Look Into My Eyes: Empathy Develops Early

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When reviewing participant responses during a mobile video survey, our brilliant project managers (as someone who eats lunch with them, I can safely say that) aren’t just listening to what’s being said; Like a film critic worth their salt, they’re extracting insight from everything in the given frame. How is the room behind the participant organized? Are their walls bare? How is their fridge set up? Do they record with people in the background or do they find privacy? However, before project managers look to the edges of the frame, they begin with the participant themselves.


From the first moment the participant hits record, they’re telling a story. Their body language delicately communicates comfort, discomfort, exhaustion, energy, or excitement, amongst other things. Their facial expressions can subtly inform a project manager of a wide range of emotions. Indeed, it’s amazing how much insight can be gleaned when examining a participant’s one-minute video response. The question begs to be asked: how are we able to empathize with someone talking inside of a 740 x 480 pixel recorded video? Furthermore, how are we able to pick up on things like emotion when it isn’t explicitly stated? We needn’t look further than the whites of our eyes.


According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Sarah Jessen (Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences) and Tobias Grossmann (University of Virginia), our ability to detect social cues (particularly emotion and attention) from the information conveyed by the whites of our eyes develops before we’re able to take our first steps.


Using ERPs (event-related brain potentials), the researchers ran two experiments that proved 7 month old infants can distinguish between fearful and non-fearful eyes, and direct and averted gaze, even when presented scleral information outside of the time it takes to be conscious of those perceptions. From the delicate age of 7 months, we are already so in tune with our fellow humans that seeing schematic pictures of eyes for only 50 milliseconds (too fast to see consciously) still conveys important social information.


Able to communicate on this unconscious level, we as humans are adept at understanding and developing empathy with each other. Thus, when our project managers are extracting insights from a 60-second video clip, they aren’t just coldly observing a participant, they are empathizing, whether consciously or unconsciously, with that participant. As humans, they can’t help it.


You can download the entire study HERE.


Title image by RichardJo53. License here.

72andSunny Uses Mobile Video Surveys


Download the case study by clicking the image above.

Download the case study by clicking the image above.


Working with the American Legacy Foundation on the follow-up to their successful truth campaign, 2013 ADWEEK U.S. Agency of the Year 72andSunny used mobile video surveys to run a creative gut check before launching a campaign that made a splash during this year’s MTV Music Video Awards.


Download the case study and learn how 72andSunny used mobile video surveys to gain confidence that their message was effective before releasing their campaign.

Millennial Brand Loyalty: Rewards Over Relationships


Download the full “Millennial Brand Loyalty: Rewards Over Relationships” report now: fill out the form below.



Millennials are redefining the concept of brand loyalty; in their eyes, it has changed dramatically from their parents’ version.
A new MindSwarms study shows that for Millennials, brand loyalty revolves around user-centric transactional benefits that are fleeting and unemotional. Whereas their parent’s loyalty is seen to be a dynamic built on personal and emotional long-lasting relationships.
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Mobile Video Research: Innovation Game Changer

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Food Vision 2014, Cannes, France — Chris Cornyn, founder and president of DINE Marketing, used MindSwarms to demonstrate how mobile video research is a game changer for product and marketing innovation.
Based on his experience, Cornyn believes that to be successful in the food world, producers must satisfy 5 consumer need states — more states than in any other industry. This includes touching upon a consumers’ functional, emotional, nutritional, social, and cultural need states.
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Closet Dive Consumer Research

One of the things we love about our work at MindSwarms is having the opportunity to get a glimpse into the lives of consumers and hear about their passions and what makes them excited.
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Not Your Mother’s Housecleaning


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While strongly influenced by their mothers’ housecleaning habits and attitudes, today’s young women are open to getting housework done in a new way. A recent MindSwarms study of women age 25-41 shows that this generation often feels guilty that they aren’t meeting the housekeeping standards their mothers set, so they’re eager for product innovations and time-saving methods to help bridge the gap.
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Wearable Fitness Tech Fatigue?

As wearable fitness trackers are becoming increasingly mainstream, some fitness enthusiasts are growing weary with the devices (KQED Science). Although the category as a whole has enormous promise for a wide spectrum of healthcare concerns (above and beyond motivating people to reach fitness goals), current models leave much to be desired. Many reviewers claim that the steps taken feature, currently the main feature of wearable trackers, is less reliable than a standard pedometer; other features, such as a sleep quality metric, may be virtually meaningless on most devices.
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Tom’s 5 Tips for Qual Analysis

A note to our fellow researchers:
We know that sorting through the data collected from a qualitative research study can seem overwhelming, particularly when sifting through video footage. We asked our founder, Tom Bassett, to share his tips and tricks for pattern finding, bucketing results, identifying the overarching story, and captivatingly sharing results. Read the rest of this entry »