Moodmetric and quantified inner state

Guest post by Matti Nelimarkka


Before Christmas, I took part in research where I read news and my emotional state was monitored via Moodmetric. Thus, it was rather classical in the field-study, trying to validate if the technology and data analysis strategy can be used outside laboratories too. I’m waiting to hear the results, the challenge with psychophysiological measurements is noisiness, and doing the measurements when I’m under blanket or riding the bus should just generate more noise. But science aside, let’s speak my experience.


Once monitored, humans are often more conscious about their activities. I know this as the new effect but different fields approach this naturally using their own terminology for this well phenomena. What this meant for me was a rather weird experience of higher than normal ambiguity or unsureness about my own feelings. First, the need to label my emotions as well as being measured on those might have lead to social conformity; the need to report and feel the experiences one might experience.

More interestingly, towards the end I had difficulty to acknowledge my emotions. Naturally, Finnish news might not be the most interesting and emotion triggering material out there, but I think it wasn’t just about this. Instead, I believe that the knowledge of “scientific” measurements and my trust towards technology lead to the question: should the machine already know what I’m experiencing, why am I part of the loop here? I tried to outsource the interpretation of my emotional state to the magical ring, instead of asking myself these questions. Considering how vital part of humanity emotions are, it is somewhat worrying that I rather voluntarily left the task to the machine ands begs for me the question, at what point I’m no longer capable of understanding myself due to trusting these technologies too much?

Well, moving away from this type of autobiography to see what academia is saying on this. Unfortunately, I’m more familiar with the empirical work even while the real question here is more philosophical. Study on the feedback loops of psychophysiological adaptive system have recently gained some attraction in academia. Snyder et al (2015). studied both individual and group work situations aiming to support mindfulness through an adaptive psychophysiological system, MoodLight. They observed participants feeling somewhat weird after a system presented their internal state to them, but also trusted the output of the system:

For example, one participant felt that she was highly aroused, “stressed” in her words, although the output of the lights was a steady blue-violet. Rather than questioning the accuracy of the reading, she concluded, “I guess I’ve gotten better at not being totally enraged.”

In group situation, participants explained how they were not sure who is affecting the output in the end. Thus, based on my experiences and a super-shallow academic reading we can acknowledge the interesting effect these tools have in everyday life, even the awkwardness related to constant self-monitoring. Maybe an interesting design challenge would be considering how we relate to these technologies, more specially how we ensure that people still are sure of their own inner state – no matter what the sensors think.

Cross posted from Science & Industry