Helping Foresight Factory understand willingness to share emotions on social media

Foresight Factory

As a consumer trends research, analysis and prediction agency, our partner Foresight Factory knows that understanding emotions and social media is key to the success of its clients. With the hope of gaining a deeper understanding of the relationship between the two trends, they approached our team to develop a neuroscience experiment. The hypothesis of the study was based on the belief that on social media we all choose to only share details of our lives that we want others to know about or judge us by. And because of this, we aren’t exactly sharing all of our ‘real’ self and emotions. So what we wanted to find out was:

1. If people could be measured beyond what they choose to share, would they be prepared to share those ‘real’ emotions on social media?

2. Will certain personality types be more or less likely to share emotion data?

3. Does the type of content used to provoke an emotional reaction affect willingness to share? e.g. Would people share their emotional reactions to sad content more than scary content?


For the study, a mixed gender sample of 190 respondents were given access to Sensum Insights. Using our unique platform, we were able to gain an all-in-one analysis, combining facial recognition, eye-tracking, implicit response testing and traditional surveys which let us measure responses at conscious and non-conscious emotional levels.

Using their own personal PC or laptop, the respondents watched three different TV commercials with very dissimilar emotional triggers. One was monotonic with minimal changes and emotional stimuli, another had a slightly surprising stimulus and the final included more extreme stimuli - the sudden appearance of a monster screaming.

Insights then measured their self-reported basic emotions (i.e. Happiness, Surprise, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness), facial expressions and personality profiles.


In general, the respondents in this study were mixed about sharing their ‘real’ emotions on social media. The key results are highlighted below:

Self-report vs. Facial expression: 52% of the respondents agreed to share their self-report after each of the 3 commercials, whereas only 39% agreed to share their facial expression after each video - Images are private and target only a restrained audience whereas claims and opinions are shared more widely.

The influence of personality types: Out of the 11 personality traits (sympathetic, reserved, new experiences, honest, extroverted, disorganised, dependable, critical, conventional, calm and anxious), it was found that those who described themselves as extroverted and not reserved were most likely to share ‘real’ emotional data.

The type of video content: We found that there was no agreement on whether positive or negative content was most shared on social networks. Results showed that the video content did not influence respondents’ agreement to share facial expression or self-report, meaning it was only when the content pushed emotional buttons that respondents were inclined to share it.

The influence of the type of emotion felt: Although respondents were more inclined to share if the content triggered emotions, we found that it depended on the type of emotion. When the respondents felt happiness or fear towards the video content, they were more willing to share their emotional data. However when respondents felt the highest level of anger and disgust they were less inclined to share.

Overall, the results showed that both positive and negative feelings have significant influence on the respondent's willingness to share their ‘real’ emotions on social media. Their agreement depends on contextual factors and can be influenced by the potential emotions triggered by the video context. Therefore, if these factors can influence the agreement to share emotional data, it’s possible to artificially increase or decrease the motivation of participants to share their ‘real’ emotions online. The full-length paper will be available for access soon, please contact us if you are interested in a copy.