Mircea Zloteanu
October 2020

What do you work on?

I look at how people make deci­sions in sit­u­a­tions of uncer­tain­ty and how our opin­ions are biased by avail­able infor­ma­tion. For example, our ability to detect when others are lying may be dis­rupt­ed by how we per­ceive peo­ple’s emotions.

“Are people willing to live with a serial killer if the incen­tives are just right?”

What did you do using Gorilla?

I have been using Gorilla to program exper­i­ments looking at peoples’ online behav­iour on sharing economy plat­forms. Using Gorilla, we created a sharing economy plat­form (e.g. a fake AirBnB-esque website) that offered accom­mo­da­tion to measure how people make deci­sions about hosts given dif­fer­ent trust and rep­u­ta­tion infor­ma­tion (e.g., reviews or star ratings).

Gorilla allowed us to inves­ti­gate which infor­ma­tion is pre­ferred by users on such plat­forms and the impact it has on judgement.

In the near future, we will be using Gorilla to see if users can detect the quality of online pro­files, how culture affects judge­ment, and if people are willing to live with a serial killer if the incen­tives are just right.

Has this study been published?

The initial sharing economy data has been pub­lished in Plos One.

Read our paper here.

What is the most excit­ing piece of research you’ve ever done?

A recent accom­plish­ment of mine is pub­lish­ing a project looking at how well people can detect decep­tive facial expres­sions of sur­prise. I was thrilled when it came out, because the research itself was the cul­mi­na­tion of the work I did during my PhD, uncov­er­ing why using facial expres­sions of emotion (as seen in media depic­tions of lie detec­tion) seems to not work.

What I found was two-fold. First, people are poor at detect­ing that the emotion on someone’s face is not genuine. This means that even if we learn to cat­e­go­rize facial expres­sions really well it will give us no benefit because we cannot sep­a­rate emo­tions someone feels versus those they choose to show us.

Second, we showed that emotion recog­ni­tion research com­par­ing “posed” and genuine emotion detec­tion has a severe lim­i­ta­tion, because they do not account for how emotion pro­duc­tion affects per­cep­tions. We showed that not all “posed” emo­tions are created equal, and that research needs to con­sid­er this for us to have an accu­rate picture of human emotion recognition.

“Relying on emo­tions, such as facial expres­sions, can be detri­men­tal to lie detection.”

What are the main ways people mis­un­der­stand your thesis?

Some­thing that I get asked fre­quent­ly is if I am better than other people at catch­ing lies, given that this is my field of exper­tise. The main aim of my thesis was to explain that humans are in general very bad at catch­ing lies, as they are biased towards assum­ing people tend to be honest, and because they place too much empha­sis on emo­tions as cues for decep­tion. My work actu­al­ly shows that relying on emo­tions, such as facial expres­sions, can be detri­men­tal to lie detec­tion, which is partly due to our ability to fake emo­tions really well.

How do you think online research is going to change your field?

Acad­e­mia is a very com­pet­i­tive place, with huge pres­sure being placed on researchers to publish high quality work very quickly.

Moving psy­cho­log­i­cal studies to an online domain can take some of this pres­sure away, espe­cial­ly for younger researchers whom are con­stant­ly running against the clock. Even if you decide to run a Gorilla experiment in the lab locally, having the data be auto­mat­i­cal­ly record­ed and easily export­ed to other plat­forms is a huge time-saving benefit.

For you, what is the stand-out feature in Gorilla?

Gorilla is a very ver­sa­tile tool, making its lim­i­ta­tions mostly a result of the user’s expe­ri­ence with the tool. Setting up exper­i­ments and making mod­i­fi­ca­tions to them once they are created is very easy and intuitive.

How did Gorilla make your life or research better, easier or faster?

One feature that I like is that you are not con­strained to using only the tools or tem­plates pro­vid­ed by the plat­form. If your javascript skills are good enough, you can program almost any study you want.

What advice would you give to someone start­ing out in behav­iour­al science/research?

If you truly want to have a suc­cess­ful career in acad­e­mia, you need to learn how to plan in advance. A great part of being able to stay on course and progress in your career is to ensure you have an excel­lent work ethic. You need to make sure your routine is scal­able to when you start working on mul­ti­ple projects, and are under time pres­sure. Also, make sure to engage with other aca­d­e­mics and feel free to ask them ques­tions about what they do and what tips they have; others’ expe­ri­ence and wisdom can be invalu­able in your per­son­al devel­op­ment. But also, find some­thing that can truly relax you for your downtime.

What science book have you read recent­ly that you’d rec­om­mend to others?

While this is a science-fiction book (so I may be cheat­ing on the answer), one that I come back to from time to time and would highly rec­om­mend is Ren­dezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. It is, in my opinion, an excel­lent descrip­tion of how the sci­en­tif­ic process when inves­ti­gat­ing some­thing novel should unfold. At times it can be slow paced, unevent­ful, and leaving us with more ques­tions than when we started, it can also so be surreal, illu­mi­nat­ing, and awe-inspiring.

Mircea Zloteanu
Picture showing a test glass Lie Detection, Emotions, Decision-Making, User Behaviour, Investigations
Picture showing an university graduates hat Forensic Psychology Lecturer
Picture showing a School Teesside University
Mircea Zloteanu

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[get-spotlight-info] "We showed that not all “posed” emotions are created equal, and that research needs to consider this for us to have an accurate picture of human emotion recognition." Continue Reading Mircea Zloteanu