Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 1446–1460 | Cite as

Facial expression analysis with AFFDEX and FACET: A validation study

  • Sabrina Stöckli
  • Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck
  • Stefan Borer
  • Andrea C. Samson


The goal of this study was to validate AFFDEX and FACET, two algorithms classifying emotions from facial expressions, in iMotions’s software suite. In Study 1, pictures of standardized emotional facial expressions from three databases, the Warsaw Set of Emotional Facial Expression Pictures (WSEFEP), the Amsterdam Dynamic Facial Expression Set (ADFES), and the Radboud Faces Database (RaFD), were classified with both modules. Accuracy (Matching Scores) was computed to assess and compare the classification quality. Results show a large variance in accuracy across emotions and databases, with a performance advantage for FACET over AFFDEX. In Study 2, 110 participants’ facial expressions were measured while being exposed to emotionally evocative pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), the Geneva Affective Picture Database (GAPED) and the Radboud Faces Database (RaFD). Accuracy again differed for distinct emotions, and FACET performed better. Overall, iMotions can achieve acceptable accuracy for standardized pictures of prototypical (vs. natural) facial expressions, but performs worse for more natural facial expressions. We discuss potential sources for limited validity and suggest research directions in the broader context of emotion research.


Emotion classification Facial expression FACS AFFDEX FACET 

Supplementary material

13428_2017_996_MOESM1_ESM.docx (216 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 215 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabrina Stöckli
    • 1
  • Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stefan Borer
    • 1
  • Andrea C. Samson
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Marketing and Management, Department of Consumer BehaviorUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Human DevelopmentBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Swiss Center for Affective SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral ScienceStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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