Facial expressions are powerful. Our faces often communicate emotions and reactions that are challenging to put into words. In the world of market research, understanding emotions is hugely powerful but difficult to achieve.

Historically in research, facial expressions have been observed by researchers in-person or recorded on video. Researchers then try to assess emotional response from the participant’s facial expressions. However, human assessment has many limitations.

Facial expression recognition technology offers an opportunity to deliver greater insight into personal sentiment and reactions. This type of research is particularly powerful in advertisement testing research. Within a survey, an ad can be shown and a respondent’s facial expression can be captured via their webcam. The technology captures the facial expression and then analyzes it for facial movements that correspond to emotions. Facial imaging uses machine learning algorithms to build a reference database of expressions against which to judge the face being viewed.

This emerging research trend is currently being used by 20 percent of researchers and is under consideration among an additional 25 percent of researchers, according to the Q3/Q4 2017 GRIT Study.

While new and innovative research trends can add great value to the insights community, we must evaluate the reaction of our participants. And whether different demographic segments have different reactions to participating in facial analysis research. Branded Research helps our clients find and target participants for this value research.

At Branded, we polled our community and asked our users if they would feel comfortable having their facial expressions analyzed as part of a research study. Our poll was conducted on August 17, 2018 and 16,549 users responded.

Overall, 48 percent of our users said they would feel comfortable having their facial expressions analyzed as part of research.

Digging into the data, we observed nuances by key demographic segments. Among the generations, Gen X consumers (age 39-50) are most likely to say they would be open to having their facial expressions analyzed for research. Approximately 52 percent of Gen X are interested in participating in facial analysis research, compared to 50 percent of Millennials (age 22-38), 44 percent of Baby Boomers (age 51-69) and 39 percent of the Silent Generation (age 70+).

Openness to facial analysis research is even more pronounced among men. Approximately 52 percent of men are interested in facial recognition research compared to 45 percent of women. And across the generations, 57 percent of Gen X men, 53 percent of Millennial men, 48 percent of Baby Boomer men and 43 percent of the Silent Generation men are interested in participating in facial recognition research.