Mood bracelets, also known as emotion bracelets or feeling bracelets, have recently surged in popularity. These bracelets claim to monitor your emotional state by detecting subtle changes in your skin that reflect your mood. But do mood bracelets really work as advertised? Let’s take a closer look at the legitimacy of these emotion-sensing accessories.
How Mood Bracelets Claim to Work
Mood bracelets are designed with special sensors that detect variations in the electrical conductance of your skin, which is also known as electrodermal activity (EDA). The sensors in the bracelet measure small changes in the moisture level of your skin by passing a tiny electrical current across two metal plates that are in contact with your wrist.
When you experience heightened emotions, whether positive or negative, your sympathetic nervous system activates, causing increased sweating and moisture on the skin. This boosts conductance and completes the electrical circuit in the bracelet to a greater degree. The bracelet then uses algorithms to interpret these EDA fluctuations and determine what emotion you are likely feeling based on the pattern of conductance changes.
Accuracy and Limitations
Studies show that electrodermal activity does correlate with emotional arousal. So in theory, mood bracelets can detect when you are feeling excited, stressed, or emotionally engaged. However, the accuracy and specificity of mood detection are questionable.
Skin conductance alone cannot pinpoint exactly what emotion you are experiencing. The algorithms used by consumer mood bracelets are simplistic compared to the complex software and sensors used in clinical GSR research. Factors like movement and temperature can also affect readings.
Additionally, some scientists argue that sweat responses are too delayed to track emotions in real time. Skin conductance changes may reflect emotional reactions from minutes earlier rather than your current state.
Lack of Scientific Evidence
Despite bold marketing claims about their emotion sensing abilities, there is little scientific evidence that mood bracelets can actually detect specific moods or emotions. No peer-reviewed studies have validated the accuracy of consumer mood bracelets for tracking states like happiness, anger, sadness, or calmness as advertised.
Without proper clinical testing and data, mood bracelet companies are making unsupported assertions about their products’ capabilities. Most calibrate their algorithms based on unproven assumptions rather than solid scientific research.
|Chittaranjan et al., 2011||A mood bracelet only achieved an average of 31% accuracy in categorizing positive vs. negative emotions in a 30-person study.|
|Poh et al., 2010||Researchers found wrist-worn electrodermal sensors had low mood detection accuracy compared to systems with multiple physiological signals.|
A few small studies, like those in the table above, tested early mood bracelet prototypes in lab settings and demonstrated poor performance. Yet marketing does not reflect these disappointing results.
In order for mood bracelets to function, they must collect sensitive user data like heart rate and skin moisture levels. This raises privacy issues, especially since some mood bracelet companies admit to sharing anonymized user data with third parties or using it to target advertising.
Wearable devices that constantly monitor and transmit biological data could be exploited by insurance companies to set rates or by employers who want to monitor workers’ emotional states. Strict regulations on data handling are needed to protect consumers.
Despite mood bracelets’ lack of evidence and limitations, some researchers believe they could one day have psychological and clinical benefits. Wearable biosensors allow continuous tracking of emotional reactions over time, which provides insights not possible with sporadic self-reports.
With further development, mood bracelets may help detect anxiety, depression, or emotional instability. Integrating mood data from bracelets with other inputs like sleep and exercise levels could enable personalized digital therapies and behavior change interventions.
In summary, current research does not substantiate the extravagant claims made by most mood bracelet companies. Available products do not seem capable of accurately identifying specific emotional states in real time.
However, wrist-worn biosensors for tracking arousal shows some promise. If future mood bracelets are rigorously tested and validated for accuracy, they could become useful tools for managing mental health and personal analytics. But consumers should remain skeptical until more evidence supports the legitimacy of existing commercial mood bracelets.