What Does your Body Language Say about You? A Computer that Can Detect Racism


It has happened again!! A computer that can tell if you’re Racist?!

Are you racist? Because researchers from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy had the same question. They wanted to see if an algorithm could accurately predict if someone was racist.

First, in their study, they used 32 white university students. The participants were asked to fill in two questionnaires. One was used to uncover their explicit bias and the other to reveal their subconscious bias.

After filling the questionnaires, the participants were then filmed having a conversation with a white person. Then, they were filmed in a conversation with a black person.

Each conversation involved the discussion of a neutral subject for three minutes; then, discussion moved to a more sensitive subject like immigration for another three minutes.

“Using a GoPro camera and a Microsoft Kinect, the researchers captured their movements, while sensors estimate their skin response and heart rate.” The algorithm searched for correlations between the participants’ questionnaire answers and their body language during the conversations.

So, what’s the point….what do researchers hope to achieve with this program? Well, the researchers write: ‘[While] this study has been tailored on prejudice, the same approach and set of technologies could be used in a large variety of application domains.

“For example, it could be used in schools to identify children with anxiety issues, in self-driving cars to assess driver attention level, [and at]border control to spot possibly dangerous behavioural outliers.”

The research paper was presented at the International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing in Heidelberg, Germany.


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