We may like to think that we are indescribably complex emotional creatures, but computer scientists at Brigham Young University are finding that they can accurately predict one side of ourselves—our dark, angry side—simply by tracking the way we move a mouse while on a computer. "Using this technology, websites will no longer be dumb," lead researcher Jeffrey Jenkins says. "Websites can go beyond just presenting information, but they can sense you. They can understand not just what you’re providing, but what you’re feeling." Reporting in the journal MIS Quarterly, the researchers say this ability could enable web developers to, say, fix the parts of web experiences that consistently frustrate the masses.
To test this, Jenkins and colleagues engaged dozens of computer users in three experiments, reports Ars Technica. First, they randomly antagonized 65 Mechanical Turk users and monitored their cursors; the more frustrated users moved their cursors more sporadically and, counterintuitively, more slowly. Next they randomly annoyed 126 different participants on a mock e-commerce site and found that they spotted the frustrated users with 82% accuracy. Finally, they asked 80 participants to report their emotions while using an online tool, and this is where they were able to gauge the level of negative emotion, too. Jenkins has already patented the tech, and is working on extending it to touchscreens. Fine, so long as it's not used "for evil things like an Orwellian dystopian future where our every emotional whim is monitored by the government, or advertisers," warns the Daily Dot. (How about Microsoft's attempt to track our faces?)