About Us 

The Affective Experience Lab will generate new interdisciplinary insights into the relationship between feelings, emotion and health.

Theoretical Directions

The term ‘affect’ signals an instinctual reaction to stimulation – a feeling – before cognitive processes produce more complex emotions. Affects may not translate directly into emotions, but instead underpin much more nebulous states of feeling and mood, which are fundamental to health and wellbeing.  

Sensory processes, perceptions and memory play key parts in shaping affective experience. But scholarly methods have struggled to capture and illuminate the significance of what are often fleeting and intangible aspects of experience.  Much is still not known about the phenomenology, complexity and intersections of such experience and its relevance for questions of health. The affective power of sensory experience is rarely addressed, and the way affect intersects with memory to produce meaningful emotional or spiritual events is poorly understood.  While there has been considerable interest within individual academic disciplines in sensory studies, the history of the emotions and affect studies, methodologies are still limited and interdisciplinary approaches rare.  Fundamental differences in methods have made cross-disciplinary dialogue difficult.  

The Affective Experience Lab aims to redress the lack of genuine interaction between different disciplines to shape and refine methodologies that will uncover the complexities of affective experience. It brings together approaches from disciplines including literary studies, religious studies, affect studies, sensory studies and cognitive psychology, in order to develop new frameworks. While literature is a special focus, we are interested in non-verbal creative arts, such as music and dance, which can open up new ways of articulating and understanding emotional states. Engagement with different cultural perspectives and different historical periods also has the potential to transform the ways we think about the affective dimensions of health. External partners from health, heritage and cultural institutions will play key roles in our work.   

The Discovery Research Platform for Medical Humanities
Transforming how we do health research

Supported and funded by:

Logo bar. On left, Institute for Medical Humanities logo (a small shield split into quarters with the words "Durham University" next to it, with the words "Institute for Medical Humanities" on the line below); in the middle, the Platform logo (DRP-MH logo comprised of three  semi-circles with two  triangles between each segment.); and on the right, the Wellcome logo (square with W cut out of it and the word "wellcome" in lowercase below the cut out). All in white on a dark background.
Get in touch

Institute for Medical Humanities
Durham University
Confluence Building
Stockton Road
Durham, DH1 3LE