Baby with Pacifier

Please enjoy a copy of our article relating pacifier use to emotional competences in boys: PDF

NY Times Smile

NY Times article: More to a Smile Than Lips and Teeth

Please enjoy a copy of our article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences:

Niedenthal, P.M., Mermillod, M., Maringer, M. & Hess, U. (in press). The Simulation of Smiles (SIMS) Model:Embodied Simulation and the Meaning of Facial Expression. [PDF] [PMID]


We conduct research on the representation and processing of emotion. Currently our research activities conform to three major programs:

Concepts and conceptual grounding. One major interest is the nature of concepts and their mental grounding. The specific conceptual content under study is emotion. Past work in this area examined the role of emotion in conceptual coherence. Much on-going research examines the ways in which emotion concepts are supported by simulation in sensory-motor systems. This extension of theories of embodied cognition to the study of emotion and emotion knowledge is discussed in a chapter on emotion concepts in the most recent Handbook of Emotion (2008), and a series of four studies are described in an in-press paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The goal of the supporting studies is to examine the causal role of embodied simulation in tasks for which we can claim à priori that correct performance requires access to meaning. The type of processing in such tasks can be compared to those in which correct performance can be based on processes that are more superficial or that do not require recourse to meaning. Other work in a similar vein tests hypotheses of theories of embodied cognition using basic object categories as the concepts of interest.

Cognition-perception interactions. Other research explores interactions between cognition and perception. This interest is represented by our earlier work on the influences of emotion in such low-level processes as the encoding of words, lexical access, and the perception of faces. Recent research examines such interactions in work on the perception of facial expression of emotion, as outlined in a review piece in Science (May, 2007). We are currently developing a model of the perception of the smile. The model seeks to account for the triggers of embodied simulation in the recognition and interpretation of facial expression. In addition, it attempts to sort out the types of simulation that support different cognitive tasks. A second goal of the research is to account for the development of differences in the perception of the smile (and ultimately other facial expressions) across culture.

Emotion and temporal perception Emotions have important relations to processes of attention, memory, and are constituted in part by physiological processes, all of which are inputs to the mechanisms that support the subjective experience of time. In our work we examine the effects of emotion in the perception of short durations. Our already-published work in Cognition and Emotion and the journal Emotion relies on findings from temporal bisection tasks and statistical analyses that allow us to distinguish effects of arousal from those of attention on time perception. Findings point to strong effects of arousal at short durations. At longer intervals and in different types of time perception tasks, emotions are likely to largely affect attention directed to the passage of time per se (in prospective time estimation) and result in different types of biasing of temporal perception.

If you love the paintings of Enjoyment, Affiliative, and Dominance smiles on the home page and in the banner (as I do), they were commissioned by Tine Hohenberger at grafikdesign + illustration, Munich.