From Hate to Love: How Learning Can Change Affective Responses to Touched Materials

Müge Cavdan, Alexander Freund, Anna-Klara Trieschmann,
Katja Doerschner, and Knut Drewing

Justus Liebig University, 3539 Giessen, Germany
Bilkent University, 06800 Ankara, Turkey

Abstract. People display systematic affective reactions to specific properties of touched materials. For example, granular materials such as fine sand feel
pleasant, while rough materials feel unpleasant. We wondered how far such relationships between sensory material properties and affective responses can be changed by learning. Manipulations in the present experiment aimed at unlearning the previously observed negative relationship between roughness and valence and the positive one between granularity and valence. In the learning phase, participants haptically explored materials that are either very rough or very fine-grained while they simultaneously watched positive or negative stimuli, respectively, from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). A control group did not interact with granular or rough materials during the learning phase. In the experimental phase, participants rated a representative diverse set of 28 materials according to twelve affective adjectives. We found a significantly weaker relationship between granularity and valence in the experimental group compared to the control group, whereas roughness-valence correlations did not differ between groups. That is, the valence of granular materials was unlearned (i.e., to modify the existing valence of granular materials) but not that of rough materials. These points to differences in the strength of perceptuo-affective relations, which we discuss in terms of hard-wired versus learned connections.

To conitnue reading, please click here.

ISBCS 2020 – Effect of expectations on perception of dynamic material properties

Authors – Amna Malik, Katja Doerschner, Hüseyin Boyaci

The current global situation that we are all facing has forced us to look to the virtual world in order to continue within academia and research. Amna Malik, hosted by the University of Bilkent, has done just, virtually narrating her video for ISBCS presentation.

In the abstract Amna says:

“Visual information plays a vital role in object and material recognition. Based on our daily life interaction with objects, our brain learns to make associations between how an object looks like, what material it is made of and its physical and functional properties. Hence, before even we touch an object, simply by looking at it, we have expectations about how it will behave under different forces. For example, we expect a wine glass to shatter if it falls and hits the ground. Upon viewing an object, incoming visual information is combined with prior knowledge to help us recognizing objects, accessing their properties and making efficient decisions regarding actions involving interaction with objects. In this study we aimed to investigate the role of expectations in perception of material properties in dynamic scenes and how they affect perceptual decisions. We used novel computer animations of objects falling on ground, which are manipulated to behave in an expected or unexpected manner. Observers were asked to answer whether the object broke or not upon hitting the ground. We measured reaction times and percent correct responses for each condition. We found out that observers take longer to respond in the surprising condition. Hence, we concluded that expectations influence perception of dynamic material properties and perceptual decision making is delayed when these expectations are violated, which implies that additional processing is required when incoming sensory information does not match the expectations.”

We would like to congratulate Amna on a terrific presentation and encourage everyone to watch the video!

Self-isolation tips

From Ellen De Korte

Our researchers, supervisors and partners across Europe are all finding their way through this new reality. Ellen De Korte, based at the University of Bradford, has shared some insight into how she plans to work and live during the lockdown period in the UK.

I start my day with a 15-minute power yoga workout. While we are still able to go outside for an hour, I plan to walk to the nearest park if I can over lunchtimes. In order to maintain a bit of structure and combat loneliness, I make a schedule of whom I speaking to (either on the phone or video-conferencing) on a nice Yorkshire themed calendar

Ellen has also shared a picture of her “home office” set-up.

Ellen De Korte home office set-up

Working from home

An overnight change in worklife

Within the space of a week the routine I have honed for many years was brought to a grinding halt. With hundreds of thousands of people affected, it was not a matter of “should I isolate” but “I am going to isolate, how should I do it productively”. Being productive during this difficult time means not just looking after the emails, but oneself. The mental burden isolation can carry is immense and it should not be underestimated. So here is my battle plan for the next few weeks (and if need be, months).

Separation without the anxiety

One of the biggest issues I grappled with was the separation between work and home. I have always worked outside of my home. Sure, there have been “working from home days” but those were few and far between. Most importantly, there was an end date. I have to admit, I was anxious about bringing my work home. “Will be as productive at home as I am in the office?” I asked. “When does work end and home begin?” I wondered. “If I empty the laundry during the day, am I doing this on my or the company’s time?”. Obviously, I was just working myself up into a frenzy for nothing. In fact, it is highly recommended that you get up from your desk often during the day. Load the washing machine, take the rubbish out, make a cup of tea. 5-10-minute breaks every so often are encouraged. I also found that creating a specific work station was essential to separate my work/home life.

Work station at home

Not having an office, I did take over some of the dining table but it is now my work area. It is not a “one size fits all” situation, individuality is key. It is important for each individual to think about the conditions under which they can be most productive, taking into account workflow and emotional response.

Reading more than just emails

There is no escaping the stark realisation that the emails will not stop. I am, however, going to expand my literary horizons (and indulge in old favourites for comfort). Here is my panacea for the monotony of emails: books.

A collection of books

Since I am not able to travel to France, I will follow Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan on their adventures through Paris. I will people watch through the anthropological writings of Kate Fox and I will “evolve” with Daniel Dennett’s work on consciousness.

Keeping to a schedule

Isolation can be, for a lack of a better word, isolating. On average, we spend more time at work than at home. We have a schedule to follow, meetings and coffee breaks. This is an important pattern to follow. I have always woken up at 6.30am to get to work for 8am. I will still do that, whether it means indulging in a more imaginative breakfast than muesli or fitting in a longer morning jog, I will not stray far from my morning rituals. Speaking of exercise, I am fortunate to live in a remote location so my daily jog involves seeing only the sheep in the fields. I stick to the remoteness of the moors. I am also trying to utilise video-conferencing as much as possible, whether it is in my personal life with friends and family locked down across the world as well as in my worklife.

Yorkshire Games Festival

Yorkshire Games Festival

From the perspective of a former game developer – Baran Usta

As a former developer, and avid gamer, I was very excited to be part of Yorkshire Games Festival, as part of my secondment at the National Science and Media Museum. It is not only because I got to listen to exciting talks given by the professionals working in the game industry, but also because of the training and workshops prepared for the enthusiastic students who are planning to be involved in this industry. The industry is vast, however, and there are various ways to take part. These range from being a designer to being an organizer of an e-sport event. As a former developer who had a chance to observe different stages of publishing a game, from conception to release, I was curious more about how these professionals were going to give talks about their expertise to such a diverse audience and communicate their messages. I have always found that very challenging. What I was looking forward to observing, was how they can convey abstract details and concepts while simultaneously bringing everybody to the same level of understanding. Although the game conference was organized more for the people who are exploring the career options in the industry, there were a lot of activities organized for the high school students to learn developing games using popular game engines. There were also workshops aimed at elementary school students to learn basics of coding. For me, when the content is complex by its nature and the audience is this broad, it is especially difficult to give a good talk. In that sense, it was an incredible experience! I observed how different presenters interact with the audience to convey their message. As a side benefit, I got to play some cool games that are not published yet!

Yorkshire Games Festival 2020 coding workshop for students

The events and activities were organized with three main target groups in mind. The first group were kids who were either visiting the museum with their parents or on a class trip. We attended a session where the kids learned about the basic concepts of space and physics in a very clear and engaging way. It was fascinating to see how the kids were excited about what they learned. Happy to learn, in fact. Especially when they see the applications of the concepts with hands-on experiments, they became a lot more engaged.

Baran Usta playing computer games during Yorkshire Games Festival 2020

Aspiring young students who were interested in the industry or people who are in the early stages of their career and interested in learning more constituted the largest group. As previously mentioned, although the wide range of topics was presented all of the talks were successfully tailored to include everyone in the audience. The presenters really did a fantastic job at engaging the whole audience at any given time. Of course, a level of technological details had to be provided. In this case, they explained the concept in a very concise and simple way making sure that everyone is able to follow the rest of the presentation. Presenting difficult information in an accessible way is important, however, it is not the only piece required to communicate the message; the way they present plays a crucial role as well. For me, it was an educational experience to see how effective humor could be in keeping the audience’s attention. Humor sometimes helped them give the audience some time to digest the information they presented.

Talk “Welcome To Exploring Space” during the Yorkshire Games Festival 2020

The last group contained a number of sessions and workshops for students who enjoy playing games and have interest in the industry but have limited knowledge of game development. Some of the sessions were to teach them basics. There were two stages in these sessions: they had to determine the rules and the gameplay in the first step and implement those using different tools depending on their background in the second. It was interesting to see the different difficulty levels available depending on the student’s background. For example, for the students who are in elementary school, most of the functionality was already implemented and available as code blocks. The students had to put them in the right order to obtain the correct execution whereas the students in high school had to implement some functionality on their own to get a gameplay they had designed.

Students on a class trip during a workshop at the Yorkshire Games Festival 2020

Overall, my secondment at the Yorkshire Games Festival helped gain perspective about all the different communication elements critical in engaging people from diverse backgrounds and ages. Moreover, I figured out these festivals are necessary not only for the audience to learn about new developments but also for the people who are presenting it, especially for the scientist. This is because scientists usually do not have direct access to see people reactions to their work, which I saw can be very motivating. For example, seeing a kid amazed and fascinated after figuring out how sound travels through matter was an incredible experience for me since it also reminded me how I was amazed and still feeling thrilled when I learn more about science. I call this secondment a success.