Mircea Zloteanu

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
Lie Detection, Emotions, Decision-Making, User Behaviour, Investigations
Forensic Psychology Lecturer
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