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Sherri Gilliland, Graduate Records



Department of Psychology 
125 Moore Building 
The Pennsylvania State University 
University Park, PA 16802-3106

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Affect and Emotion


Our research considers affect and emotion from two perspectives.
  • How do feelings influence what we do?
  • How do we think about and make sense of emotion in others and ourselves? 

Everyday feelings, such as the joy experienced from winning a trophy, can influence information processing, judgment, and behavior. For instance, Karen Gasper has found that people who feel happy often pay attention to the big picture, whereas those who feel sad pay attention to the details. Right now, she is investigating how this attention to details fostered by sad moods can both diminish novel thought and inspire it. She also examines how people's desire to understand emotions can influence their ability to empathize with others, make thoughtful decisions, and solve problems.

Reg Adams is interested in the influence of social cues (e.g., eye gaze and facial appearance) on how we process and perceive emotion in others. Contemporary face processing models contend that functionally distinct sources of information are independently processed. 

Yet, Reg's work demonstrates low-level interactions among such social and emotional information, which has implications for our understanding of basic person and affect perception. Reg is further interested in examining these questions at both the behavioral and neural levels, and his interests extend to outcomes on mental state attributions (i.e., Theory of Mind). 

Stephanie Shields is interested in when, why, and how emotion and emotionality are labeled in everyday situations. She and her students explore questions such as, "What does it mean to say that someone is 'emotional'?" and "What criteria do we use when we say that someone is 'too emotional' or 'not at all emotional'?" 

She also studies how people understand bodily signs and symptoms of emotion, such as blushing, in making sense of their own emotional experience. One current line of work in this area is concerned with the distinction that people make between being "in like" and "in love." 

Melvin Mark has, like Karen, examined the effect of mood on a variety of judgments and behavior, as well as the processes that underlie those effects. He is also interested in whether and why affective cues in the environment may have similar effects as felt affect, even if they do not influence actual feelings. Recently, he has examined aspects of goal orientation that influence how people feel and react in response to success or failure experiences. Some people seem to believe that every little outcome is important for their happiness, while others do not. This individual difference appears to have implications for how people feel after doing well or doing poorly -- and on how they try to cope with failure. His work on hindsight (described in the self section) also involves affective and motivational processes.
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