EMCO - Emotion(s), cognition, comportement

Surprise in the spontaneity of emotions: a vector for enlarged cognition – Emphiline

Submission summary

This interdisciplinary fundamental research project involves three main scientific fields of research: philosophy/phenomenology, neurosciences/cardiovascular-physiology/psychiatry and linguistics/psycholinguistics. It aims at exploring the nature of the interactions between emotion and cognition and particularly the role (impact, influence/effect) of emotion upon cognition rather than the other way around (axis n°3). The choice of the word role (rather than effects) stresses the non-mechanical, non-linear but structural and global characteristics of this process. Our general hypothesis is that of a positive integration of emotion in the cognitive system and stands in contradiction with two theories, which are still very pregnant today: the exclusive domination of computational rationality and the ensuing lack of influence of emotions, and second, the disturbing/inhibiting impact of emotions on the cognitive processes.
Our project is inscribed in a multidisciplinary theoretical framework. Its neurobiological dimension draws upon the concept of embodied (Varela) and integrative (Damasio) cognition of the living subject. It is in keeping with the phenomenological philosophical approach (Husserl, James, Merleau-Ponty) which puts first and foremost the bodily experience of a subject immerged in the world and with the linguistic and psycholinguistic theories of enunciative contexts and the dynamics of interactions between utterers as constitutive elements of the Self.
Although this research rests in the midst of a tension between the two apparently opposite functions of emotions (inhibitory/facilitating), we plan to explore the part of the unexpected, the extra-ordinary (surprise) and the valorization of a heuristic, enactive, new, inventive, creative dimension of cognition through the facilitating role of emotions After an overview of the literature and the exploration of corpora and databases which deal with the influence of emotion on cognition, we will focus on the emotional component of surprise (also declined as start and spontaneity). We will rely on a proven experimental device for generating a reaction of surprise in order to identify, measure and describe the various impacts, influences and effects of the emotional component of surprise and its physiological, linguistic and phenomenological markers. Through several complementary experiments, involving depressed and non-depressed subjects in psychophysiology, native speakers of English and French and learners of these languages in psycholinguistics, and by using elicitation interviews in phenomenology, we will endeavor to show that this emotional component has a modulating facilitating influence on cognitive processes. Each experiment will be carried out by a dominant field with retroactive interventions from the other two fields.
The practical outcome of the project will be the building of a database, the publication of interdisciplinary books and the elaboration of a protocol (possibly a patent) in cardiovascular research. It will also contribute advances in the management of depression and methodological propositions for language acquisition and learning.

Project coordinator

Madame Natalie DEPRAZ (Pays Germaniques - Archives Husserl) – natalie.depraz@freesurf.fr

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


INSERM U930 ERL CNRS 3106 Unité « Imagerie et Cerveau », Equipe 4, 'Troubles affectifs'
Pays Germaniques Pays Germaniques - Archives Husserl
CLILLAC-ARP Centre de Linguistique Inter-langues, de lexicologie, de linguistique anglaise et de corpus

Help of the ANR 240,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2011 - 36 Months

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