This week for Take-a-Test Tuesday, I took the “Fear, Anger, Joy” test. It’s not an Asperger’s test, but it does measure something that aspies often struggle with: reading emotions through facial expressions. Also, since the last two tests have been question-oriented, I thought a visually-oriented test might be a nice break.
testmybrain.org is a citizen science project run by Harvard University. The website is used to conduct large-scale behavioral research studies with the goal of developing neurocognitive tests. By taking one (or more) of the tests on the website, you contribute to ongoing research and you also get a nice little write-up about your results, what they mean and why the research is being done.
I like the interactivity of the tests and the novel approach that Test My Brain takes. For example, the test that I’m taking today, “Fear, Anger and Joy,” is a test of the ability to identify emotions in facial expressions. Unlike some of the other facial expression recognition tests out there that allow you to study an expression for an unlimited time before identifying it, this test only allows you to see the facial expressions for a couple of seconds. I feel like this is closer to what happens in social situations, where facial expressions are fleeting.
Pros and Cons of Fear, Anger, Joy
- Automated and self-scoring
- Better simulates social situations by limiting viewing duration for each set of faces
- Detailed explanation of scores
- Results include average scores and percentile ranking so you know how you measure against others who’ve taken the test
- Explanation of why the research is being done with a link to more info
- Taking the test contributes to ongoing research
- Test is part of active research so no conclusive results
- No direct link to AS/autism/autistic traits
- Forced choice between 2 options equals a 50% chance of being correct when guessing
Taking the Test
This test takes 15 to 20 minutes so be sure you have the time to complete it before you begin. To take the test, go to testmybrain.org and click on the Go! button next to the “Fear, Anger, Joy” test (you may have to scroll down to find it–the order of the tests changes).
You’ll be asked to make your browser window large. I kept mine the size I normally use and it worked fine. The next screen is a simplified informed consent form. You’ll be told what the research is being used for and asked to consent (agree). Once you do, you’re officially a research subject! The next screen collects some demographic information. It’s all anonymous–you won’t be asked any identifying information to get your results or anything annoying like that.
Once you’ve entered your demographic info, you’ll begin the test. There are a couple of practice questions before the first set of faces appears. You’ll see two faces side by side and be asked to identify which is happier, sadder or angrier. There are 56 sets of faces for each emotion. That sounds like a lot until you realize that each set is visible for only a couple of seconds.
After you’ve completed all three sets of faces, you’ll be asked if you encountered any technical problems or if you cheated in any way. Researchers think of everything. Once you confirm that your results aren’t tainted, you’ll be taken to the scoring page.
Scoring the Test
The aim of the test is to evaluate how well people can detect subtle differences in the level of emotion conveyed by an expression. I found the expressions presented at the beginning of each to be obviously different. One face was clearly much happier, sadder or angrier.
As each section progressed, the differences in the expressions became much less obvious and I found myself guessing more frequently. I also realized that scared and happy can look similar to me. The same is true for scared and angry.
Here are my scores (out of a possible 56 on each section):
Which face is angrier?: Your score was 45. The average score is 45.18.You scored higher than three out of every ten people who took this test.
Which face is happier?: Your score was 54. The average score is 49.49.You scored higher than seven out of every ten people who took this test.
Which face is more afraid?: Your score was 47. The average score is 43.18.You scored higher than six out of every ten people who took this test.
I did better than I expected to. I’m not surprised that I score the highest on the happy faces because happiness is (for me) most clearly expressed around the mouth (smiling) and that’s where I most often focus my gaze.
Anger forced me to look at the area around the eyes more and I had to purposely do that. For fear, I quickly found a pattern that helped me: furrowed brows or foreheads. I spent the rest of the “afraid” section looking first (and sometimes only) at the foreheads of both people to see which looked more scrunched up. Maybe I should have confessed to cheating?
Apparently I have trouble taking in a facial expression as a unified whole. I seem to look at the various parts for clues and then try to sum them up.
I also found my perseverative nature kick in when I had to change from finding the angrier face to finding the happier face. On the first of the happy practice sets, I chose the angrier face because that’s what I’d been doing for the previous 58 trials. Oops.
The Bottom Line
This test was fun to take and I felt like I learned something about how I process facial expressions.
How did you do? Were you surprised by the results?