Individual talks: Deep emotions

July 11th A2.09

What can emotion research learn from the study of dream emotions: a methodological perspective

Pilleriin Sikka

We experience emotions not only during wakefulness but also during dreaming. Dreaming is a sequence of subjective experiences occurring during sleep. Because emotional experiences during dreaming are disconnected from the external environment and motor activity, it is possible to study the “pure” conscious subjective experience of emotions. To date, the emotional experiences that occur during dreaming have been largely neglected in emotion research, although the study of dream emotions and the related methodological issues are relevant for the study of emotions in general. One methodological debate in dream research is centred on self-reports used to collect data about emotional experiences in dreams. Self-reports are the most common, and currently the only, method for measuring the subjective emotional experience. However, it is unclear which type of self-reports – rating scales or narrative reports – provides the most valid and reliable results regarding the underlying emotional experience. In the present talk I will give an overview of a series of studies in which we investigated the degree of convergence between the rating scales and narrative reports of dream emotions. We found that results regarding emotional experiences in dreams are very different, even contradictory, depending on which type of self-report is used. Moreover, rating scales and narrative reports of dream emotions are differentially related to waking state well-being. I will discuss possible reasons for these discrepancies and the implications this has for the study of emotional experiences in both dreaming and waking states.

A novel affective approach to reduce the dehumanization bias

Tiarah Engels, Disa Sauter, Bertjan Doosje & David Amodio

Dehumanization – a social bias of perceiving others as less than human – is widespread and has disastrous impact on human welfare (Haslam & Loughnan, 2014). Existing methods attempting to reduce dehumanization have had limited success, as they have relied on effortful cognitive strategies. Given the strong influence of our emotional states on how we perceive others, we argue that modifying dehumanization via emotion may be a more efficient method. The self-transcending and pro-social properties of elevation – an emotion we feel when witnessing exemplar moral acts – make it a strong candidate for reducing dehumanization. In three between-subject experiments we induced elevation (and control emotions) to examine its effect on dehumanization. Dehumanization was assessed by having participants rate to what extent a set of animalistic traits describe members of commonly dehumanized outgroups. Across all three studies results showed that participants who felt elevation as opposed to positive or neutral affect dehumanized significantly less. Furthermore, Study 2 yielded support for our hypothesis that a sense of common identity (i.e., shared humanity) with others mediates the effect of elevation on dehumanization. Finally, in Study 3 we found preliminary evidence that the attenuating effect of elevation extends to the behavioral consequences of dehumanization: Participants who felt elevation as opposed to positive and neutral affect were more likely to sign in opposition of anti-Muslim policy petitions. Taken together, these findings support a novel affective approach to reduce and potentially prevent dehumanization and its adverse consequences.