Developmental & Computational Affective Cognition Lab

University of Toronto Scarborough

The lab currently has the following research areas centered on Emotion as Information


How do parents express emotions in front of children?

Parents often use simple, slow, and dynamic speech when talking to babies, a special type of speech called “parentese” or infant-directed speech. Is there also “emotionese,” where parents modify their emotional expressions when interacting with babies? This lab is investigating how infant-directed emotional expressions differ from adult-directed emotional expressions and whether "emotionese" facilitates learning in infancy. Please check out our recent findings here.

Social Learning

How do children learn from observed emotional expressions?

Emotional expressions are abundant in children’s lives. How do children use emotional expressions to guide their learning and reasoning about the world? This lab has found that beyond using emotional expressions to infer how other people feel, even infants use them to learn about the physical and social world. Check out Wu et al., 2021 for a review of this work and future directions!

Computational Models

Building a unified model of social cognition that includes emotion

In the real world, people’s speech, actions, and emotional reactions are embedded in a coherent stream of events. How do learners integrate these different sources of information when making inferences? By combining computational modeling with behavioral experiments, this lab is building formal models that integrates speech comprehension, action understanding, and emotion reasoning. Check out some of our previous work here and here.

Biases and Stereotypes

Learning from others’ emotion as a double-edged sword

While emotional expressions can be a source of information for learning, they can also be a medium for transmitting implicit biases or stereotypes. Previous work in this lab, for example, found that when a teacher showed surprise to a student’s success, children as young as six inferred that the student was not as competent as another student whose success did not elicit the teacher’s surprise (Asaba, Wu, Carrillo, & Gweon, 2020). The lab is investigating potential negative consequences of using emotion as information, especially in educational contexts.

Cross-Cultural Variability

Do people from different cultures use emotion as information differently?

There is cross-cultural variability in the norms regarding what emotional expressions are ideal or appropriate. These norms might not only influence how people express emotions but also how they interpret other people’s emotional expressions. We are interested in cross-cultural differences and similarities in using emotion as information.

What are you interested in? 

Let us know! Besides the research areas above, we are happy to develop research programs tailored to your research interests. Check out Join Us for more details.