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An eye tracker measures the movement of our eyes. The device allows scientists to capture our visual perceptions as objectively as possible. UGent’s IPEM (Institute for Psychoacustics and Electronic Music) asked human subjects to observe two dancing figures through an eye tracker, and to choose which one was sad and which one was happy. The dots indicate which body parts most people kept an eye on in order to distinguish between those two emotions.
  • Maker: Edith Van Dyck and Pieter Vansteenkiste (researcher), IPEM (Institute for Psychoacustics and Electronic Music)
  • Date: 2014
  • Collection: Department of Art, music and theatre sciences
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Can somebody else identify a dancer’s mood merely by looking at their dance moves?

What does an eye tracker do?

An eye tracker is a device that measures the position and movement of the eye.

What are the scientists at IPEM trying to find out?

A study by Ghent University has already shown that emotions have an effect on the way you dance. But can somebody else identify a dancer’s mood merely by looking at their dance moves? Researchers at IPEM (the Institute for Psychoacoustics and Electronic Music) and the Department of Movement and Sports Sciences joined forces to answer this research question.

How did they approach the research?

The research was conducted in two phases. Firstly, test subjects had to move to music after being put in a happy or sad mood. Twelve cameras recorded the dancers’ movements, then turned them into depersonalised avatars. In the second phase, new test subjects watched a video of the two avatars: a ‘happy’ one and a ‘sad’ one. They wore an eye tracker to do this. The test subjects had to indicate which emotional state went with which dance.

What were the results of this research?

In approximately 85% of cases, the test subjects could identify the dancer’s mood. The emotional state of female dancers was identified most often. Furthermore, it turned out that the test subjects focused mainly on the movements of the ‘happy’ dancers. The ‘happy’ test subjects made faster, bigger and more impulsive movements than the ‘sad’ ones. The hand movements gave the dancers’ emotions away most clearly.

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