Mind Reading Using Psychophysiology

On February 15, 2013, C-NERVE hosted Stout Scholars, who participated in a hands-on lab experience we like to call Mind Reading using Psychophysiology: Measuring Emotional Responses to Sounds Using Facial EMG (muscle activity) and skin conductance.


For this experience, the Stout Scholars listened to 4 different sounds that were chosen to evoke 4 different emotions, while we recorded three physiological measures. Specifically, we recorded muscle activity of the zygomaticus, which is the muscle that controls smiling. We measured muscle activity in the corrugator, which is the muscle that controls furrowing of the eyebrows. Finally, we measured skin conductance, which essentially is a measure of palm sweat, and can be used to tell about a person's general state of arousal.

Stout Scholar 2 Stout Scholar 3 Stout Scholar 1

The Scholars were first asked to make predictions about how each sound would affect each of the measures. The students predicted that: 

  • Harp music -relaxation (low arousal, low smiling, low furrowing of eyebrows)
  • Bees buzzing - general arousal (slight/moderate arousal, muted smiling, muted/slight furrowing of eyebrows)
  • Child laughing - happiness (moderate arousal, moderate/intense smiling response, muted furrowing of eyebrows)
  • A man vomiting - disgust (high arousal, muted/slight little smiling, moderate/intense furrowing of eyebrows)
listening to sounds


Each Scholar then listened to the 4 sounds through a set of headphones, while the other scholars monitored the data (amount of muscle activity and skin conductance). They then used it to determine which sound the subject was hearing at different points in time. Thus, they were Mind Reading using Electrophysiology. It turns out, the Scholars are pretty good mind readers.

Mind Reading Data
Example of data for Mind Reading Demonstration