I am an emotion researcher and PhD in psychology, focusing in emotion theory and how it can be applied to psychology of morality and politics. Simplified, it means that I study how feelings work, and how feelings influence what people think as right or wrong, and how feelings influence what kind of political opinions they have.
I will write about research and my ideas and thoughts in my blog mostly in Finnish, to popularize the research and the way of thinking based on it. In English I write more about research itself, for international audiences. I have earlier studied emotions in the context of digital games, and still publish something on that field as well from time to time.
I call my research as affect psychology (sometimes affect psychology of morality or of politics), and it is based strongly on the following:
- The majority of what humans do is produced by nonconscious processes. We do not know (and in many cases, we cannot directly know) why we act, feel, or think like we do.
- A major part (majority?) of these nonconscious processes are affective (in less accurate but more accessible layperson’s terms, emotion-based):
- it is that part which motivates to do things (instead of not doing), and
- some part of this is experienced by the conscious mind as feelings – that some things feel better or worse than some others, that we approach some things and avoid others.
- Thus, most of our decisions are not conscious nor rational (by which I here mean ‘taking broadly all the options into account’). Furthermore, even in those cases that are conscious and rational, they are based on automatic affective evaluations and other affective processes. There is no such thing as “rational” that does not include any affective processing.
- There are also important individual differences between different people in the parameters on which the affective processes run. That is, although the processes themselves are the same, they may operate in different ways due to these parameters.
- Because we also evaluate our own actions and the actions of others with the automatic affective processes, it is easy to fall into trap of thinking that others are acting/thinking/feeling wrong, or dishonestly, or that they are stupid or evil. This is a mistake, made because our evaluations are not built to find truth, nor to evaluate our own evaluations.
I conduct my basic research on emotions because I want to understand how the affect system works. My societal goal is to apply this understanding into moral psychology and psychology of politics, in order to hopefully decrease political and ideological polarization and to increase understanding between different moral and political groups. A broader goal is that it would be possible for everyone to live happily in the society. We do not have to be prisoners of our own automatic evaluations, as conscious reappraisal is able to understand them, and the reality behind them. This way it is possible to understand that the actions/thoughts/feelings of others are (typically) not malicious or evil, and to find common ground.