Skip navigation

Automaticity, Affect, Control & Thought Lab



Members of the AACT Lab conduct research on affective (emotional) and cognitive processes. Some of these processes are relatively automatic and occur without effort or even consciousness. By contrast, some of these processes are more deliberate, controlled, and effortful. Historically, our main focus has been the way that different types of cognitive processes influence emotional responding.

Types of cognition

Different types of cognitive processing are thought to have an effect on emotional processing. We have studied what happens to an emotional response when people are: distracting themselves, reappraising or reinterpreting the events that lead to the emotion, or providing a verbal label for their emotional experience.

Types of emotion

There are many different ways that emotions are induced, in the laboratory and in real life. Some emotions are relatively automatic responses to things we encounter in the world (think of your involuntary jump when something unexpectedly brushes your arm). By contrast, some are the result of a slow burning mental fuse (think of all the ways in which we convince ourselves that life is more stressful and complicated than it needs to be). We’re interested in whether these different types of emotion are represented differently in the brain, and what important consequences those differences might have.

Individual Differences

Although there are general principles that govern the way our brain handles emotion and cognition, there are also important differences in the way that people respond and regulate. We’ve studied age, gender, the everyday use of emotion regulation strategies, emotional awareness, traditional personality traits like neuroticism and extraversion, and whether or not someone identifies as an artist.