What we do

Our lab is based in the Psychology Department at Lancaster University.

If you would like to find out more about our research interests, activities, and lab members, please browse this website. We’ll post any announcement on participant recruitment, internship opportunities and opening positions.

If you would like to get in touch, please email us at: emocomlab AT lancs DOT ac DOT uk

We are interested in how people process emotionally salient stimuli, e.g., how accurately do we recognise emotions from facial expressions? Is this ability affected by perceptual cues such as pleasant vs. sour or bitter taste, or individual differences such as ethnicity?

We are also interested in emotional language, e.g., are emotionally-laden words, sentences, or texts easier to read, understand and memorise? Emotion words have been shown to capture attention very quickly; they are also processed faster and more efficiently than neutral words. Thus, emotional verbal material may be specifically used to foster learning of a second language, to facilitate reading and learning of novel concepts, or to help the recovery of impaired language functions.

We are currently investigating the use of figurative language, e.g., metaphors or idioms, which is pervasive in communication. Why do speakers prefer figurative over literal expressions? Recent research from our lab seems to suggest that figurative language engages the reader or listener more strongly at the emotional level. Hence, using figurative language may render communication more effective, may have stronger persuasive effects, but it may also evoke aesthetically pleasing experiences, such as the ones we have when we read poems or good novels.

We have recently developed an interest in aesthetics or beauty perception, in relation to both visual art such as paintings and literature such as poems or narrative.

Finally, we are interested in second language learning: which aspects of a second language do learners mostly struggle with? Do they show the same degree of affective and physiological responses to emotional or figurative language as native speakers do?

In order to investigate these and further research questions, we use a range of methods, spanning through questionnaires, behavioural experiments, physiological measures (pupil dilation, heart rate, skin conductance response), neural measures such as event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and reading measures such as eye-tracking.