through a reward processing model.
Supervisor : D. Sander

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Tiffany Baer
PhD Student, University of Geneva
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Patricia Cernadas
PhD Student
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Institution : University of Geneva
Discipline : Psychology
Thesis topic : Compassion and reappraisal training for promoting conflict resolution
Supervisor : Dr. Olga Klimecki, Prof. David Sander and Prof. Eran Halperin

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Catherine Audrin
Collaboratrice scientifique
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Institution : Haute Ecole Pédagogique Vaud
Thesis topic : Affective relevance: nature, determinants and effects

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Katja Schlegel
Lecturer / Post-doctoral Researcher
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Institution : University of Bern, University of Geneva
Discipline : psychology

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