Tracking consumer empathy is one of the biggest challenges for advertisers. Although numerous studies have shown that consumers’ empathy affects purchasing, there are few quantitative and unobtrusive methods for assessing whether the viewer is sharing congruent emotions with the advertisement. This study suggested a non-contact method for measuring empathy by evaluating the synchronization of micro-movements between consumers and people within the media. Thirty participants viewed 24 advertisements classified as either empathy or non-empathy advertisements. For each viewing, we recorded the facial data and subjective empathy scores. We recorded the facial micro-movements, which reflect the ballistocardiography (BCG) motion, through the carotid artery remotely using a camera without any sensory attachment to the participant. Synchronization in cardiovascular measures (e.g., heart rate) is known to indicate higher levels of empathy. We found that through cross-entropy analysis, the more similar the micro-movements between the participant and the person in the advertisement, the higher the participant’s empathy scores for the advertisement. The study suggests that non-contact BCG methods can be utilized in cases where sensor attachment is ineffective (e.g., measuring empathy between the viewer and the media content) and can be a complementary method to subjective empathy scales.
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