An introduction to facial coding
Our faces can say it all when we’re unable to articulate our thoughts into words. This could be in the form of an emotional response at the time of impact called a micro expression.
Micro expressions are the short involuntary emotions we express that are visible on the face for only 1/25 to 1/15 of a second. These micro expressions are often impossible to see by the untrained eye.
You can witness the importance of micro expressions in professions such as healthcare. Natal nurses take clues from a newborn’s bulging brows or squeezed eyes whilst determining how much pain medication to administer. You may also consider poker professionals who are able to study their opponent’s facial behavior in order to pick up responses and read their subtle emotions.
“An ounce of behavior is worth more than a pound of words.”
– Sanford Meisner
At Bunnyfoot we use facial coding to pick up on these subtle micro expressions to gain further insight into the effect a product, website, app or advert has on your customers.
Facial coding is used to detect the true emotions of the unconscious mind.
Capturing emotional response at the exact time of impact provides precise identification of what has, or has not, stimulated the desired effect. Through facial coding we gain another layer of insight which can determine the potential success of a project with greater accuracy.
How it’s done
The eyebrows, eyes and mouth are three main areas of the face involved in expressing an emotion. Other signs are movement of the cheeks, wrinkling of the forehead and bunching of the chin.
We have created our own specialist software to capture the expression of emotions by matching the exact time an emotion is expressed with the users’ eye tracking behavior.
By combining facial coding with eye tracking technology we can not only tell what elements of a design are liked or disliked; we can investigate further to pinpoint exact reactions like confusion, consideration, doubt or intrigue.
Eye-tracking heat map
With the use of HD slow-motion video recording, we’re able to isolate the exact moment an emotion is expressed. We then compare the video with a real-time eye tracking heat map to find a direct correlation between the participant’s emotion and an individual design element.
We also use facial coding in concept testing to isolate the exact word or statement that may cause a participant to experience a specific emotion.
Eye-tracking output with gazeplots marked by emotions
To harness this innovative technique for our clients, Bunnyfoot employs in-house specialists trained to detect subtle changes in the face. We believe that by coding for emotions manually we are able to uncover more than ever before.
Most recently we used Facial Coding to test the effectiveness of a popular holiday company’s 2013 TV advert campaigns.
We broke the adverts down scene by scene which allowed us to identify what exactly was working and what wasn’t. With a limited budget and short time span we were able to produce effective recommendations for improvement based on our research. Our recommendations included a restructure of the adverts using the existing footage. The implemented improvements helped create a highly successful 2013 campaign. According to their findings website traffic increased by 69% and enquiries by 82% from the previous year.
Facial coding software
Above is an example of how we used facial coding software to pinpoint the exact moment of emotional response. Coding was manually matched with the participants’ eye tracking heat map to identify the exact scenes/statements that evoked a positive or negative emotion.
What are the benefits?
We’re not always consciously aware that we are experiencing an emotion and when put on the spot we are often unable to articulate it. By using facial coding we can gain access into the involuntary unconscious emotions which people experience in response to a stimulus.
For example, often a participant will say a positive remark but their actions will indicate otherwise.
Post-session facial coding can offer an invaluable layer of insight into how well your service (advert, website etc.) is performing, how likely it is to succeed and why.