Modern computing devices allow users to enter information using keyboards, mice, or touch screens. Mobile devices have additional sensors like gyrometers and accelerometers that orient the screen. All of these input devices collect data at millisecond precision.
Recent research has focused on a person’s emotional state and how those emotions affect their fine motor movements. Your emotions, like happiness, sadness, anger or frustration, cause immediate, uncontrolled changes in how your hand moves a computer mouse, navigates a touch pad screen or holds a smartphone. Below are the results of a series of controlled laboratory studies that we conducted to determine the effects of negative emotions on a person’s mouse cursor movements.
Participants were told they were going to take a timed, scored intelligence test, then given a monetary reward depending on how many questions they answered correctly. They were divided into two groups.
While the participants in the first group read the instructions, a timer in the upper right-hand corner of the screen began to count down. The questions took a long time to load, while the timer continued to count down. By the time each question loaded, there was only fifteen seconds left to answer a difficult question.
The screen repeatedly advanced to the next question before the participants could answer, telling them their time had run out because they took too long; creating frustration. Then these participants were told that because of their slow reaction time and incorrect answers, their scores indicated a lower intelligence level than most of the people who had taken the test; increasing frustration.
The second group was not timed, had easy questions, and was congratulated for answering every question correctly at the end of the test.
Theory predicts that frustration impacts the mind, increasing a person’s mental effort. As people experience increased mental effort, they become more indecisive, and their mouse movements get longer and slower.
Studies 2 and 3
In Study 2, we asked two different groups to navigate a fictitious e-commerce website, pretend to buy the product and then fill out a survey rating their emotional level.
The first group had a website that loaded slowly, along with many other errors, in an attempt to frustrate them. The second group experienced no problems with the website. Mouse cursor movements were captured during the website navigation for each group and the results were similar to Study 1—frustrated participants had longer, slower mouse movements.
We were also able to predict which participants had the “frustrating” website, and which ones didn’t, at an accuracy rate of about 82 per cent.
In Study 3, participants were asked to use real, web-based, product configuration systems to build either a Dell computer or a Volkswagen automobile. Each participant navigated through five different configurations with random degrees of difficulty, and was asked to rate his or her emotions after each task. Without knowing which participants had which configuration, we were able to identify who was experiencing frustration, whose frustration was building over time, and ultimately who was working on an easy, medium or hard configuration task, just by the changes in their mouse movements.
The studies above show that unfairness and challenging content leads to frustration. Prior research shows that increased frustration leads to increased mental effort. Increased mental effort causes predictable changes in mouse movements, which can be captured by all modern computer input devices.
Read more here: blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/2016/10/27/negative-emotions-influence-how-we-move-the-computer-mouse/