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The Face Test

Who does your most emotionally arousing face resemble?

And by extension, what was the most emotionally arousing face during Dutch Design Week 2017?

The Face Test sets the stage for debate about the implications of affective technology on the most private aspects of our lives. An increasing number of people* around the world are hacking into dating sites to increase their compatibility score with other profiles. Some find love through this, while some claim to have gained valuable insight into the world of dating.

With advancements in affective computing, we are now able to computationally measure the amplitude of human emotions, and are making remarkable progress towards identifying specific types of emotions. The impact of this on health and medicine is immeasurable. And an interesting area of research that is also emerging is the psychological impact on our relationship dynamics of knowing one’s (or other’s) emotional arousal level towards other things/beings, with computational accuracy.

Current developments in this area can tell you which you have more emotional arousal towards out of several stimuli. If a high compatibility score on a dating site leads to a first date, how will affective data impact your life? Would you need this kind of scientific validation in your private matters? Who do you think your most emotionally arousing face will look like? Your partner? Ex? Your child? Parent? If you knew what type of emotional arousal this is, will you be okay comparing your emotional arousal level towards different people?

Moreover, what would the number one emotionally arousing face for the entire city, the country and the whole world look like? Will this collective result resemble a celebrity? A wanted criminal? A toad?


Staged as a scientific experiment, the Face Test experience uses a program written specifically for this project and uses a galvanic skin response sensor to measure emotional arousal level while computer generated and standardised faces with varying facial features are shown on a screen to a subject. At the end of the test, the mean GSR value for each type of face is calculated and a morphed composite is constructed, unique to each participant, from the highest scoring faces. The latency duration was set at 2 seconds (tonic skin conductance level was not considered for this project).

For Dutch Design Week 2017, the Face Test result from 310 visitors was analysed to determine which face appeared in the results with the highest frequency. This final DDW face is an attempt to recontextualise cutting edge scientific research in order to stimulate discussion involving the public about its various possible implications.

A white Dutch lady was surprised she got a “brown male” as her result, and a black girl was surprised she got an Asian looking female, while an Asian man seemed confused that his result was a female (he later disclosed that he is homosexual). What the test means to each person is, at this stage, only up to them to interpret as the test does not identify specific types of emotions and only shows the amplitude of emotional arousal. However, as a discussion initiator it raised a lot of interesting points and further highlighted the need to engage the public.

This project uses an improved version of the Face 1.2 program written for "Match Clinic" iteration of this project.

*Chris McKinlay, Amy Webb, Justin Long, Sharif Corinaldi etc.

UX/UI Design

The Face Test experience design involved designing a user interface and iconography to go with it.

Basic user details are collected on the first screen including email address to which test results are sent at the end of the experience. The interface is minimal with subtle noise background.

Buttons are kept minimal and rectangular. Some buttons turn into a progress bar when clicked.


The test results screen was designed to show essential information, the focus being the highest emotional arousal index and the corresponding face. Users have the option to email their result to themselves and/or upload their data to the cloud.

Next Icon.png


Cloud Icon.png

Upload to the cloud

Email Icon.png

Email to me

Report Icon.png

Show results

Although only the galvanic skin response sensor was used during Dutch Design Week, the experience was initially conceptualised as a multi-sensor bio-monitoring experience using EEG (brainwave sensor), ECG (heart-rate sensor) and eye-tracker. For the concept video the interface on the left was designed to include all sensors.

Animation visualising the "Upload to the cloud" option.

The Face Test full concept video (all animation done in After Effects)

CREDITS actress: Katie Berns; filming, editing, animation & prop making: Bolor Amgalan

Part 1: Visitor Experience

The Face Test experience took part at Dutch Design Week 2017.

The Face Test 1
The Face Test 2
The Face Test 3
The Face Test 4
The Face Test 5
The Face Test 6

Part 2: the 'Match Clinic' scenario

Science says love is just chemicals in the brain and sequences of genes. Part 2 of this project contextualizes the Face Test as part of a speculative service called the Match Clinic.
Match Clinic_PsychologicalTest_forpress_

In a world where hacking into a dating site to increase your compatibility with other profiles is becoming more and more common, how will the increasingly scientific understanding of love impact the way we see ourselves and form relationships with others? Science says our immune system genes play a significant role in how we feel attracted to others; and several labs around the world are offering DNA compatibility tests to both singles and couples.

Match Clinic is the result of a collaboration with geneticists, psychologists and a neuroscientist. Together we came up with a speculative, but highly likely, and scientifically backed scenario of love searching.

Using cutting edge scientific instruments, the Match Clinic proposes to find the best match for you from the database, backed by existing scientific research on inter-personal relationships. Your genetic and psychological compatibility will be tested across a broad spectrum to increase your chances of achieving a high compatibility score with your future partner.

Match Clinic_DNA_forpress_small.png


Sara Seabrooke, CSO of Instant Chemistry; Tamara Brown, CSO of GenePartner; Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry; Sharrona Pearl, a theorist of physiognomy from University of Pennsylvania; Anar Amgalan, a neuroscientist at Stony Brook University and Heidi Kuivaniemi-Smith, a forensic artist

Match Clinic concept video

CREDITS filming, editing & prop making by Bolor Amgalan; music by Mattia Cupelli; actors: Katie Berns & Katharina Rauch

Part 3:

the 'Must Find The One' scenario

If your most scientifically compatible match is not in the database, where would you look for them? Through a social experiment considering myself the case study, I aim to provide a critical commentary on how science could help us find the right one but to what extent one would have to go to accomplish this with today’s technology and to find this person in real life.
Tests taken: (left) genetic compatibility test, (centre) emotional arousal test, psychological test, (right) facial composite sketch 
Genetic compatibility test
Emotional arousal test & psychological test
Facial composite sketch of most appealing face

In order to accomplish this, I have begun to profile my most scientifically and statistically compatible match using population statistics and various scientific tests in collaboration with two geneticists, a marriage counsellor, a psychiatrist, a neuroscientist and a forensic artist.

Part 3 of this project is a social experiment and a commentary on the scientific pursuit for a better romantic match. Are we going a little too far with our illusion of “the one”?

Must Find The One concept video

CREDITS actors: Bolor Amgalan, Balaban Andrei, Katie Berns, Sara Gajzler, Vanis Konadu, Maggie Liuwilson, Stephanie Pena, Oleg Tylybinskyy; filming: Christine Lew; editing: Bolor Amgalan; music: unknown
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