How are you Feeling? Getting Face to Face with Respondents

Author Bio

Author Bio

One of the hottest areas of technology development in Market Research right now is facial and emotion recognition. Although not a practical implementation, I would love to know how you are responding to this article, as you read it. Did you just frown, or smile, or remain impassive? Understanding emotions is hugely powerful but notoriously difficult to achieve. Facial expressions are strongly linked to emotions, but to assess emotional response your only option previously has been to invest in human observation of recordings of your reactions. Human assessment has many limitations, however, and facial expression recognition technology offers an opportunity to overcome some of these limitations, delivering a much greater level of insight about personal sentiment and reactions.

While this is powerful technology, it doesn’t replace your existing activities. Rather it gives you the opportunity to include multimedia elements into a survey – for example, a video – and apply a much more rigorous level of analysis of the response to that video.

The most immediate uptake of this approach is for ad testing. Within a survey you can play your advert, during which time the respondent’s webcam will record their reactions. Traditionally, your respondents will have had to answer questions about the advertisement after it had been shown to them, rating it on various scales. A key issue here is that you rely on your respondent’s ability to recall what they’ve just been shown, their interpretation of their own emotions, and their ability to put those emotions into words. Or you will have had to film the interaction and employ people to observe and record the reactions of the respondents. This is a costly process with many challenges, such as achieving consistency and repeatability of results.

Technology that monitors facial expressions bypasses these issues by capturing data as the respondent views your video. This ensures that even the most fleeting of emotions are captured even when the respondent may not have been fully aware of them. Using technology throughout the viewing stage enables advertisers to understand how the tiniest elements of their video may impact audience response.

Like every next “big thing”, emotion detection software simply adds to the toolkit available to the experienced Market Researcher. It may reduce the need for focus groups, but beyond that, it’s an addition, not a replacement.

No doubt new applications of the software will emerge in both Market Research and customer experience disciplines—most likely with varying degrees of success. As with most advances of the last decade – mobile, social analytics, text analytics, beacon technologies, and more – emotion detection will find its place and, for those of you in Market Research, it will become a value-add component in the portfolio of services you provide for your customers. One day, I might be able to automatically observe and assess your reactions to this blog post, but for now, feel free to use more traditional feedback methods and post your comments (and emotional responses!) below.