Learning and Education

Emotions influence what and how we learn because they have a direct impact on motivation, attention, and memory. For example, our researchers have helped demonstrate that we automatically attend to objects or events that carry emotional value, such as the human face and voice, babies, food, and spiders.

Research has also shown that events that elicit strong emotions are remembered better (do you remember what you were doing on September 11, 2001?). The effects of some emotions experienced during the day continue to act on the brain during the night and change the strength of memories.

Technological innovation is important in this field and is constantly changing learning and education practices. Our researchers use the most recent technologies, such as virtual reality and video games, to build immersive environments with which to foster prosocial behavior and train emotion recognition and emotion regulation.

Our knowledge about emotion expression and recognition is also being exploited in the flourishing field of affective computing to improve human-machine interactions, machine-aided teaching and learning, and the automatic detection of affective content in text and images.

Concerning the young, we use eye-tracking technology to investigate the processes through which children learn to recognize emotions from others’ nonverbal behavior. Results from our Center suggest that children learn what is worth attending to by paying attention to other people’s expressions of interest and that children’s emotional competences can be successfully developed with dedicated programs at school. Results also indicate that, in a school context, some emotions may play a positive role in improving the social climate in the classroom and in favoring academic performance.