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IAH Podcast | Misha Becker and Kristen Lindquist on how they collaborated on a FIRE grant

February 8, 2016 | M. Clay

What began as an idea linking language, art, and psychological development quickly became a project at a local museum. A $25,000 grant for radical interdisciplinary research can do that.

IAH Fellow and Associate Professor of Linguistics Misha Becker and Psychology and Neuroscience Professor Kristen Lindquist, who is also director of the Carolina Affective Science Lab, are currently working on their project, Children’s Development of Verbal and Perceptual Correlates of Human Emotions. They won the inaugural grant for Fostering Interdisciplinary Research Explorations (FIRE) in 2015.

This year the Institute for the Arts and the Humanities is co-sponsoring the grants, which are awarded for 18-month projects.

“I reached out to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research,” said IAH Director Mark Katz. “This is exactly what the IAH is about and we wanted to support the FIRE grant.” He said he was particularly attracted to the grant’s mission for “radically interdisciplinary research.”

In working on emotional development in children, Lindquist and Becker are first creating a language for feelings using, of course, alien cartoons. They hired an illustrator to come up with images that resonate with children. This will allow them to observe how children identify and label their feelings.

The question they both wanted to investigate: “If the language gives you the emotion, then where does the language come from?”

What’s the impact of this work?

“I have been able to develop a good relationship with the Museum of Life and Science in Durham (where they are running the study),” Becker says. “The museum… is really interested in having researchers like us do this kind of work in their space so that we can interact with the public. And it’s a way of… connecting with people about what it means to do science.”

Lindquist adds “it’s a great thing for UNC-Chapel Hill, too, because it is making us more visible to the community.”

She also had a scientist’s perspective on the animated film Inside Out. Listen below.

The FIRE grant proposal deadline is Feb. 16, 2016. For more on the grant and guidelines, visit us here.

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