Scientists prove 'home is happiest' with help from mobile phones
Published 29/09/2010 | 11:07
The home might be associated with doing the chores or undertaking menial tasks to many but British scientists appear to have finally proved the old saying the "home is where the heart is".
Cambridge University researchers have, for the first time, proved humans are happiest when at home simply by monitoring a person’s mobile phone use.
Experts say the study's conclusions, reached by analysing a person’s emotion and behaviour while on a phone, could pave the way for a better understanding of human psychology.
They say that by analysing people in “natural environments”, psychologists could reach better conclusions through unobtrusive methods when studying periods of happiness, anger or stress.
While the researchers said the technology was safe, it could lead to fears that advertisers could one day be able to “read” a person’s mood.
In their study, presented at a conference on “Ubiquitous Computing” in Denmark, the Cambridge researchers assessed how a person was influenced by their surroundings, the time of day and their relationships with others.
They concluded that a person’s location had a “pronounced effect on the users’ state of mind” with almost half of respondents found to be most happy when in residential locations while 54pc recorded “sad” emotions at work.
The pioneering study also found users exhibited more “intense emotions” at night while people expressed their emotions more in smaller groups than in larger crowds.
Dr Cecilia Mascolo, who led the study, said the new technology would enable psychologists to “get out of laboratories” and “artificial” environments and analyse people in more natural settings without the need for surveys.
“Our research confirmed that we can study the same (human behaviour) with this new technology,” she said.
“We are able to undertake longer studies with more people and build a better picture of people’s behaviour that we have not been able to do before now.
“Mobile phones are powerful tools to allow studies of a person’s behaviour and we can do that in a way that is safe and unobtrusive … and when they are in a more natural environment.”
In their study, a group of 18 volunteers were given a modified Nokia 6210 Navigator phone over 10 days while at the same time recording their emotions in a diary.
Researchers then used mobile phone speech recognition software to track a person’s emotional behaviour.
Discussions were then cross referenced with existing speech studies while GPS was used to pinpoint a person’s location when talking on their phone and Bluetooth technology to gauge who they were speaking to.
Dr Mascolo, from the university’s Computer Laboratory, stressed the small study only used volunteers while at all times maintaining a person’s privacy. Volunteers at all times "owned" the findings.
"We are trying to make the technology safe when keeping all the data in the phone," she said.
She said the research team was working to refine the system further by improving its emotion classification and its response to background noise.
The successful trial will be detailed on Wednesday to the Association for Computing Machinery’s conference in Copenhagen.