University of South Florida


USF Collects Biometric Data to Measure Impressions of Democratic Presidential Debate

Thirty-five University of South Florida students and faculty members participated in a first-of-its-kind experiment during Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate.

Wearing wireless sensors on their hands, the group’s biometric responses were measured, revealing viewers’ psychological reactions to certain candidates, issues and policies discussed during the debate. Monitored by a group of students from the USF Muma College of Business and marketing instructor Rob Hammond, the data was collected and analyzed in real time.

According to Hammond, who is also the director of the college’s state-of-the-art Center for Marketing and Sales Innovation Lab, this method differs from most polls taken after a debate because biometric responses are not filtered through the brain.

“That response can be tempered, inflated or suppressed entirely. There is also the scenario where the person responds with how they want to be perceived rather than what he or she actually thinks,” Hammond said. “With biometrics, the decision-making part of the brain is removed from the feedback. You get direct feedback on the person’s emotions. It is unfiltered.”

Hammond and the students collected and analyzed the data in collaboration with Shimmer, a wireless sensor company and one of the college’s partners.  The Muma College of Business is home to one of the largest biometric labs in the world, and Shimmer has previously been used to measure reaction during the Super Bowl and a Brexit debate in the United Kingdom.

Following the debate, Hammond revealed the contrast between conscious and unconscious responses. He says they plan to further analyze the data and have additional results in the near future.

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