Emotion centre VU receives grant


Body Maps of Emotions

The Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Emotions and Sensory Studies (ACCESS) has received a grant of €50.000 from the Netherlands e-Science Centre.

ACCESS, emotion-research centre at the faculty of Arts of the VU University in Amsterdam, has received the grant for their joint research project “Embodied Emotions: Mapping Bodily Expression of Emotions from a Historical Perspective”.

The bodily expressions of emotions are often condsidered to be culturally universal. With this project, Inger Leemans, Herman Roodenburg, Kristine Steenbergh and Erika Kuijpers aim to gain a better insight into the bodily experience of emotions in seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch plays, and compare this to 21st century body maps of emotions. Their hypothesis is that historical conceptions of the functioning of the body and the emotions may have been the basis for an alltogether different classification of (primary) emotions and for a different bodily experience of the emotions. In cooperation with the e-Science Centre, they will explore the different ways in which the Digital Humanities can be put to good use in the research into the expression of emotions in early modern plays.

New Dutch emotion research

mona lisa analyzedPeter Lewinski, Marieke Fransen and Ed Tan recently made the headlines with the results of their research into automated facial coding of emotions. ACCESS asked Peter Lewinski to tell us more about his project and he kindly sent us this description of the research.

We welcome news about Dutch emotion research on our website – please contact k[dot]steenbergh[at]vu[dot]nl if you would like to share your project with our community.


Nonverbal communication of emotions

Suppose you want to sell your home-made jewelry at the King’s day in Amsterdam. How can you tell in advance whether people like your necklaces and ear rings? Since the earliest scientific inquiries into preferences the only available method has been to ask people how they feel about them. However psychologists found out that when you are asked about your opinion you tend to become self-aware and start to provide socially desirable answers. In other words self-reports emanate from Daniel Kahneman’s –System 2 and this is as slow and logical as it is conscious System. Questionnaires and interviews capture creations and interpretations led by self and social reflective human judgment. The contents of the fast, emotional and subconscious System 1 have long remained elusive. Even if messages delivered by System 1 are ubiquitous in people’s everyday non-verbal behavior, such as gestures, postures, facial expressions and tone of voice. Decoding the messages has been hampered or even forbidden by the subjective and laborious nature of analyses. In the past decade information technology and artificial intelligence have come to the rescue of the direct measurement of emotions. Hopes are high that we can leave considerable work load required for codification of nonverbal behavior to the computer and so steer away from our own interpretation biases. The research community working on the deciphering of facial movements believes that facial expressions convey interculturally shared core affect signatures. They do not need cross-cultural translation as System 2 responses – notably verbal ones – do. Therefore, in our study, recently published in Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, we investigated the predictive value of facial expressions of emotions in response to amusing – i.e. simply funny – video stimuli. Continue reading →

ACCESS lecture: Jan Plamper on Embodied Reading

When:              Tuesday the 20th of May

Where:            VU University, W&N Building, 6th floor, room M623

Time:               15:00 – 17:00hrs, after the lecture there will be drinks

Please register for attendance here.

The Graduate School of Humanities, CLUE and the Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Emotion and Sensory Studies (ACCESS) would like to invite you to the 4th graduate school lecture by Jan Plamper: “Ivan’s Bravery: How Embodied Reading Turned Russian Children into Fearless Soldiers – Maybe.”

coverFocusing on Russia during the late Tsarist to early Soviet periods, Jan Plamper’s lecture explores the production of maximally fearless soldiers, an important precondition for any army’s success in a war. It first looks at pre-revolutionary instruction manuals for teachers on what (and how) to read and then moves on to children’s literature proper. In this literature bravery seems to be part of a field which included other emotions, first and foremost fear and cowardice; at its most basic level, bravery was conquered fear. In a close reading, Plamper shows how a combination of narratology (the way narratives affect our perception), Extended Mind Theory (the idea that minds are not merely brains, but are ‘extended’ to the body), and Paul Virilio’s writings on media technology (e.a. might help explain how good child-age readers can become good, i.e. brave, adult soldiers.

plamperJan Plamper is Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of London. After obtaining a B.A. from Brandeis University and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, he taught at the University of Tübingen and from 2008 to 2012 was a Dilthey Fellow at the Center for the History of Emotions, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, in Berlin. He is the author of Geschichte und Gefühl: Grundlagen der Emotionsgeschichte (2012; forthcoming in English from Oxford University Press as Emotions: A History); co-editor, with Benjamin Lazier, of Fear: Across the Disciplines (2012); and co-editor, with Marc Elie and Schamma Schahadat, of Rossiiskaia imperiia chuvstv: Podkhody k kul’turnoi istorii emotsii [In the Realm of Russian Feelings: Approaches to the Cultural History of Emotions] (2010). He has also recently authored The Stalin Cult: A Study in the Alchemy of Power (2012).

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Sounds of Historical Amsterdam

Friday, 24 May, 13.30 – 17.00
Venue: Amsterdam Museum, Kalverstraat 92, entrance Kalverstraat 92
Sint Luciënsteeg 27.


A symposium organized around the installation ‘The Sound of Amsterdam’, now on show at the Amsterdam Museum

ROOM: HET GEWELF (buy your ticket at the central entrance)


Museumticket :  € 10,-
UvA Studentenkaart  :  € 5,-
Museumjaarkaart        :  free


Clicke here if you want to hear this horse tram


Alex Rhys-Taylor

Sonic Boom – 100 Years of Urban Sound

The twentieth century city comprised a cascade of intertwined social, political, technological and economic revolutions, all of which combined to radically alter the sonic sensorium that filled the century’s cities. Automobiles, radios, planes, argot, sirens, industry. All of these displaced, or drowned out, the audible sensorium of millennia before. The great revolutions of the century are also reflected in the sensibilities through which urbanites made sense of the new urban symphonies and cacophonies. Starting with the hypnotic buzz of London as heard from afar, zooming in to the cacophonous soundscapes of the street, the talk will trace the provenance of both the soundscape of modern city, and the meanings we gave to it.

Alex Rhys-Taylor is a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. One of his main interests is the multisensory ambience of everyday urban life. See: http://www.gold.ac.uk/sociology/staff/rhys-taylor/

Annelies Jacobs

Discourse and the Sounds of the City

Though we hardly know how cities sounded in the past, how sounds figured in daily life, we do believe that due to processes of expansion, industrialisation and technology cities grow noisier and noisier. It seems that the constant emergence of new sources of sound and a poor recall of sources lost, make us conclude that the past was more silent. In this lecture we ‘listen’ to changes in the discourse on sound, using texts from various periods. We will see that ideas about society and human beings inform our statements on silence increasing or decreasing, and the way we underpin these statements. Changes in the sounds and noises of city cannot be understood on the basis of material changes only.

Annelies Jacobs (1955) is a PhD student at the University of Maastricht. She is now completing her dissertation on the soundscape of Amsterdam between roughly 1880 and 1945, which provided most of the input to the installation now on show.

Arnoud Traa

Listening to the past? A sound designers’ perspective

Archival recordings allow listeners to feel like a time traveller. But to what extent are they actually able to listen to the past? How does the recording process of a sound (or the sound object itself) influence the perception of the age and meaning of sound? We will make a short trip through recording history by sound.

Arnoud Traa is a sound designer and composer with an interest in historical and vanished sound. He works in film, documentary and museums with diverse media. In 2012 he founded the website ‘Het Geluid van Nederland,’ an online crowd-sourced sound archive with recordings from 1955 to today. As a recordist of contemporary and historical sounds he contributed to the ‘Soundscapes of the Urban Past’ installation ‘De Dam,’ by the Amsterdam Museum and Maastricht University.

Rikko Voorberg and Marlous Willemsen

Sounds of belief

In a series of five events at Imagine IC young people collected sounds they see as meaningful to the way they experience their religion or spirituality. They collected this material as part of the project ‘My God’, in which present-day religion and its (new) practices were documented. See: www.imagineic.nl/cases/mijn-god.

Marlous Willemsen is the director of Imagine IC. Rikko Voorberg is ambassador of Imagine IC. Hij hosted the youth events on sound and religion, and is affiliated with the EO radio-program Denkstof

‘The Noise of the City Hits Me in the Face’: On Tangible Noise as a Source of Vexation, Knowledge and Experiment (1880-1940)

Piet Devos, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

Since the end of the nineteenth century much has been written on the noise of big cities, on how one did not only hear it but also seemed to feel it bodily. It led novelists and scholars to a fascinating voyage of discovery through the borderland between hearing and touch. They discovered that the vibrations one could hear as tones and rhythm also touched the skin and other parts of the body. These vibrations proved to cause annoyance but also provided important information in one’s perception of the same urban space. We will have a look at the discussions on these multisensory vibrations in the city, profiting from contemporary novels and poetry, and from the writings of psychologists, among them Géza Révész, then teaching at the University of Amsterdam. These texts make us hear and feel an urban space which is still there in the present.

Piet Devos teaches literary studies at the University of Groningen, and is also a translator and essayist. He is completing his dissertation on sensory perception in avant-garde poetry of the avant-garde. His talk is part of a new research project on the impact of technology on touch.

To register please fill in this form:

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BATTLEFIELD EMOTIONS 1500-1900 interdisciplinary workshop

Friday 18 january 2013, 10:00 – 17:00

VU University, Boelelaan 1105 Amsterdam (room 1 E – 13)          For a route description see this link.


Battlefield Emotions 

From the 18th century onwards there is a growing interest in battlefield emotions. This can for example be seen in the reports and memoirs of soldiers, in the shift of focus from heroic facts to individual emotions in art and literature and the appearance of empathy and enthusiasm as important notions in military science. The aim of the workshop is to study how and why this changes did occur. In doing so it will try to chart the changes  in expressions of battlefield emotions and shed light on the social and cultural developments that brought these changes about.


Registration is possible before 1 january. If you want to participate please fill in this form.


See for the program below or download the full program with the abstracts of the lectures here .

10.00 – 10.40 Welcome and introduction

10.40 – 11.40 Lecture by Mary A. Favret (Indiana University, USA)  Fallen Bodies: Considering Soldiers and Suicides c.1800 (download abstract) and discussion

11.40 Coffee

11.50 Richard Smith (Goldsmiths University of London, UK) A “considerably larger emotional  capacity than the English”: Changing representations of the West Indian soldier’s character and sensibilities from the French Revolution to the First World War (download abstract) and discussion.

12.40 Lunch break

13.40 David Lederer (NUI Maynooth, Ireland) Where is the battlefield? The Ubiquity of Fear during the Thirty Years War (download abstract)

14.10 Lisa de Boer (Westmont College, USA) The Sidelong Glance: Tracing ‘Battlefield Emotions’ in Dutch Art of the Golden Age (download abstract)

15.30 Coffee

15.50 Mareen van Marwyck (Frankfurt am Main, Germany) “Love Wars”: The Sentimentalization of Violence in Early 19th Century German Literature (download abstract) and discussion

 16.40 Conclusions by Dorothee Sturkenboom (Independent Scholar)

17.00 Drinks

Battlefield Emotions 1500-1900 is organized by: Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Emotion and Sensory Studies (ACCESS), Group for Early Modern Studies Ghent University (GEMS), History Department Leiden University. For more information: Erika Kuijpers, h.m.e.p.kuijpers@hum.leidenuniv.nl / Cornelis van der Haven, Cornelis.vanderHaven@UGent.be

Lecture Monique Scheer

15 September 2011, 16h

VU Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, room 1G10

Lecture Monique Scheer

The Sacralization of Feeling

Religious Emotion as a Cultural Practice among German Methodists in the 19th Century


Monique Scheer is Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and the Center for the History of Emotions, Berlin.


In her lecture, Monique Scheer will explore an understanding of emotions as cultural practices using the example of Methodist worship among Germans in Württemberg (Germany) and the Ohio River valley (USA), for whom emotions were integral to their religious practice. An understanding of emotions as cultural practices is slowly evolving: If we conceive of feelings as learned and cultivated, then it becomes clear that they are to be viewed as a form of bodily as well as conceptual knowledge transmitted in specific cultural contexts. For the role of emotions in religion, this perspective means that we can take them seriously as an integral part of practice, not simply as its effect. Sources for this kind of analysis can and should be not only what people say they feel, but also what they do in order to feel a certain way.

The lecture starts at 16.00h. Lecture and discussion are followed by a reception around 17.15h.

Methodist camp meeting. Alexander Rider/Hugh Bridport, Kennedy & Lucas lithograph, ca. 1829 (Library of Congress Digital Collections)