Computer Program Can Tell When You Smile Out Of Frustration
A new study from MIT shows that smiles may hide more than just an expression of content or happiness. In fact, people actually smile when they're frustrated as well, and programmers at MIT have created a computer program that can more accurately distinguish between frustration and happiness.
The new program could lead to advances in digital technology that can better recognize facial expressions and mood in humans. This in turn could help educators deal with autism or other disabilities which make it hard for social interaction.
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"The goal is to help people with face-to-face communication," says Ehsan Hoque, a graduate student in the Affective Computing Group of MIT's Media Lab who is lead author of a paper just published in the IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing.
The participants in the study were first asked to record their expressions of delight and frustration. They were then recorded while they watched videos that elicited responses of delight, and while they filled out an online survey, which was meant to be frustrating.
It seems that the subjects smiled only 10% of the time out of frustration, and only did so when asked to fulfill out a task of genuine frustration - in this case, the trigger was usually hitting the 'submit' button after filling out the survey. The researchers found that the smiles themselves were not too different, but the process they came about through were. Smiles of happiness come on gradually and last longer, while smiles of frustration come on quick and fade quickly.
"People with autism are taught that a smile means someone is happy, but research shows that it's not that simple," says Hoque.
The research may also explain why some smiles are seen as phony, and others genuine. Gordon Brown's smile, for instance is seen as unnatural, while Herman Cain's, which took a full nine seconds to appear in a campaign commercial, took a little too long to seem authentic.
The program could also be implemented into our daily computing, allowing for computers that respond to our mood in more interactive ways.
Answer to which smile is which (from top): The smile on the left is one of happiness and the one on the left is one of frustration.