October 11, 2011

Research Interests

My main research interests in affective science revolve around positive affective processes (e.g., humor) and emotion regulation in individuals with and without psychopathologies (e.g., Autism Spectrum Disorder, Williams syndrome). Moreover, I am interested in better understanding mixed emotions, and perspective taking processes (empathy/Theory of Mind). I use several methods such as behavioral, psychophysiology and neuroimaging (fMRI) to approach various research questions in these domains. Below you find more detailed information about some of them:

HUMOR: Humor is a very important and designating ability of human beings. Since several years, including my time as a PhD student at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), I am interested in various questions related to humor and laughter-related phenomena, such as neural correlates of humor, how stimulus characteristics affect cognitive processes involved in humor as well as the affective response, how individual differences affect humor appreciation, and whether humor can be used as a means to regulate emotions and deal with adversities in life.

Affective processes in AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD): The number of children that get diagnosed with ASD is increasing despite the lack of a cure. In addition, there remains much to be learned about affective processes in this disorder, in order to better understand individuals with ASD, but also to support them better in their daily lives. I have studied positive emotions and humor in individuals with ASD (see special issue on humor in ASD), and most recently, I am interested in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation in children and adolescents with ASD compared to typically developing participants. Studying emotion dysregulation with multiple methods in a large-scale study, may ultimately help to better understand their strengths and weaknesses in the domain of emotion regulation, and also help us to answer questions about the effectiveness of treatment implications, what we can do to target emotional disturbances and how to optimize long-term outcomes.

POSITIVE EMOTION REGULATION TRAININGS: With my team at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, I am developing several training programs to teach children and adolescents about emotion regulation. One project is a psycho-educative emotion regulation training that is also tested at Stanford University and Luxembourg University. If you are interested in participating, please contact alexandra.zaharia@unige.ch.
Another training will be specifically developed for the school context in Switzerland. If you are interested in this training, please contact Adam Lobel.