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Comparing affective responses to standardized pictures and videos: A study report

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Multimedia documents such as text, images, sounds or videos elicit emotional responses of different polarity and intensity in exposed human subjects. These stimuli are stored in affective multimedia databases. The problem of emotion processing is an important issue in Human-Computer Interaction and different interdisciplinary studies particularly those related to psychology and neuroscience. Accurate prediction of users' attention and emotion has many practical applications such as the development of affective computer interfaces, multifaceted search engines, video- on-demand, Internet communication and video games. To this regard we present results of a study with N=10 participants to investigate the capability of standardized affective multimedia databases in stimulation of emotion. Each participant was exposed to picture and video stimuli with previously determined semantics and emotion. During exposure participants' physiological signals were recorded and estimated for emotion in an off-line analysis. Participants reported their emotion states after each exposure session. The a posteriori and a priori emotion values were compared. The experiment showed, among other reported results, that carefully designed video sequences induce a stronger and more accurate emotional reaction than pictures. Individual participants' differences greatly influence the intensity and polarity of experienced emotion.
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Comparing affective responses to standardized pictures and videos: A study
report
Marko Horvat1, Davor Kukolja2 and Dragutin Ivanec3
1Polytechnic of Zagreb, Department of Computer Science and Information Technology
2University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, Department of Electric Machines, Drives and
Automation
3University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Psychology
E-mail: marko.horvat@tvz.hr
Cite as: M. Horvat, D. Kukolja, and D. Ivanec, “Comparing affective responses to standardized pictures and videos: A study report,” In
MIPRO, 2015 Proceedings of the 38th International Convention, IEEE, pp. 1394 1398, May 2015.
Abstract - Multimedia documents such as text, images,
sounds or videos elicit emotional responses of different
polarity and intensity in exposed human subjects. These
stimuli are stored in affective multimedia databases. The
problem of emotion processing is an important issue in
Human-Computer Interaction and different interdisciplinary
studies particularly those related to psychology and
neuroscience. Accurate prediction of users’ attention and
emotion has many practical applications such as the
development of affective computer interfaces, multifaceted
search engines, video-on-demand, Internet communication
and video games. To this regard we present results of a study
with N=10 participants to investigate the capability of
standardized affective multimedia databases in stimulation of
emotion. Each participant was exposed to picture and video
stimuli with previously determined semantics and emotion.
During exposure participants’ physiological signals were
recorded and estimated for emotion in an off-line analysis.
Participants reported their emotion states after each exposure
session. The a posteriori and a priori emotion values were
compared. The experiment showed, among other reported
results, that carefully designed video sequences induce a
stronger and more accurate emotional reaction than pictures.
Individual participants’ differences greatly influence the
intensity and polarity of experienced emotion.
I. INTRODUCTION
Any multimedia file can generate positive, negative or
neutral emotions of varying intensity and duration [1]. By
observing still images, films, printed text or listening to
sounds, music and voices emotional states of affected
subjects may be modulated [2] [3]. This spontaneous
cognitive process is an important research topic in
psychology, neuroscience and cognitive sciences but also
in many interdisciplinary domains like Affective
Computing and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).
Multimedia documents with a priori annotated semantic
and emotion content are stored in affective multimedia
databases and are intended for inducing or stimulating
emotions in exposed subjects. Because of their purpose
such multimedia documents are also referred to as stimuli.
Affective multimedia databases are standardized which
allows them to be used in a controllable and predictable
manner: the emotion elicitation results can be measured,
replicated and validated by different research teams [4] [5].
Combined with immersive and unobtrusive visualization
hardware in low-interference ambient affective multimedia
databases provide a simple, low-cost and efficient means to
investigate a wide range of emotional reactions [6] [7].
Compared to static pictures and sound, video is more
powerful format for elicitation of emotional states because
it can seamlessly and concurrently stimulates visual and
auditory senses thereby multiplying their individual
impacts through psychophysiological and neurological
underlying mechanisms [8] [9]. It has been repetitively
experimentally demonstrated that if careful attention is
paid to video editing, i.e. the temporal and contextual
alignment of multimedia stream relative to personal
cognitions of targeted subjects, it is possible to achieve
more intense and accurate stimulation of emotional states
and related phenomena such as attention, anxiety and stress
[7]. In practical terms affective video databases are much
more useful tools than picture of sound databases.
However, today very few affective video databases exist
while the most prevalent are picture databases. Therefore,
it is important to explore the possibility and scope of using
documents from existing picture and sound databases to
construct successful video sequences for fast, accurate and
strong stimulation of emotional states. This goal was
behind the motivation for the described study.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows;
Section 2 provides background information about the
experimental study and its setup. Section 3 brings forward
the results of the study which are discussed in Section 4.
Finally, Section 5 concludes the paper and outlines future
work into this subject.
II. METHOD
The study was performed at University of Zagreb,
Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing in
cooperation with experts from Department of Psychology,
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. A
homogeneous group of N=10 college students (4 males, 6
women) with an average age 23.8 years (std = 4.35)
participated in the experiment.
Each participant was stimulated with videos and still
images taken from the International Affective Picture
System (IAPS) [4] and the International Affective Digital
Sounds System (IADS) [5]. IAPS and IADS are two of the
most cited databases in the area of affective stimulation.
These databases were created with three goals in mind: i)
better experimental control of emotional stimuli, ii)
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increasing the ability of cross-study comparisons of results,
and iii) facilitating direct replication of undertaken studies
[10]. In this experiment a picture from IAPS and a sound
from IADS were combined to make one video-clip. Same
IAPS pictures were also used as still image stimuli without
sounds. Some of the pictures used to construct the emotion
elicitation sequences are shown in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1. A sample of IAPS pictures used as emotion eliciting video
clips and images. Neutral (left column), fear (middle) and
happiness dominant emotion stimuli (right).
The dominant emotions purposely elicitated in the
experiment were happiness and fear. The stimuli were
selected using published research on emotion norms in
IAPS and IADS [11] [12] as the most powerful images and
sounds for simulation of the two targeted emotions. Firstly,
using 200 images and 100 sounds were selected and ranked
based on their intensity of happiness and fear emotion
norms [11] [12]. Secondly, the sorted list was thoroughly
examined by psychology experts and 20 optimal pictures
and 20 sounds were manually selected for inclusion in the
elicitation sequences. These stimuli were considered the
most likely to induce happiness and fear in the
participants’ population.
Each participant was exposed to four emotion elicitation
sequences in two separate sessions or series. Each session
consisted of one happiness sequence and one fear inducing
sequence, and also of one video sequence and one still
image sequence. A single sequence was made up from 10
images or 10 video-clips (Fig. 2). Therefore, in total each
participant was exposed to 20 images and 20 video-clips.
The length of each stimulus was exactly 15 seconds after
which the participant was shown a blank neutral screen and
had to write down his affective judgments in a self-
assessment questionnaire (SAQ). The expression of
subjects’ ratings was not time restricted after which the
participant could resume the sequence by himself (i.e. with
a mouse click). Immediately before the start of the
experiment each participant was separately introduced to
the stimulation protocol with a neutral sequence. The
neutral sequence consisted of one low arousal and valence
picture (N Pic) and one video-clip without dominant
emotions (N Video). All stimulation sequences are
available by contacting the first author.
Half of the participants were first exposed to happiness
sequences, and then fear sequences, and also a half of the
participants first watched still images and then videos. To
prevent the unwanted drift of physiological signals (cardiac
and respiratory) before nonneutral sequences participants
were exposed to a neutral stimulus until their baseline
response was established [13]. The neutral blank screen
only showed teal color which − according to [14] − has an
optimal ratio of stimulating positive and negative
emotions.
The participants’ emotional responses were recorded by
two methods: 1) self-assessment responses i 2) real-time
monitoring of physiological signals. After each exposure to
a stimulus participants filled out a self-assessment
questionnaire. Each report was unique to a specific
stimulus and participants could not see its contents before
the stimulus has finished. The test contained following
instructions: 1) “Evaluate the type and intensity of
emotions” for each of the emotional norms (“happiness”,
‘sadness”, “disgust”, “fear” and “some other emotion” if
none of previous) on a scale with values 0 − 9, where 0
represented “None”, 9 “Extremely” while 5 was a neutral
value; and 2) “Evaluate pleasure and arousal” with values -
4 4 where value -4 was labeled “Extremely unpleasant”
and “Extremely calming”, and 4 “Extremely pleasant” and
“Extremely arousing”. Value 0 indicated a neutral
sensation of valence or arousal. The report was validated
during the preparations for the experiment.
The monitored physiological signals were skin
conductance, electrocardiogram (ECG), respiration and
skin temperature with a sampling frequency of 1250 Hz.
For the acquisition of signals we used BIOPAC MP150
with AcqKnowledge software. The system was
synchronized with SuperLab tool for presentation of
stimuli to the participants. Emotional states were estimated
off-line, with varying levels of certainty, from the recorded
signals using previously developed MATLAB software
[15] [16]. Before starting the experiment, each participant
read the instructions, filled introductory questionnaire and
signed informed consent agreement. Additional help, if
necessary, was provided by the trained lab assistant who
also placed physiological sensors on the participant’s body.
Fig. 2. The timeline of emotion stimulation paradigm. The order of dominant emotion (happiness/fear) and multimedia format
(picture/video) were randomized.
Participants were seated in a separate part of the lab, 60
90 cm before a 19" 4:3 high-definition LCD computer monitor and wore ergonomic headphones. The supervisor
station was equipped with a separate computer monitor
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where the experiment was controlled and participants’
psychological signals were monitored in real-time [16].
The experimenter and participants were physically
separated by a solid artificial wall and had no mutual
visual or auditory contact. Additionally, participants did
not experience sensory distractions during the experiment.
The implemented procedures and the experimental layout
were compatible with a setup of a common
psychophysiological laboratory [17].
Fig. 3. The layout of participants’ station. A person is observing
LCD screen with audio headphones and wearing skin
conductance, electrocardiogram, respiration and skin temperature
contact sensors connected to BIOPAC MP150 system. Self-
assessment questionnaire is on the desk. Supervisor is seated on
the other side of the wall barrier.
A rest period followed each exposure session during
which participants relaxed. This was verified by examining
the physiological signal parameters that were visualized in
real time. The exposure could resume only after the
baseline signal levels were reestablished.
III. RESULTS
The potential of evoking emotional reactions using
video clips − constructed from IAPS pictures and IADS
sounds and IAPS pictures was evaluated under equal
conditions. Emotional dimensions pleasure and arousal
were rated on a scale 1 9, and emotion norms (i.e.
discrete emotions) on a scale 1 10. A lower value (1 − 3)
in both scales implies a lesser experience and a higher
value (7 10) a more intense experience of the particular
emotional dimension or norm, respectively. Also, higher
frequency of ratings in the upper part of the scale (response
> 5) or the highest attainable values (9 and 10) signifies a
more intense and powerful stimulation. The frequencies of
responses are displayed as frequency distribution diagrams.
The aggregated results are shown in Fig. 4.
IV. DISCUSION
Results based on the analysis of participants’ self-
assessments indicate that the most pronounced reported
difference is in arousal emotion dimension. Indeed, videos
relative to pictures can more frequently stimulate higher
arousal in sequences with dominant happiness and fear.
Additionally, video sequences often stimulated higher
levels of pleasure in happiness sequences, and lower levels
of pleasure in fear sequences, but this distinction is less
pronounced than with arousal.
From Fig. 4 it is evident that video sequences were more
powerful in stimulation of both emotional dimensions than
picture sequences. Happiness-dominant video sequences
more often elicited higher levels of happiness basic
emotion than happiness-dominant picture sequences.
Similarly, fear-dominant video sequences provoked more
above average fear ratings than fear-dominant picture
sequences. Although frequency distribution differences in
basic emotions are present, they are less obvious than the
spread in emotional dimensions, especially arousal. In
general, the emotion provoking potential of video is more
apparent in emotional valence and arousal than in specific
emotions happiness, sadness, disgust and fear. Due to
reported low stimulation of other emotions except fear and
happiness it may be concluded that the sequences were
emotionally accurate. This is particularly evident in very
low levels of disgust and sadness in happiness sequences
and even in fear sequences. In overall video sequences
provoked a “cleaner” and more powerful affective
response, i.e. with lower reported intensities of emotions
different from those targeted, than picture sequences which
corresponds well with findings from previous studies [13]
[18].
However, because of relatively small number of
participants the results analysis is strongly influenced with
noticable differences between individual reports. There is a
significant variability in the intensity of provoked emotion,
polarity (i.e. positive or negative) and discrete category
among some participants. Such discrepancies are present in
video and picture sequences.
Unfortunately, due to objective reasons it was not
possible to include more participants in the study.
Subsequently, an independent stimulation protocol could
not be implemented and the same visual stimuli had to be
used in video and image sessions. If the number of
participants was significantly larger different stimuli could
be used in videos and images.
Based on the collected results it can be expected that
multimedia sequences, carefully prepared for a particular
group of participants, will be able to provoke targeted
emotional states with the desired intensity. However,
construction of optimal sequences proved to be difficult
because IAPS, and particularly, IADS databases do not
have a wide selection of stimuli with accentuated specific
basic emotions. A better choice of provoking visual stimuli
is clearly needed which encourages construction of more
affective multimedia databases, annotated both with
emotional dimensions and discrete emotions, and having a
large semantic space. This in turn necessitates
development of powerful tools for multimedia stimuli
retrieval which can efficiently perform multifaceted search
in such databases, along several emotional, semantic and
contextual data dimensions, thus assisting researchers in
finding optimal stimuli for personalized emotion elicitation
sequences [19].
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Fig. 4. Frequency distribution of N=10 participants ratings after elicitation with IAPS and IADS video clips (“Video”) and IAPS
pictures (“Pictures”). Reported emotional dimensions arousal and pleasure (upper and middle rows), discrete emotions happiness and
fear (bottom row).
V. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
Emotional reactions can be induced by virtually any
multimedia format: films, pictures, sounds, voice and even
text. Participants’ responses depend not only on stimuli
content, properties and type, but also on a number of
intrinsic and extrinsic factors which may be difficult to
control in a practical experiment [13] [17]. For example,
participants motivation, attitude, character traits, beliefs,
past experiences and the experimental environment (i.e. the
setup of the laboratory and the experimental protocol) play
an extremely important role in formation of emotion.
Therefore, a comparison of emotional reactions induced by
pictures and videos may be regarded as a hands-on tutorial
for researchers as to which multimedia stimuli properties
can lead to more accurate, precise and faster elicitation.
The study showed that standardized picture and sound
databases can be joined together and used as videos for
elicitation of high-arousal emotional states. Deliberate and
practical stimulation of discrete emotions happiness and
fear is attainable but it is more difficult and prone to error,
especially happiness. The least successful was stimulation
of very positive, i.e. high valence, emotional states.
We hope that the presented study could be used in
design of emotion elicitation protocols as well as future
affective multimedia databases. Additionally, the study’s
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results may help researchers to find the optimal multimedia
format for elicitation of emotion even if appropriate video
stimuli are not available.
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