The Emotion & Self Lab

In the Emotion and Self Lab at the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, we study the evolutionary function, nonverbal expression, and psychological structure of emotions and self. Much of our research is focused on the place that self and emotions meet: the self-conscious emotions of pride, shame, embarrassment, and guilt. But we also study more basic level emotions linked to moral behavior, like disgust, as well as other complex social emotions, like humility and schadenfreude. We use a wide range of methods to study emotional processes, including behavioral observation and coding, social-cognitive techniques (e.g., reaction time assessment, eye-tracking), cross-cultural and cross-species comparisons, narrative assessment, and physiological (e.g., hormone) assessment; and we use experimental, cross-sectional, and longitudinal designs. In an effort to improve the study of self-conscious emotions, we have developed several measurement tools that are available to other researchers. These tools can be downloaded from this website. In all of our research, we tend to take a functionalist perspective, asking why questions about emotions and self, and seeking both ultimate and proximate answers.

Latest News »

Our new paper – led by Zak Witkower- providing the first evidence for distinct nonverbal displays of dominance and prestige now in press at JPSP!

Now in press at Psychological Science: Zak and Jess’ paper demonstrating that head tilt functions as an action-unit imposter, dramatically changing the way that a neutral face is perceived

Pharmacologically inhibiting physiological disgust (i.e., nausea) reduces the severity of moral judgments in the purity domain. Check out our paper, now published at JPSP.

Check out our paper just published at Evolution and Human Behavior for real-world evidence that status displays reduce, rather than increase, the amount of financial aid needy individuals receive. Supporting Trivers’ model of reciprocal altruism, generous folks bias their efforts toward those who convey greater need.

Jess’ book, Pride: The Secret to Success, is now available in paperback!

Upcoming Talks »

Jess Tracy, “The Form, Function, and Adaptive Nature of the Pride and Shame Nonverbal Displays

Keynote Address, SPSP Pre-conference on Nonverbal Behavior

February 7th, 2019

Portland, OR


Zak Witkower, It’s all in your head: Head position changes the perception of facial expressions of emotion

Nonverbal Behavior Pre-Conference, SPSP

Portland, OR

February 7, 2019

Zak Witkower, ”Two signals of rank: Distinct displays of dominance and prestige,” in the symposium, “New insights into the nonverbal communication of social rank” at the annual SPSP meeting

February 9, 2019

Portland, OR

Jess Tracy, “Hot sh*t or piece of sh*t: The directly opposing impact of pride displays on social judgments and decision-making,” in the symposium, “Nonverbal Expressions of Positive Emotion: New Advances and Social Functions,” SPSP Annual Meeting

February 10th (11 am-12:15)

Portland, OR

Books and Edited Volumes »

"Take Pride — now in paperback"

Buy your copy »

"The Psychology of Social Status"

Buy your copy »

"The Self-Conscious Emotions"

Buy your copy »