Collaborative Research: EAGER: Systems for Assisting in Emotion Regulation in the Wild

Emotion regulation (ER) is an essential skill in the workplace and everyday life. Failure to manage the type, intensity, and duration of emotions can result in not just misunderstandings, but also damage to people, relationships, and organizations. Repeated ER failures can lead to the development of mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression. ER skills can be successfully taught with clinician-led training, but this is an ongoing, labor-intensive process that is currently expensive and not easily scaled. This project follows another direction: it examines foundational issues in the design of systems, based around a wearable affordance, that use technology to assist a person in ER when and where the person needs it (in the wild). Using technology to assist people in regulating their emotions in the wild is a complex and multidisciplinary problem: it requires understanding in psychology (for understanding of emotion regulation), human computer interaction, and systems with humans in the loop. Our overarching goal in this EAGER project is to build a basis for such an understanding and applying it to a prototype affordance and system. We will use a multidisciplinary approach. In particular, we will: (1) Develop design guidelines for affordances supporting ER in the wild that are based on haptic breath pacing. We will develop these guidelines in consultation with clinical ER practitioners, and will apply them to existing ER systems, such as the Breathe app on the Apple Watch, Spire, and EmotionCheck. (2) Explore the use of haptics for involving in-the-wild users in a breathing intervention known to result in effective ER in laboratory settings. (3) Study the utility of haptic-based biofeedback interventions in breath-based ER in the wild. (4) Explore systems consequences of including others (for example, clinicians, family members, coworkers) in the process of assisting ER. This project will advance knowledge and understanding of the development of systems that provide ER support in the wild, with strong potential benefit for workplace productivity, as well as improved individual mental health. This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria

June 2018 - June 2020

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