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Cognitive Psychology: Rationality and Emotions in Human Behavior




Admission Requirements

Introduction to Psychology or permission from the instructor.


This course addresses the interaction of human emotion and cognition. Historically, emotions are considered the opponent of rational thinking and good decision-making, and so good decision-makers are commonly advised to not trust their affective preferences. However, recent research provides increasing evidence that emotions provide important information that can improve the quality of decision-making and allow for very quick (yet reasonable) decisions. The course provides a general introduction into the basic science of emotion, including evolutionary, anthropological, sociological, information-processing, and neurophysiological approaches, and it highlights the emotion-cognition interaction in a number of research domains.

Course Objectives

The general objective is to provide a solid theoretical background for the understanding of emotional processes and a selective overview of some research areas investigating interactions between emotion and cognition.

Mode of Instruction

The course will consist of two parts. The first part (interactive-lectures style) will provide students with the necessary background to understand and appreciate the different approaches to emotion and cognition, the different research goals these approaches have, and the different research methods they use. The second part (interactive-seminar style) will address particular themes addressing the interplay between rationality and emotion in decision-making and social behaviour.


In class participation and preparing discussion question for each session (10%)
Research proposal (20%, Week 4)
Writing a blog (10%, Weeks 1-7)
Presentation (30%, Week 7)
Final research essay, max 2000 words (30%, ongoing but due in Week 8)



  • Elaine Fox (2008) Emotion Science. ISBN10: 0-230-00518-7, ISBN13: 978-0-230-00518-1


  • Appelhans, B.M. & Luecken, L.J. (2006). Heart Rate Variability as an Index of Regulated Emotional Responding. Review of General Psychology, 3, 229-240

  • Buhle, J.T., Silvers, J.A., Wager, T.D., Lopez, R., Onyemekwu, C., Kober, H., Weber, J., Ochsner, K.N. (2014). Cognitive Reappraisal of Emotion: A Meta-Analysis of Human Neuroimaging Studies. Cerebral Cortex, 24(11), 2981-2990.

  • De Waal, F.B.M. (2011). What is an animal emotion? Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1224, 191-206.

  • Kret, M.E. Fischer, A.H. & de Dreu, C.K.W. (2015). Pupil-mimicry correlates with trust in in-group partners with dilating pupils. Psychological Science, 26(9), 1401-1410.

  • Kret, M.E. & Ploeger, A. (2015). The liability spectrum of disrupted emotion processing. Explaining the comorbidity of mental disorders. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 52, 153-171.

  • Laird, J. D., & Lacasse (2014). Bodily Influences on Emotional Feelings:
    Accumulating Evidence and Extensions of William James’s Theory of Emotion. Emotion Review, 6(1), 27-34.

  • Lang, P.J. (2014). Emotion’s Response Patterns: The Brain and the
    Autonomic Nervous System. Emotion Review, 6(2), 93-99.

  • Levenson, R.W. (2014). The Autonomic Nervous System and Emotion. Emotion Review, 6(2), 100-112.

  • Muramatsu, R., & Hanoch, Y. (2005). Emotions as a mechanism for boundedly rational agents: The fast and frugal way. Journal of Economic Psychology, 26, 201–221.

  • Nummenmaa, L., Glerean, E., Hari, R., Hietanen, J. (2014). Bodily maps of emotions. PNAS, 111(2), 646-651.

More will be made available later for the paper presentations.

Contact Information

Weekly Overview

Lecture 1 – Introduction to emotions
Lecture 2 – Emotion theories, categories & dimensions
Lecture 3 – Emotions & neuroscience
Lecture 4 – Emotions & physiology
Lecture 5 – Emotions in humans and other animals
Lecture 6 – Emotions, feelings, moods, and personalities
Lecture 7 – Emotions, empathy, & imitation
Lecture 8 – Emotions, psychiatry & evolution
Lecture 9 – Emotional disorders
Lecture 10 – Emotions, Resilience, & well-being
Workgroup – How emotions influence perception and bodily muscle activations
Workgroup – Societal Implications
Workgroup – Presentations
Workgroup – Presentations