Study finds Mouse actions indicate Anger and Frustration

We’ve all heard the stat/phrase, “93% of communication is non-verbal.” Well, apparently even your computer mouse is aware. A new research study has shown that when you’re angry or frustrated, your mouse navigation behavior chances significantly.

The research report titled “Inferring Negative Emotion from Mouse Cursor Movements,” which will be later featured in MIS Quarterly, found that the way computer users move their mouse can tell a lot about how they are feeling – particularly when those emotions are negative.

In the study, which monitored some 270 users around the globe in real-time, researchers were able to predict negative emotions like frustration, sadness, fear and depression with more than 80% accuracy based on how the user navigated their computer mouse.

Users were tracked doing a variety of task from paying bills to browsing the web. The researchers designed the tasks in such a way as to make some activities frustrating to see the effect on participants.

When a participant became upset (for example by slow loading pages on timed tests) researchers found clear differences in how they navigated the mouse around the screens. Frustrated and angry users were less efficient and actually moved more slowly. Their mouse strokes tended not to move in the normally streamlined motion but rather slowed down and became jerkier.

While some might wonder how this kind of research could be useful, for website developers users’ mouse activity could give insights for development. If a developer, for instance, can note signs of anger or frustration when users are navigating a website, they can look for ways to fix the issues causing the frustration. The insightful data could also allow web designers to find ways to develop websites that can respond to user movements and then deliver tailored interfaces based on the individual’s mood or ability.

But besides looking at how users interact with their computer mice, they also hope to extend their studies further into the realm of mobile devices. By utilizing accelerometers inside phones and tablets, they may be able to find differences in how users interact with touch screen devices depending on their moods.

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