Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Armando Barreto

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Wei-Chiang Lin

Third Advisor's Name

Jean Andrian

Fourth Advisor's Name

Malek Adjouadi


Affective Computing, Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), Pupil Diameter (PD), Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), Wavelet denoising, Kalman filtering, Moving Average Window, Backward Differentiation, Mathematical Morphology, Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves

Date of Defense



Physiological signals, which are controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), could be used to detect the affective state of computer users and therefore find applications in medicine and engineering. The Pupil Diameter (PD) seems to provide a strong indication of the affective state, as found by previous research, but it has not been investigated fully yet.

In this study, new approaches based on monitoring and processing the PD signal for off-line and on-line affective assessment (“relaxation” vs. “stress”) are proposed. Wavelet denoising and Kalman filtering methods are first used to remove abrupt changes in the raw Pupil Diameter (PD) signal. Then three features (PDmean, PDmax and PDWalsh) are extracted from the preprocessed PD signal for the affective state classification. In order to select more relevant and reliable physiological data for further analysis, two types of data selection methods are applied, which are based on the paired t-test and subject self-evaluation, respectively. In addition, five different kinds of the classifiers are implemented on the selected data, which achieve average accuracies up to 86.43% and 87.20%, respectively. Finally, the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve is utilized to investigate the discriminating potential of each individual feature by evaluation of the area under the ROC curve, which reaches values above 0.90.

For the on-line affective assessment, a hard threshold is implemented first in order to remove the eye blinks from the PD signal and then a moving average window is utilized to obtain the representative value PDr for every one-second time interval of PD. There are three main steps for the on-line affective assessment algorithm, which are preparation, feature-based decision voting and affective determination. The final results show that the accuracies are 72.30% and 73.55% for the data subsets, which were respectively chosen using two types of data selection methods (paired t-test and subject self-evaluation).

In order to further analyze the efficiency of affective recognition through the PD signal, the Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) was also monitored and processed. The highest affective assessment classification rate obtained from GSR processing is only 63.57% (based on the off-line processing algorithm). The overall results confirm that the PD signal should be considered as one of the most powerful physiological signals to involve in future automated real-time affective recognition systems, especially for detecting the “relaxation” vs. “stress” states.





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