Researchers Creating Database of Photos That Elicit Human Emotions


Researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium are embarking on an interesting mission, and they need the help of willing photographers. What they’re attempting to do is create a database of photos based on how they make the viewer feel. The project and website, dubbed Pictures With Feelings, can then be used to further our knowledge about human emotion and how specific moods come about. Where you folks come is in providing the most emotionally stimulating images buried in your archives.


“A picture depicting a huge spider is likely to evoke a feeling of fear and is therefore situated within the left upper quadrant (negative valence – high arousal).”

The researchers want a little bit of everything, or as they define it: photos that evoke emotions from all over the “valence-arousal space.” Pictures of sleepy puppies would evoke happiness and contentment — positive valence, low arousal. Pictures from inside the pipe at a surfing competition, or staring into the mouth of a shark would evoke something closer to fear and excitement — negative valence, high arousal.


“A picture depicting a sleepy kitten is likely to evoke relaxation and contentment and is therefore situated within the right lower quadrant (positive valence – low arousal)”

You can head over to their website to check out their Terms & Conditions and maybe upload a few tear-jerkers or smile-inducers of your own. You’ll be credited for the photo, you’re promised the images won’t be used for anything other than research, and if you really want some piece of mind, you can even add your name to the metadata. It’s certainly not going to lead to fame and fortune, but you’ll be able to say that your pictures helped some scientists in Belgium better understand what makes people tick. What more could a photog want this Holiday season?

Pictures With Feelings [via Popular Photography]

Image credits: spider by cheetah100, Sleepy Kitten by puuikibeach

  • Tanja

    Very interesting! :) I hope they include the viewers profiles in the investigation too! I can immagine a girl that dreams of weddings might be overly excited to see a photograph of a crying bride, but that a die-hard bachelor might show some disgust. (just to give an example) Someone who is scared of cats, might look at the kitty picture, the way I just looked when I saw the spider photograph… ;)

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Ah but you misunderstand modern science’s quest to reduce human experience to The Great Average so that those who do not conform can be sold pharmaceuticals to “cure” them.

  • rtfe

    this was a project in kindergarten

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Nah, we’re just prepping up the Voight-Kampff test to replace CAPTCHA since some online bots have been upgraded to replicant models.

  • Alex

    Except that neither the spider nor the kitten are in the correct quadrants, I know you only added by way of an example. I still find the spider terrifying…

  • beautox

    I was scared and showed fear – I thought the spider was going to jump on the kitten

  • Alex Szecsi

    ummmm okay! so this is need a researcher to find out this!thats gross