Facial Coding & Drinking Coffee

Determining Emotional & Rational Responses

When a person first experiences something, their face gives away their emotions through small muscle contractions called micro-expressions. People make choices in only a few milliseconds; the emotional and cognitive centres in the brain made the decision before you realise you have made the decision.

So, while you are forming your first impressions or making a decision, your facial expressions are giving away your thoughts before you even know you’ve had them!

This is really important for market researchers as it gives an insight into emotional thoughts and reactions before a person’s rational processes take over and influence they way they act.

Market researchers can use facial coding and eye tracking to understand how people think and feel.

Eye tracking allows researchers to see where the viewers (e.g. of an advert, video game etc.) are looking, the results of which can later be analysed to provide evidence of visual patterns. This is very popular in research into effective adverts, websites, television programmes, commercials, and many more.

Eye tracking can be used to assess the effectiveness of branding, navigation usability, advertisements, and overall design by examining fixation, blinking, pupil dilation, and saccades (the fast movement of eyes).

Facial coding looks at the facial expressions caused by contractions and relaxations of the facial muscles, voluntary and involuntary (the difference being that involuntary ones are much faster and fleeting than voluntary ones). These are basically system 1 and system 2 responses. System 1 is generally automatic and affective, which means it relies on mental “shortcuts” i.e. they are emotional responses. System 2 is more controlled, slow, effortful and conscious i.e. they are rational responses.

“System 1 is really in charge as it effortlessly originates impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2”  – John Pawle & Dominique Delfaud

We used facial coding in our study into cappuccino flavours (How does your cappuccino feel?) to see the system 1 responses and compare them to system 2 responses. We were testing new and unusual cappuccino flavours and found that consumers first reactions are to try and recognise the flavours rather than determine if they actually like or dislike them.

When the brain experiences an unexpected taste they show surprise as a system 1 response, but once the taste buds become acclimatised to the flavour, perhaps after a second taste, they may become more positive (or negative) about it, showing their system 2 response.

This shows that experience of the taste changes over time as system 2 responses take over from system 1 responses. We found that unrecognised or foreign tastes can produce a negative or uncertain system 1 response, but consumers learn to appreciate a taste as they become more familiar with it.

But recognised flavours tended to produce positive system 1 responses and system 2 responses remained positive, indicating that we like what we know as they tap into our emotions and memories to elicit a positive emotional response.

By using facial coding we got a unique insight into people’s emotional responses to flavour and how their rational responses can take over after more exposure to a flavour to change their initial emotional perceptions.

Read more here!

This video by Huffington Post of Kids tasting coffee for the first time will make your day (but it also shows some great system 1 & system 2 responses so it’s academic really…)

The QRi Team x