A performance comparison of eight commercially available automatic classifiers for facial affect recognition

Damien Dupré*, Eva G. Krumhuber, Dennis Küster, Gary J. McKeown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


In the wake of rapid advances in automatic affect analysis, commercial automatic classifiers for facial affect recognition have attracted considerable attention in recent years. While several options now exist to analyze dynamic video data, less is known about the relative performance of these classifiers, in particular when facial expressions are spontaneous rather than posed. In the present work, we tested eight out-of-the-box automatic classifiers, and compared their emotion recognition performance to that of human observers. A total of 937 videos were sampled from two large databases that conveyed the basic six emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust) either in posed (BU-4DFE) or spontaneous (UT-Dallas) form. Results revealed a recognition advantage for human observers over automatic classification. Among the eight classifiers, there was considerable variance in recognition accuracy ranging from 48% to 62%. Subsequent analyses per type of expression revealed that performance by the two best performing classifiers approximated those of human observers, suggesting high agreement for posed expressions. However, classification accuracy was consistently lower (although above chance level) for spontaneous affective behavior. The findings indicate potential shortcomings of existing out-of-the-box classifiers for measuring emotions, and highlight the need for more spontaneous facial databases that can act as a benchmark in the training and testing of automatic emotion recognition systems. We further discuss some limitations of analyzing facial expressions that have been recorded in controlled environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0231968
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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