What is “emotion analysis”?

Do you believe everyone who says “fine” when asked how their day is going? Think everybody who RSVP’s to a party will show up? Chances are, there were clues in their facial expressions that gave away their true feelings. That’s facial coding at work, and my company – opening.co – is broadening its use.

A real “superpower”

Facial coding can gauge emotional sentiment. It’s a scientifically proven, data-driven approach to measuring true engagement. It’s used in many ways today — consumer research, politicians, gaming, security, etc. Show people a stimulus — new car design, movie trailer, political debate — and observe how they react. Greater accuracy can lead to more sales.

This same approach can, and should, be used by companies to analyze workplace interactions like sales pitches, employee engagement, training classes, job seekers, or C-level presentations. Getting any of these activities wrong impacts the top and/or bottom line.

Companies, if at all, typically measure sentiment through surveys — asking people how they felt about something. The problem with this approach is that people have any number of reasons to lie, consciously or not. “People don’t think their emotions; they emote them,” says Dan Hill. Why is this an important distinction? Because people are bad at recognizing how they feel. Self-reported feedback is, well, self-reported.

Instead of asking people for their opinion, use facial coding to more accurately see how they feel. Here are a few examples:

  • The Milwaukee Bucks choose their top draft pick based on cultural fit and not skills alone.
  • The TV show, Lie to Me, demonstrates the power of facial coding, when you know what you’re looking for.

UCLA research has shown that only 7% of communication is based on words. 38% comes from tone of voice and 55% comes from body language. How you say something has far more impact than what you say. So, another use for facial coding involves understanding the emotions you give off when communicating (the “how”). Here’s an example, in this case a politician, of measuring true emotions. This kind of analysis could be used to improve a sales pitch, team meeting, executive presentation, teaching style, etc. There are countless developmental opportunities.

For example, I know a leadership consultant. He’s as reflective and insightful as they come….always looking to improve himself and his clients. We analyzed a video of his, and, amongst other things, found a trace of anger. While acknowledging the feeling, he thought he could suppress it. One can only make improvements when they understand the areas in which they need to address.

How does facial coding work? 

Communication is complex. There are words, but also tone and context, and things like sarcasm, that add additional meaning. Because of this, humans read faces better than machines, for now. That’s why we partnered with an authority on emotions in consumer and employee behavior — Dan Hill, President of Sensory Logic.

There’s also technology that should eventually catch up. The energy and money being spent to figure this out is incredible, and we’re excited to take part. For any naysayers, don’t be alarmed. “Artificial intelligence…will benefit everyone by boosting productivity and creating opportunities for humans to work more creatively,” according to Bill Ingram. And, before you dismiss emotions as “touchy-feely” and not something worth measuring, keep in mind:

  • Emotions drive purchasing decisions as marketers know (see Apple or BMW).
  • EQ vs. IQ. “What really matters for success, character, happiness and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ — not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.”  — Daniel Goleman
  • CEO emotions can drive stock price, as Dr. James Cicon has written about.

Rely on your gut?

“Unconscious bias is often hiding in plain sight,” as Lydia Dishman explains. She’s referencing the hiring process, but bias extends well beyond that. And we are all guilty. Your bias, judgment, experience, can be helpful, but it can also betray you for many reasons, for example, limited experience or superficial details.

There’s hope. Tools like facial coding can accurately measure what all we naturally try to do – judge people’s true meaning or intent – but have no formal training in how to do so properly. And without this insight, companies are leaving money on the table, or worse, just throwing it away.

So, next time you find yourself wondering what a person is thinking — during an interview, sales pitch, training class, presentation — know that there is a better way. You don’t have to guess or take their word for it.

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