Technological innovation has had a major impact on society, not only on an economic level but also on a psychological level. More specifically, we have all adopted, albeit in part, to the countless changes that technological development has brought about: our everyday habits, our relationships, our ways of communicating, and our way of working have all changed. But one aspect to which little reference is made, whether due to a lack of knowledge or to the sensitivity of the subject, is the impact that technologies have on our emotions and how it has changed from ancient times to the present day. First of all, it is important to ask ourselves: what is an emotion? This word refers to a physiological activation of a certain stimulus and event. Scherer defines emotions as complex psychological constructs consisting of different components:
- Affective component (evaluation of the situation)
- Physiological activation component (arousal)
- Motivational component (escape/approach)
- Expressive/motor component (communicative value)
- Subjective component (experience of the affective state)
What we are certain of is that technologies have always aroused conflicting emotions in us since the advent of television, radio, and all other mass media: on the one hand, amazement and, on the other, fear of something that cannot always be controlled. With the arrival of the computer, but especially the internet, we have witnessed the evolution of language, which has changed our ways of interacting and communicating. If you think about the language of symbols, it is easy to see how much it has changed from cave paintings and hieroglyphics to written text and emoji. The latter is a stylized form of our emotions, so much so that they are now used to indicate our state of mind. At this point a question arises: can emoji influence our emotions? One thing we know for sure is that they can influence the way we interpret a message with which a smiley is associated. What I would like to point out is that as our way of communicating and relating changes, so does the way we externalize our emotions, and with it our understanding of them. What links technologies with emotions is James A. Russell’s Core Affect theory, according to which it is possible to modify core affect through both real experiences and fiction. To clarify, core affect is defined as a basic affective state’, without a specific object: it does not coincide with emotion but is a general affective state (e.g. mood), which is not directed at anything. The moment the core affect is directed towards an object, the emotion takes shape, since it does not exist without a cause or something specific. It is precisely in this direction that new technologies are moving: modifying the core affect, attributing it to an object, to induce emotion. Since the 1990s, many studies have been carried out in this field, leading to the construction of ‘machines’ capable of recognizing, modeling, and expressing emotional information, giving rise to a panorama of research defined as Affective Human-Computer Interaction. An example of this type of application is the use of virtual reality for the treatment of phobias: within a controlled and protected virtual environment, the basic affective state is modified by assigning it a specific object (the phobic stimulus), to induce the desired emotion and train the person’s capacity for emotional management and control. In addition to this type of technology, artificial intelligence models are becoming increasingly popular today. Examples of applications are the creation of avatars able to interface with the person, recognize their emotions, and interact with them. We can therefore say that in the field of psychology we are beginning to talk about real ‘Emotional Technologies’, to improve the quality of life of people.
VRAINERS is trying to go further by integrating artificial intelligence and virtual reality systems to support companies and individuals in optimizing learning strategies. We want to go further by creating virtual reality training, with ad hoc built environments, which are guided by an avatar able to relate to the person in an empathic way, just like between two individuals in real life. In addition to this, each person will be followed individually by psychology experts, embarking on a journey to optimize their skills and personal growth, resulting in an improved quality of life. VRAINERS aims to use so-called emotional technologies to promote active and dynamic learning to improve people’s well-being and quality of life.
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Degree in psychological sciences and techniques from the University of L’Aquila. Master’s degree in Psychology of Well-being: empowerment, rehabilitation, and positive technologies, at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan. Master’s degree in Sport Psychology. Specialized in the use of Positive Technologies applied to different psychological fields, conducting an experimental study on cognitive enhancement and technical-motor gestures on young competitive tennis players through an integrated training of mental training and virtual reality.