To Engineer a Gut Feeling:

Testing the Somatic Marker Hypothesis Through Emotive Skins

We know that it is not only our “minds” that think; the body and our emotions have a key role in the way we think and in rational decision-making.”  What if we tried to engineer the affective indicators on our body, as through our skin, to feedback and try to influence our cognition or behavior?  Could we design skins that could engineer a “gut feeling?”

This project was inspired by the Iowa Gambling Task, in which participants were presented with a card game where they could win money, which serves as a motivation.  They are presented four decks of cards, some of which yield favorable and unfavorable outcomes.  It takes roughly 50 cards for most participants to figure out the distribution and select from more favorable decks, but interestingly, within 10 cards your palms start to sweat (a physiological indication of stress), within 10 cards when you reach for a "bad" deck. 

Intrigued by this study, my project partner Thomas Lengeling and I designed a skin that displays an emotional physiological output (in this case, goosebumps), to correlate with a galvanic skin response (sweaty palms).  In amplifying a subliminal physiological stress signal of the body and translating, we are studying whether participants perform better in this card task, and whether we can learn from our limbic brain to positively influence behavioral changes.  

Below are videos of the experimental skin, as well as images of the slide show we presented of this project to Pattie Maes, of the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT Media Lab


silicone, latex, acrylic, syringes, galvanic skin sensor