How you use your mouse could reflect your stress level at work: ScienceAlert

How people type and use their computer mouse may be better predictors of stress than their heart rate, Swiss researchers find said tuesdayadding their model could help prevent chronic stress.​

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) said they used new data and machine learning develop a new model for detecting stress levels at work, based solely on how people type or use their mouse.

“The way we type on our keyboard and move our mouse seems to be a better predictor of our stress level in an office environment than our heart rate,” said mathematician and study author Mara Nägelin. said.​

For the study, the ETHZ researchers observed 90 participants in the lab performing close-to-life office tasks, such as scheduling appointments or recording and analyzing data.

They recorded the participants’ mouse and keyboard behavior as well as their heart rate, and regularly asked the participants how stressed they felt.

While some attendees were allowed to work undisturbed, half of the group were repeatedly interrupted by chat messages and were also asked to participate in a job interview.

They determined that stressed people type and move their mouse differently than relaxed people.

“Stressed people move the mouse pointer more often and with less precision and travel longer distances on the screen”, Nägelin said.

The researchers also found that people who feel stressed at the office make more typing errors and tend to type in spurts, with many brief pauses.

Relaxed people, on the other hand, take fewer but longer breaks when typing, they found.

Not a “monitoring tool”

The link between stress and keyboard and mouse behavior can be explained by the so-called neuromotor noise theory.

“Increased stress levels negatively impact our brain’s ability to process information. It also affects our motor skills,” said psychologist and co-author Jasmine Kerr. said.

Researchers said there is an urgent need to find reliable ways to detect increased stress at work, pointing out that one in three employees in Switzerland suffers from stress at work.

“Affected individuals often do not realize that their physical and mental resources are diminishing until it is too late,” the researchers said. said.

They are currently testing their model with data from Swiss employees who have agreed to have their mouse and keyboard behaviors, as well as their heart rates, recorded while they work using an app.

ETHZ said the results were expected by the end of the year.

The researchers acknowledged that the data they were collecting was sensitive, adding that they were working with employees and ethicists to ensure they were treated responsibly.

“The only way people will accept and use our technology is to guarantee that we will anonymize and protect their data,” Kerr said. said.

“We want to help workers identify stress early, not create a monitoring tool for companies.”

​© France Media Agency

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