MouStress: Detecting Stress from Mouse Motion

David Sun, Pablo Paredes and John Canny
ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (2014)


Stress causes and exacerbates many physiological and mental health problems. Routine and unobtrusive monitoring of stress would enable a variety of treatments, from break-taking to calming exercises. It may also be a valuable tool for assessing effects (frustration, difficulty) of using interfaces or applications. Custom sensing hardware is a poor option, because of the need to buy/wear/use it continuously, even before stress-related problems are evident. Here we explore stress measurement from common computer mouse operations. We use a simple model of arm-hand dynamics that captures muscle stiffness during mouse movement. We show that the within-subject mouse-derived stress measure is quite strong, even compared to concurrent physiological sensor measure- ments. While our study used fixed mouse tasks, the stress signal was still strong even when averaged across widely varying task geometries. We argue that mouse sensing “in the wild” may be feasible, by analyzing frequently-performed opera- tions of particular geometries.