Meet Dr. Pfeifer

Valeria Pfeifer Headshot

Dr. Valeria Pfeifer, a UArizona postdoctoral researcher in the Naturalistic Observation of Social Interaction Lab, is studying what language can reveal about cognition and emotion. Her work within the lab involves “language in context” research, monitoring speech recordings of daily interactions to discover how language behavior relates to psychological phenomena. For example, one of her current endeavors is examining the stereotype that women speak more than men using these naturalistic observation strategies.  

Another one of Dr. Pfeifer’s specializations is non-literal language, or more specifically, verbal irony. She secured a Postdoctoral Research Development Grant in 2023 from the Department of Postdoctoral Affairs to support her current research of the emotional effects of producing irony. One of her 2024 publications1 in partnership with Dr. Penny Pexman (Western University) highlights how encountering ironic language can catalyze “crucial psychological insights”, such as creativity and problem-solving.  

Dr. Pfeifer is a cognitive scientist of the modern times, addressing how emotion isn’t always straightforward but rather can be discerned through phenomena like swearing and emojis2. Dr. Pfeifer has also studied how depressive symptoms can be manifested through the use of metaphors by breast cancer patients. She summarized how the comparison of having cancer to battling a war can contribute to disadvantageous psychological effects3 whereas  “...framing cancer… as a journey is more open to whatever outcome might happen.” Unloading healthcare discourse is just one of the many implications of her trailblazing research.  

In Dr. Pfeifer’s words: “There’s a lot of impact… the way we conceptualize things, like time or war, can have a profound impact on how we act upon them.” 

View Dr. Pfeifer’s publications here: