Extracting relevance and affect information from physiological text annotation

Oswald Barral*, Ilkka Kosunen, Tuukka Ruotsalo, Michiel M. Spapé, Manuel J A Eugster, Niklas Ravaja, Samuel Kaski, Giulio Jacucci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


We present physiological text annotation, which refers to the practice of associating physiological responses to text content in order to infer characteristics of the user information needs and affective responses. Text annotation is a laborious task, and implicit feedback has been studied as a way to collect annotations without requiring any explicit action from the user. Previous work has explored behavioral signals, such as clicks or dwell time to automatically infer annotations, and physiological signals have mostly been explored for image or video content. We report on two experiments in which physiological text annotation is studied first to (1) indicate perceived relevance and then to (2) indicate affective responses of the users. The first experiment tackles the user’s perception of relevance of an information item, which is fundamental towards revealing the user’s information needs. The second experiment is then aimed at revealing the user’s affective responses towards a -relevant- text document. Results show that physiological user signals are associated with relevance and affect. In particular, electrodermal activity was found to be different when users read relevant content than when they read irrelevant content and was found to be lower when reading texts with negative emotional content than when reading texts with neutral content. Together, the experiments show that physiological text annotation can provide valuable implicit inputs for personalized systems. We discuss how our findings help design personalized systems that can annotate digital content using human physiology without the need for any explicit user interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-520
Number of pages28
JournalUser Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Affective feedback
  • Electrodermal activity
  • Perceived relevance
  • Peripheral physiology
  • Physiological annotation
  • Text annotation


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