Faces of focus: a study on the facial cues of attentional states

Ebrahim Babaei, Namrata Srivastava, Joshua Newn, Qiushi Zhou, Tilman Dingler, Eduardo Velloso

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOtherpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Automatically detecting attentional states is a prerequisite for designing interventions to manage attention - knowledge workers' most critical resource. As a first step towards this goal, it is necessary to understand how different attentional states are made discernible through visible cues in knowledge workers. In this paper, we demonstrate the important facial cues to detect attentional states by evaluating a data set of 15 participants that we tracked over a whole workday, which included their challenge and engagement levels. Our evaluation shows that gaze, pitch, and lips part action units are indicators of engaged work; while pitch, gaze movements, gaze angle, and upper-lid raiser action units are indicators of challenging work. These findings reveal a significant relationship between facial cues and both engagement and challenge levels experienced by our tracked participants. Our work contributes to the design of future studies to detect attentional states based on facial cues.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
EditorsJoanna McGrenere, Andy Cockburn
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781450367080
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2020 - Honolulu , United States of America
Duration: 25 Apr 202030 Apr 2020
Conference number: 38th
https://chi2020.acm.org (Website)
https://dl.acm.org/doi/proceedings/10.1145/3313831 (Proceedings)


ConferenceInternational Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2020
Abbreviated titleCHI 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
Internet address


  • attentional state
  • challenge
  • engagement
  • facial expression
  • focus

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