Coming back from my first Measuring Behavior (MB) conference, a number of colleagues asked me how it was - did I enjoy myself, and would I write a blog about it? So here I am, overwhelmed by all the information I received during my two days at the conference, but clueless as to what to write about my experience. Where do I start, which things would I like to highlight, and what struck me the most?
May 2016, Dublin - Early morning and the hotel lobby is already buzzing. Researchers from all over the world, members of the organizing committee, student volunteers, sales staff - all are gathering for the same purpose: the first day of Measuring Behavior 2016. At ten minutes to 9, the chatter slowly stops when Cathal Gurrin takes center stage. "Fáilte roimh a baile átha Cliath, welcome to Dublin!"
Every two years, the international multi-disciplinary conference Measuring Behavior is organized and held in Europe. If you are a behavioral researcher, you really shouldn’t miss it. Why?
Here are 10 reasons why you should attend Measuring Behavior 2016!
Measuring Behavior is an international multidisciplinary conference which takes place every two years. This August it is in Wageningen, in the Netherlands. If you are a behavioral researcher, you really ought to attend. Why?
1. The diverse, multidisciplinary program. The scientific program contains contributions focusing on purely scientific aspects (issues of replicability, dynamic aspects of behavior) and applied research (animal welfare), human behavior (eye trackers in consumer research) and animal (rodent behavior), technical sessions (video tracking of social animals and recognition of human behaviors from video), sessions presenting the latest technology (3D simulators) and topics that are of relevance to everyone (eating behavior of people). The above list just scratches the surface of what promises to be a very diverse and interesting three days.
Topics: animal behavior research, emotion recognition, animal welfare, methods and techniques, Automating behavioral observations, human behavior research, consumer behavior, behavioral research, measuring behavior, conferences
Automated video tracking is a valuable tool in many rodent studies, such as research on animal models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Diagnosis of ASD is based on behavior alone in humans, so naturally, behavior is an important part of human as well as rodent studies.
In some cases, research requires traveling. Is this the case in your project? On the one hand, you might want to observe people in a natural setting: at their own home, in shops, in classrooms, or in offices. On the other hand, people might not be healthy enough to travel to your lab. Observational research can be carried out on-site, however, there are some factors you need to take into consideration, such as lighting conditions, camera position, and voice recording. Most importantly, is everybody on-site in agreement about the video recordings or the direct observations? Here you can read two examples of on-site observational studies involving elderly people as participants. No matter what kind of research question you wish to answer, performing on-site research has both limitations and advantages compared to lab studies. Read on to learn more!
The self-reported liking ratings of orange juices correlate significantly with such basic emotions as anger, disgust, and happiness. Three scientists from University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Department of Food Science and Technology), Vienna, Austria have used FaceReader™ software  to test people’s reactions to tasty and not-so-tasty orange juices . The program – automatically analyzing facial expressions – provides instantaneous, precise reading of the participant’s emotional state. The reactions can be discretely recorded and give insight to participants’ more “sincere” opinions about the tasted products.
The researchers carried out two related experiments - the participants were either aware (explicit condition) or unaware (implicit condition) of the video recording. In the explicit condition, the least liked orange juice (as measured by self-report) – orange juice syrup - elicited the strongest “disgusted” facial expressions as in comparison to other types of juice. Additionally, in this condition, the most liked orange juice – freshly squeezed – elicited the happiest expressions. Surprising results came from the implicit condition – where people were unaware of the video recording. The least liked juice still caused most angry and disgusted expressions but the most liked juice did not elicit significantly more happy facial expressions. The scientists concluded that it is feasible to test consumer products with this new method – computerized facial coding system.
Early in life, children are not capable of filling out a complete questionnaire or talking to an interviewer. In that case, observing behavior can provide valuable information in combination with parental interviews.
It is hard to choose blog posts to highlight in a Year in Review article when there are so many posts to choose from. So the best thing we can do is provide you with an overview of the most interesting themes and blogs we presented in 2012 and let you decide which one you liked the most! The most interesting themes from the Behavioral Research Blog are highlighted below:
Topics: human behavior research
Computerized learning tools have already become a standard educational tool in many institutions. The break-through point was when many leading universities joined up on common platforms and offered so-called massive open online course (MOOC) such as https://www.coursera.org/universities. The courses - open for everyone - have thousands of participants. In e-learning courses, participants receive the semi-individualized feedback only thanks to the sophisticated computer algorithms. The algorithms employ the patterns of characteristics of correct and incorrect answers. Additionally, keyboard- and mouse- movements are measured to provide feedback. This entire instantaneous assessment relies on the logical and rational input while unintentionally omitting the affective and emotional factors. However, computer scientists and psychologists have recently developed tools to automatically assess and analyze patterns of emotions in the participants of the computerized courses. A computer – equipped with a standard webcam - may analyze in-real time an emotional state of the participant who is taking an online course. Research proves that such automated affective assessment improves learning outcomes due to the enriched feedback it can provide.
The scientists from University of Macedonia, Greece  found that empathetic and emotional feedback facilitates computerized learning and assessment (e-learning). A presence of digital avatar that responds to a student’s emotional state increases the perceived: usefulness, ease of use and playfulness of the studied material. The researchers used FaceReader  - software that automatically recognize facial expressions of emotions - to prove that instantaneously assessing participants’ emotions helps in the learning process. In the experiment, the digital female avatar showed corresponding empathetic feedback, only if FaceReader and the independent human judges agreed with each other. If they both agreed that participant looked “sad” then the female digital avatar showed sad face –empathizing with the student– and then she smiled and said encouragingly “cheer up, continue trying and you will succeed.” Students that learnt the material with empathetic and emotional avatar perceived the material as more easy to learn, enjoyable and useful than the control group.