I am interested in many topics oscillating around human social cognition. These include social reward processing, face and emotion processing, and, as characterised by social difficulties, autism spectrum conditions.
I am trained as a neuropsychologist, which means that I use neuro (and physiological) methods, like EEG (and pupillometry) as biomarkers of psychological/cognitive functioning of the human brain.
Multisensory integration in autism
Our natural social environments and interactions require making sense of a myriad of information coming through different sensory channels. For example, to understand another person speak, we need to process auditory (words, prosody) and visual (lip movements, gestures, mimicry) cues and integrate multimodal information coming from different sensory channels as belonging to one event. There is mounting evidence that persons with autism experience difficulties in these functions, which may underlie the core symptoms of autism: social impairments. In this project we investigate how the neurotypical and autistic brain realises audio-visual processing and integration in speech.
Reward processing in autism
Matyjek, M., Bayer, M., & Dziobek, I. (2020), Autistic Traits Affect Reward Anticipation but not Reception. Scientific Reports 10, 8396. (Open Access)
Matyjek, M., Bayer, M., & Dziobek, I. (2022), Reward Responsiveness across Autism and Autistic Traits – Evidence from Neuronal, Autonomic, and Behavioural Levels, medRxiv (preprint).
The social motivation hypothesis of autism proposes that the social difficulties in this population may be rooted in diminished responsively to social stimuli and rewards. Thus, the question is whether individuals with autism (and those with higher autistic traits) find social rewards, like a smile, less rewarding than neurotypical individuals, and whether this pattern changes when facing monetary rewards. This project comprises two main studies. Read a lay summary of the first one here!
Factors in reward processing
Matyjek, M., Meliss, S., Dziobek, I., & Murayama, K. (2020), A Multidimensional View on Social and Non-social Rewards. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 818. (Open Access)
Matyjek, M., Bayer, M., & Dziobek, I. (2021), Pupillary Responses to Faces are Modulated by Familiarity and Rewarding Context. Brain Sciences, 11, 794. (Open Access)
Reward processing is crucial in the human functioning: it allows us to learn and reinforce certain behaviours. In reward research, we often compare social reward to non-social ones, but it is easy to forget that particular stimuli differ in more dimensions than only sociality, for example tangibility, proximity, primacy, etc. thus, we discussed these and proposed a multidimensional view on rewards – you can read a simple summary here.
Even when considering only social rewards, like faces, we have to acknowledge that they differ in how familiar (known, recognisable) and socially relevant (personally important) they are. Do those influence how rewarding they are too? We compared how people process smiling faces of different familiarity and social relevance levels when they serve as feedback and when they simply appear on the screen. Read a simple words summary here!
Affect/emotions in face processing
Matyjek, M., Kroczek, B., Senderecka, M. (2021), Socially Induced Negative Affective Knowledge Modulates Early Face Perception, but not Gaze-Cued Attention. Psychophysiology, 00:e13876. (Open Access)
Schneider, J., Matyjek, M, Weigand, A., Dziobek, I., and Brick, T. R., (in review), Subjective and Objective Difficulty of Emotional Facial Expression Perception from Dynamic Stimuli.
Faces are complex stimuli which carry heaps of information. Over thousands of years of evolution, humans became experts in processing faces, but there are still many aspects we do not fully understand. For example, for a long time it was believed that higher cognition does not penetrate perception of faces. However, we found that previous negative affective knowledge about others influenced very early neural responses to their faces. See a summary here.
Recognising emotions in others can be easy or it can be hard, depending on a number of factors context, our ability to read their expressions, characteristics of the person, etc. We investigated what exactly plays a role in how difficult emotion perception is and found that the most important factors were arousal and valence of the emotional expression, and gender and age of both actors and observers.