Do you smile when you’re frustrated? Most people think they don’t — but they actually do, as researchers from MIT’s Affective Computing Group found. What’s more, it turns out that computers can do a better job of differentiating smiles of delight and frustration than human observers do. The research could pave the way for computers that better assess the emotional states of their users and respond accordingly. It could also help train those who have difficulty interpreting expressions, such as people with autism, to more accurately gauge the expressions they see.
In experiments conducted at the Media Lab, people were first asked to act out expressions of delight or frustration, as webcams recorded their expressions. Then, they were either asked to fill out an online form designed to cause frustration or invited to watch a video designed to elicit a delighted response — also while being recorded. Still images showed little difference between the frustrated and delighted smiles, but video analysis showed that the progression of the two kinds of smiles was quite different: Often, the happy smiles built up gradually, while frustrated smiles appeared quickly but faded fast.
In addition to providing training for people who have difficulty with expressions, the findings may be of interest to marketers. Just because a customer is smiling, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re satisfied. Knowing the difference could be important in gauging how best to respond to the customer. The analysis could also be useful in creating computers that respond in ways appropriate to the moods of their users.
Photo: The smile on the right is the sign of frustration. (courtesy of Hoque et al.)