How Do Threatening Locations Alter People´s Feelings and Interactions with Others in the Surroundings? A Psychophysiological Study in the Lab

Our ability to map feelings on the environment is a crucial adaptation because it works like a compass that shows us which places to approach and which places to avoid. As places are interdependent of each other, however, affectively salient places colour the perception of the surroundings. How this colouring process occurs is important to understand the way people construct affective overviews of the environment. Previous research in our lab has shown that any locally salient place produces an effect on the surroundings such that it colours the surroundings in the same affective colour nearby (i.e., affective assimilation), but in the complementary affective colour farther away (i.e., affective contrast). The aim of the research project is a) to investigate whether the affective seesaw effect produced by a threatening location is more than a methodological artifact and b) to investigate one possible collective consequence of this affective seesaw effect. Previous research in our lab asked participants to report their feelings about living at a given distance of an affectively salient place. Thus, it is unknown whether the affective seesaw effect is bound to the self-report data collection or whether it is genuine. In Experiment 1 we therefore used psychophysiological measures of affect that are less reactive than self-report measures. To immerse the participants while keeping maximum experimental control, we will model a threatening location and its surroundings with the help of fear-conditioning technique applied to a computer generated 3D neighbourhood. Experiment 2 goes beyond individual consequences to explore the social consequences of the affective seesaw effect. Social warmth depends in part on emotional mimicry, which is a primitive way to share affective states without intention. When you spontaneously smile when I smile, or when you look sad when I look sad, then I will feel closer to you. We will investigate whether a dangerous location alters emotional mimicry in the surroundings. We predict that a dangerous location will impair emotional mimicry of affiliative emotions nearby, whereas it could facilitate it farther away. Thus, dangerous locations should facilitate social atomization processes nearby but, ironically, promote social cohesion farther away. Our project brings together social psychology, affective science and spatial cognition in order to fill an important gap in the theoretical as well as the applied thinking about how people represent the environment. In addition, the innovative methodology extends to humans a paradigm that was until now reserved to animal research. Finally, the project builds a bridge between micro and macro levels of social phenomena: the influence of the affective seesaw effect on emotional mimicry could complement sociological theories of neighbourhood deterioration.

Blaison, Christophe (Details) (Social Psychology and Organizational Psychology)

Further project members
Hess, Ursula Prof. Dr. (Details) (Social Psychology and Organizational Psychology)

Duration of Project
Start date: 11/2016
End date: 12/2019

Research Areas
General, Cognitive and Mathematical Psychology, Social Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology

Research Areas
Assimilation/Kontrast Effekte, Städte Wahrnehmung

Last updated on 2021-15-07 at 13:26