Scientists want to measure goosebumps to understand your emotions

A research team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has invented a sensor that can measure the size and duration of goosebumps on the skin. (Hey, everyone needs a hobby.) It’s made from a small piece of thin, transparent stick-on polymer with a tiny conductive element. When its ability to store an electrical charge is disrupted, this signals a sudden change in the skin’s texture, also known as goosebumps.

The scientists successfully tested the device on a volunteer who held ice cubes to induce goosebumps, as they just reported in the Applied Physics Letters journal. But they hope that in future their sensor will be used to measure emotional reactions to events and media, as other researchers (and anyone who’s ever been afraid) have discovered that strong feelings can create goosebumps. “In the future, human emotions will be regarded like any typical biometric information, including body temperature or blood pressure,” One of the lead researchers, Professor Young Ho-cho, said.

The team plans to continue perfecting their device, making it as sensitive as possible, and could even one day make the technology available to measure viewer responses to ads and films, so they can be tailored to become more appealing. On one hand, I’m not sure I want advertisers monitoring my skin, or movies so dependent on audience responses. On the other, if it means no more tedious ads and the ability to become more aware of my emotional states? I’m easily bored and self-indulgent enough to be interested. Some people are sceptical, though, including Dr Bernie Hogan from the University of Oxford, who told the BBC, “This can only lead to more emotionally manipulative fluff.” No need for a sensor to measure his emotional response.

Image via Flora Soos’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley