Alastair Gordon of Gordon & McCallum presented at ESOMAR 3D 2011 on facial recognition, a basic human skill that helps us understand one another’s emotional states.

Research has a problem measuring the subtleties, especially for emotions. Facial recognition is one approach to assist with this:

  • Our faces reveal our emotions
  • Facial imaging measures it
  • Quickly assess reaction to media
  • No questions – easy to integrate and interpret

Faces are universal expressions of emotion across culture and have been manually coded by researchers in the past. The Swiss company nVisio has developed an automated way of recognizing faces through webcams and doesn’t require any physical sensors or proprietary hardware. The system works with poor lighting, out-of-focus cameras and motion blur.

For the participant, the research process doesn’t require any questions to be answered: they just need to look at an image or watch a video. Facial expressions in reaction to a stimulus happen something very quickly (500 milliseconds) as the stimulus changes. Facial recognition provides with minimal respondent effort a large amount of data over the timeline of exposure to commercials or other videos.

Facial recognition produces a better understanding of emotions, which are so important for driving consumer engagement and purchase.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.