I was born and raised in Bulgaria. After a year at the University of National and World Economy, I transferred to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY to study Psychology. After graduating in 1994, I continued with graduate school at Clark University, Worcester, MA and obtained my Ph.D. in Experimental Social Psychology in 2000. Next followed some postdoctoral research in Unconscious Social Cognition and Usability at the University of Washington. During my academic career I taught a few courses at Suffolk University (Boston) and Seattle Central Community College (Seattle).
Teaching Interests and Experience
I have developed and taught the following college-level courses:
Research Interests and Experience
Emotions and Self-perception Theory
William James (1884) explicitly contradicted common sense and argued that emotional feelings were the consequences, rather than the causes, of emotional behaviors. Subsequently a number of variations of James' theory have been proposed (e.g. Tomkins, 1984; Damasio, 1994; Zajonc, Murphy, & Inglehart, 1989). The alternative we prefer is self-perception theory (Bem, 1972; Laird, 1974; Ryle, 1949; Wittgenstein, 1954). The central premise of self-perception theory is that all mental states arise from a person's perception of his or her behavior, bodily states, and activities and the situation in which they occur. Like James' and other neo-Jamesian theories, self-perception theory directly contradicts common sense regarding the sequence of emotional events, but is more general since it applies to other feelings in addition to emotional feelings.
The research that has repeatedly confirmed the basic self-perception prediction has also demonstrated individual differences in the effects of bodily and behavioral cues on feelings. Some people feel happy when smiling and angry when frowning, but others do not. These differences are stable over time and consistent across a variety of behaviors and feelings (see Laird & Bresler, 1992 for a review). For example, people who feel happy when smiling and angry when frowning also feel sad when they adopt sad postures (Duclos, Laird, Schneider, Sexter, Stern, & Van Lighten, 1989, Duclos & Laird, in press; Flack, Laird, & Cavallaro, 1999), romantically attracted to a stranger with whom they share mutual gaze (Kellerman, Lewis & Laird, 1989; Williams & Kleinke, 1993), adopt the attitudes implied by a counter-attitudinal speech (Duncan & Laird, 1977; Comer & Rhodewalt, 1979), and show the so-called reverse placebo effect (Duncan & Laird, 1980). In general, the feelings of this group of people reflect their actions, bodily responses, and physical appearance. These cues have been labeled "Self-produced" (Laird & Berglas, 1975), or more recently and probably more accurately, "Personal" cues. In contrast, the feelings of other people are unaffected by what they are doing but instead reflect normative expectations about what most people would feel in a particular situation, i.e. "Situational" cues (Laird & Berglas, 1975). People who are more responsive to Situational cues are more likely to conform (Comer, 1977) and are more susceptible to direct suggestions from an experimenter about how they should feel (Kellerman & Laird, 1982) or act (Wagener & Laird, 1980). They also tend to be overweight (MacArthur, Solomon & Jaffee, 1980; Edelman, 1984), field dependent (Duncan & Laird, 1977; Edelman, 1984), and show the conventional positive placebo effect (Duncan & Laird, 1980).
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Emotions and Control Systems Theory
Control systems theory states that "behavior exists
only to control consequences that affect the organism" (Powers,
1978, p.419). This control is achieved through the process of negative
feedback where input from the organism's behavior is compared to a desired
(reference) state. Any discrepancies between the current state and the
reference or "desired" state motivate consequent behavior.
The question of reference states and reference input is one of the most
fascinating aspects of Powers' theory. This is so for at least two reasons.
First, it provides a concrete embodiment of the notion of purpose. As
Powers (1978) points out, "[r]eference signals for natural control
systems are set by processes inside the organism and are not accessible
from the outside. Another name for natural reference signal is purpose"
(p.419). Second, it offers an account of the nature and function of
feelings alternative to that of feelings as forces which cause behavior.
On this view, feelings are considered information or knowledge about
an organism's behavior used by the organism itself (e.g., Bowlby, 1969).
The control systems perspective on the functional role of feelings is
essentially a self-perception one.
Colors and Emotions
Welcome to this site!
Here you will find information on my interest and work in Usability as well as my research and teaching in Experimental Social Psychology.
Alexander Genov, Ph.D.