New Software Reads Human Emotion Better than Humans

Following research on how humans express emotion through facial expressions, MIT scientists have created new computer software that understands human emotion better than we do. 

What's the Latest Development?

If someone asked you to imitate a frustrated person, you would probably not begin your impression by smiling, but new behavioral research out of MIT demonstrates that a smile is a common expression of frustration. In a study, individuals were recorded while completing tasks meant to solicit responses of happiness and frustration. In the latter case, people filled out an online form only to have their information erased upon clicking the "submit" button. When strangers were shown photos of the smiles and asked to tell which was "happy" and which was "frustrated", they performed no better than chance, suggesting we may not judge the emotion of others with as much accuracy as we would like. 

What's the Big Idea?

MIT researchers then created a computer program which could differentiate between frustrated and happy smiles better than humans. Jeffrey Cohn, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh who was not involved in the research, said the work was especially interesting because of how it integrated psychology, computer vision, speech processing and machine learning to generate new knowledge. "The research could pave the way for computers that better assess the emotional states of their users and respond accordingly. It could also help train those who have difficulty interpreting expressions, such as people with autism, to more accurately gauge the expressions they see."

Photo credit:


'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Supreme Court to hear 3 cases on LGBT workplace discrimination

In most states, LGBTQ Americans have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.

(Photo by Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to gay and transgender people.
  • The court, which currently has a probable conservative majority, will likely decide on the cases in 2020.
  • Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws effectively extending the Civil Rights of 1964 to gay and transgender people.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less

Afghanistan is the most depressed country on Earth

No, depression is not just a type of "affluenza" — poor people in conflict zones are more likely candidates

Image: Our World in Data / CC BY
Strange Maps
  • Often seen as typical of rich societies, depression is actually more prevalent in poor, conflict-ridden countries
  • More than one in five Afghans is clinically depressed – a sad world record
  • But are North Koreans really the world's 'fourth least depressed' people?
Keep reading Show less