Affective Relevance: Inferring Emotional Responses via fNIRS Neuroimaging


Information retrieval (IR) relies on a general notion of relevance, which is used as the principal foundation for ranking and evaluation methods. However, IR does not account for more a nuanced affective experience. Here, we consider the emotional response decoded directly from the human brain as an alternative dimension of relevance. We report an experiment covering seven different scenarios in which we measure and predict how users emotionally respond to visual image contents by using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging on two commonly used affective dimensions: valence (negativity and positivity) and arousal (boredness and excitedness). Our results show that affective states can be successfully decoded using fNIRS, and utilized to complement the present notion of relevance in IR studies. For example, we achieved 0.39 Balanced accuracy and 0.61 AUC in 4-class classification of affective states (vs. 0.25 Balanced accuracy and 0.5 AUC of a random classifier). Likewise, we achieved 0.684 Precision@20 when retrieving high-arousal images. Our work opens new avenues for incorporating emotional states in IR evaluation, affective feedback, and information filtering.

Proceedings of the 46th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval