Katarina Richter-Lunn


Incognito: Sensorial Interpretations of Covert Physiological Signals for Therapeutic Mediation

Advised by Jose Luis García del Castillo López and Nancy Etcoff

There is little novelty in devices that collect physiological signals in our day-to-day activities. Our phones, watches, and jewelry now track everything from our location to our variable heart rate, with more features appearing in these technologies daily. Embracing the open access to these technologies, this thesis seeks to reframe how one can turn covert physiological signals into perceived sensorial experiences to increase one’s awareness of their cognitive state and elicit positive affect. Acting not as a substitute for traditional therapies but as an alternative antidote, these tangible interventions seek to process, analyze, and interpret patterns of electrodermal activity and heart rate variability to recognize signs of high and low emotional arousal and pair them with textural, olfactory, auditory, and visual alterations in our surroundings. I predict that through the repeated association of the actuated stimuli with specific physiological states a certain conditioning can be evoked to subsequently promote an instinctual response to malleable matter. With the result illustrating that the fabric of our environment can not only be empathetic to our subconscious mood but also can foster positive affect through personalized adaptation. By applying methods of traditional behavioral therapy via sensory stimulus, this thesis seeks to demonstrate the correlation between biometric feedback and affective matter to, as a result, condition positive associations between environmental conditions and embodied cognition.

A chart matching human sensory systems with cognitive states and correlated to a list of emotions;  Human systems include Haptic, Auditory, Visual, and Olfactory, Cognitive states listed on the right include: Amuse, Relax, Reflect, and Intrigue. The feelings listed are : Joy, Contentment, Excitement, Amusement, Entrancement, Satisfatio, Relaxation, Srenenity. Desire, Curiosity, Nostalgia, Surprise, Unease, Stress, Anxiety, Awe, Disgust, Hostility, Fear, Sadness.