Sylvia Kreibig

Senior Research Scientist

Institution : Stanford University
Department : Department of Psychology / Stanford Psychophysiology Lab
Research field : Affective Psychophysiology
Discipline : Psychophysiology Emotion Research Affective Sciences

NCCR position : doctoral student
NCCR PI : Klaus Scherer Guido Gendolla
NCCR most relevant publications
Kreibig, S. D., Gendolla, G. H. E., & Scherer, K. R. (2012). Goal relevance and goal conduciveness appraisals lead to differential autonomic reactivity in emotional responding to performance feedback. Biological Psychology, 91, 365–375. Doi: 10.1016/
Kreibig, S. D. (2010). Autonomic nervous system activity in emotion: A review. Biological Psychology, 84, 394–421. Doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.03.010.
Kreibig, S. D., Gendolla, G. H. E., & Scherer, K. R. (2010). Psychophysiological effects of emotional responding to goal attainment. Biological Psychology, 84, 474–487. Doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.11.004.

General Information

Currently, I am working as a postdoc at the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory at Stanford University. Prior to that, I have been working as a PhD student in Project 1 Appraisal and Motivational Processes in the Elicitation of Emotion at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences at the University of Geneva. I am particularly interested in untangling the role of motivational influences and appraisal criteria in the elicitation of emotion as indexed by peripheral physiological measures and facial behavioral expressions. In this project, I am collaborating with Klaus Scherer, director of the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, and Guido Gendolla, director of the Geneva Motivation Lab. Moreover, I am interested in the study of fear and sadness---both as representatives of discrete emotions as well as an analogue model of anxiety and mood disorders. In this interest, I am investigating psychophysiological correlates of fear and sadness, particularly with respect to autonomic nervous system activity and the startle eye blink response, in collaboration with Frank Wilhelm, James Gross, and Tom Roth. I am also involved in the IFOTES project on emotion regulation in the self and in others in collaboration with Tanja Wranik, Katia Schenkel, Rachel Baeriswyl-Cottin, Natascha Michel, Sebastian Korb, and Klaus Scherer. Moreover, I am a member of the Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR), an international society that fosters research relating psychology and physiology. I am actively involved in the SPR Committee to Promote Student Interests as well as the SPR Web Site Committee. As part of the latter involvement, I am presently organizing the set-up of an experiment repository on the SPR website in collaboration with Frank Wilhelm of the University of Basel.


My undergraduate and graduate studies focused on psychology, philosophy, and computer science which I studied at the University of Kiel, Germany and at Stanford University. At Stanford, I was introduced to psychophysiological research on emotion at the Laboratory of Clinical Psychopharmacology and Psychophysiology and the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory, working with Tom Roth, Frank Wilhelm, and James Gross. I obtained my diploma in psychology with a minor in computer science from the University of Kiel, Germany, in April 2005. My thesis on "Situational and individual response specificity to emotional films: Effects on experiential, cardiovascular, electrodermal, respiratory and muscular responses" consisted of an in-depth analysis of autonomic nervous system reactivity during film-induced states of fear and sadness. Following my diploma in psychology, I spent a year of doing research and studies in computer science at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, India, where I worked in the field of pattern classification, data mining, and complex systems. Since April 2006, I have been working at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences at the University of Geneva. I defended my PhD thesis on "Emotion, motivation, and appraisal: A psychophysiological analysis of differential emotion elicitation in the context of achievement motivation" in December 2009. I'm starting a postdoc at the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory with James Gross in spring 2010.

Current Research

My present research focuses on the following core questions: How are emotions elicited? It is not uncommon that two people react completely different to the same kind of stimulus, for example, one might cry when watching a movie scene showing a funeral while the other one might laugh at that situation. However, for studying emotions under controlled conditions it is crucial to understand the elicitation process of emotions and to be able to induce the targeted emotion. Hence, I am presently conducting research on motivational and appraisal processes in the elicitation of emotions during performance of instrumental behavior, which is the typical context of human acting. What happens in the body when we experience an emotion? Common knowledge, as reflected in everyday language, tells us that certain emotions are related to specific physiological reactions, for example, a pounding heart and sweaty palms in fear, or a tensing of muscles and boiling blood in anger. However, empirical research has yet to proof this. To reach a better understanding of physiological processes in emotion, I study cardiovascular, electrodermal, and respiratory responses that occur during emotional episodes.