Research Projects

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Power and Emotion Recognition Accuracy

Interpersonal power affects how people perceive others (e.g., powerful people perceive social interaction partners as a means to an end) and how they interact with them (e.g., high power people assert themselves by talking a lot and interrupting others).

The main goal of this project is to investigate the relationship between interpersonal power (i.e., the extent to which a person is able or willing to influence or control others) and emotion recognition accuracy (i.e., the ability to assess correctly the emotions of others).

Research has shown that high power people are more accurate than low power people at assessing others’ emotions. However, some evidence reported the opposite outcome, leaving the overall picture quite unclear. In particular, it is unknown what the mechanisms through which power affects emotion recognition accuracy are and whether there are moderators affecting this relationship.

A major focus of this project is on mentalizing (i.e., the ability to understand others by making inferences about them) and mirroring (e.g., the internal simulation of the state of the others), which are associated with distinct brain systems involved in accurate emotion recognition. We thus combine behavioral and neuroimaging paradigms in order to (a) tease apart the role of mirroring and mentalizing in the different existing tests of emotion recognition accuracy, (b) investigate how power affects mentalizing and mirroring, (c) to testwhether mentalizing and mirroring can explain why power affects emotion recognition accuracy, and (d) to examine how interactions of power and gender affect mirroring and mentalizing.

Another question that is central for us concerns the direction of the causal relationship between power and emotion recognition accuracy. Do powerful people acquire power because they are more interpersonally accurate? Is emotion recognition accuracy a consequence of having power? These questions are investigated in our research.

TEAM

David Sander
Director & Professor at Department of Psychology
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Marianne Schmid Mast
Professor
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Institution : University of Lausanne

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Manuel Bachmann
Senior Researcher
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Institution : University of Lausanne

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Dario Bombari
Post-doctoral Researcher
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Maura Dietz
Senior Researcher
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Institution : University of Lausanne

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