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The Role of Facial Expressions in User Research

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Obtaining feedback from users during a research study is not always just about listening to what people have to say. As researchers, we should listen to what participants tell us while also focusing on their nonverbal behaviors like posture, hand gestures, facial expressions, etc. This nonverbal data can be coupled with other qualitative feedback you observe, and it will help you better understand what the user’s actual feelings and emotions are during the test session.

In our first webinar of this 3-part series we discussed the role of body language in user research. We looked at some examples of different postures, gestures, and facial expressions people often make and we shared some tips for how to respond as the moderator when you’re in those situations.

In this webinar, we are going to dive deeper into facial expressions specifically and the role they play in user research. We’ll share some common situations in UX research and some of the more relevant facial expressions to pick up on while observing users. We will be discussing the seven universal facial expressions of emotion, which are:
– Fear
– Happiness
– Sadness
– Surprise
– Anger
– Disgust
– Neutrality

Recognizing these facial expressions and attributes can help moderators to classify a person’s mental and emotional state throughout a test session. Utilizing facial recognition can and should be used in combination with established research methods, such as usability testing, to provide a more detailed view of users’ experiences. For example, when testing the new website of a financial institution, you may find that users are able to use the site and complete tasks successfully, but are potentially experiencing surprises in response to certain messaging on the site. It’s great that tasks are being completed successfully, but it’s the facial expressions that are commonly overlooked and detecting these emotional reactions can and will aid in creating the most pleasant experience for users.