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Conferences 2005 - D. Duvallet & E. Clément

Identification of emotional manifestations during problem solving activities

Speakers: Delphine Duvallet & Evelyne Clément (Université de Rouen)

Date: 17 February 2005

Summary: Studies concerning the functional aspects of emotion in cognitive control processes suggest that emotions may have several functions, including to direct attention toward relevant information in a situation (Öhman, Flykt & Esteves, 2001), to manage priorities between conflicting goals (Belavkin, 2001; Belavkin, Ritter & Elliman, 1999 ; Sander & Koenig, 2002), to interupt irrelevant plans of action (Oatley & Johnson-Laird, 1987), and to guide decision making (Damasio, 1995). When solving a problem, these cognitive processes are necessary for changing representation, allowing a person to get out of a roadblock situation. Consequently, we expect to observe emotional manifestations in these situations.

The goal of this research is (i) to identify emotional manifestations in a complex cognitive activity, such as solving the classic Tower of Hanoi problem (Anzaï & Simon, 1979), and (ii) to suggest an enrichment of the restrictions model (Richard, Poitrenaud & Tijus, 1993 ; Richard & Zamani, 2003), by integrating the functional aspect of emotion in formalising problem solving activities. Emotions could contribute to the changing of a representation, formalised as the modification of the list of restrictions guiding the choice of actions.

Nineteen subjects participated in this study. The emotional manisfestations were obtained using three measures: number of facial expressions per minute, average level of skin conductance, and the maximum amplitude of skin conductance (peak to peak).

The results show that facial expressions and the maximum amplitude of skin conductance are the most important in the exploratory phase, when the subject is engaged in constructing an adequate representation of the situation and is confronted with action sequences that are insufficient for reaching the goal. These two measures are less important in the planning phase, when the subject is more engaged in executing the task. This result suggests that emotion may in fact play a role in the process of cognitive control when solving a problem. In addition, during the exploratory phase, emotional manifestations are in no way random. We observe them more often in situations where the subject is blocked than in the rest of the exploratory phase, that is, when the action sequences performed by the subject allow the goal to be reached. This suggests that emotion may guide the activity, especially in relation to the decision mechanism described by Richard et al in the restrictions model, and may modify the list of restrictions, changing the representation of the situation.

On the other hand, the average skin conductance is less important in the exploratory phase, and during the exploratory phase it is less important in roadblock situations. This result agrees with those of Pecchinenda et Smith (1993) who saw this measure as tied to implication in the activity. Thus, the difficulty in the exploratory phase, especially when a roadblock is reached, will temporarly cause the subject to go astray from the task at hand.

This research makes up the first stage of integrating emotion into the restrictions model (Richard et al). It shows the interest of using this kind of cognitive model, which identifies significant events in problem solving and matching them to emotional manifestations.

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Creation date : 30/05/2006 @ 17:01
Last update : 06/10/2007 @ 03:57
Category : Conferences 2005
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