Research Picks – July 2016

Adolescent online social relationships

Social relationships on the internet have a lot in common with adolescent social relationships, researchers from Spain report, adding that such relationships are fluid, indefinite, confused, always under construction, not anchored, fixed or lasting; they are power struggles but without domination. Moreover, the relationships may even be perceived as a game, albeit often a serious one. Unlike a story, online activity is ongoing and discontinuous, interminable dialogue. The team’s study of Spanish adolescents shifts the sociological interest from understanding what adolescents do in this online space and its consequences to the problem of what this artefact formally imposes on communication and on their relationship interests.

Callejo, J. and Gutiérrez, J. (2016) ‘Social networks: dialogic artefacts’, Int. J. Society Systems Science, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.99–113.

Facial recognition by ear

Given that our facial expressions change, face recognition software must have the ability to cope with the movements of our eyebrows and mouths for instance. Now, researchers in Poland have added ears to the biometric mix in order to improve accuracy and efficiency of 3D facial recognition when different facial expressions are being presented to the system. When strong facial expressions are being presented, the addition of characteristics of a person’s ears can boost efficacy reducing the equal error rate so that it does not exceed 6.25% percent. Particularly effective, the team says is to combine powerful conventional 3D face recognition with analysis that includes their ear recognition algorithm.

Krotewicz, P. (2016) ‘Novel ear-assisted 3D face recognition under expression variations’, Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.65–81.

Whistle while you work…or not
People stay “on task” and work more effectively if they listen to pleasant music relative to control groups working with no music. However, if unpleasant music is played while they work, heart rate and other cardiovascular measures rise and they make errors in the task. Heart and breathing rate are found to be lower in those working while listening to pleasant music. Other biometrics that were recorded in the experiments were blood oxygen saturation and arterial pressure. Of course, the difficulty in applying such research to the workplace is that people have different tastes in music.

Geethanjali, B., Adalarasu, K., Jagannath, M. and Rajasekaran, R. (2016) ‘Influence of pleasant and unpleasant music on cardiovascular measures and task performance’, Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp.128–144.

Going viral

Marketers would really like to know what factors makes an online update, graphic, video or other digital entity “go viral”, what factors lead to the mass sharing of such an entity that can lead to huge numbers of potential customers or clients seeing the clip or information and perhaps even buying or signing up for a product or service with which it is associated. Unfortunately, despite many years of searching for a formula that would contrive to make an update go viral, nothing has yet been found that works reliably and repeatedly. However, researchers in Germany have now delineated the psychological principles and find seven specific concepts that might work together to make the chances of a given digital entity being a viral hit.

Wolter, J., Barth, V., Barthel, E-M., Gröbel, J., Linden, E., Wolf, Y. and Walther, E. (2016) ‘Inside the host’s mind: psychological principles of viral marketing’, Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 10. Nos. 1/2, pp.54–89.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.