Your Mouse Knows When You’re Mad

Did you know that when you get frustrated with your computer you move your mouse more slowly? Your computer knows. In fact, researchers at BYU have figured out tell-tale signs of frustration, anger, and confusion in users just by looking at their mouse movements.

The team discovered that when users were “upset or confused” the mouse did not move in a curved path or straight across the screen and instead became “jagged and sudden.” Angry people moved their mouse more slowly.

“Using this technology, websites will no longer be dumb,” said BYU researcher Professor Jeffrey Jenkins. “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.”

“It’s counterintuitive; people might think, ‘When I’m frustrated, I start moving the mouse faster,” Jenkins said. “Well, no, you actually start moving slower.”

The system takes data points from your mouse movements in real time and can correlate these with mood. He expects that web designers will be able to use this tech to improve their sites, automatically sensing when a user becomes confused while clicking around the page.

Jenkins has started a small company that holds the license to the research and he will be working to make websites smarter. He can also assess a person’s anger using a mobile device based on the swipes and taps made on the screen.

“Traditionally it has been very difficult to pinpoint when a user becomes frustrated, leading them to not come back to a site,” he said. “Being able to sense a negative emotional response, we can adjust the website experience to eliminate stress or to offer help.”