How Mouse Movements Can Give Away Your Emotions

Marketers don’t tend to think about mouse movement. They usually focus their efforts on conversion rates, lead nurturing and reaching their goals – which is fair enough.

However, we think that mouse movement might be worth a closer look if you’re planning to improve your user experience. It could be a key indicator of visitor intent and their emotions while browsing your site.

Mouse movement analysis is a relatively new field. However, there are already a few intriguing theories and applications. Let’s take a look together to see how mouse movement can give away user emotions and potentially improve your marketing strategies.

Why is mouse movement important?

The concept of analysing mouse movement is simple; it’s how the cursor moves around the page. It can be tracked using heat mapping and analytics software, some of which is included in your standard CRO platforms, such as Mixpanel, Kissmetrics and Amplitude.

Mouse movement is important because it can give you an insight into the person behind the mouse. By looking at the areas a user hovers over, you can figure out which areas are of interest. If a user stays away from certain page elements, you’ll know that they’re a turn-off or just not particularly interesting.

These insights can inform the structure of your entire user experience. They can also reveal much about your users’ emotions. Use this information wisely, and you’ll be able to create a highly-personalised and relevant experience – sounds good, right?

How mouse movement can give away your emotions

Anger and frustration

Researchers at Brigham Young University were fascinated by mouse movement. After years of studying it, they can now identify anger and frustration just from the way someone’s cursor moves around the page.

These researchers conducted a series of three experiments to really get to grips with user mouse movement.

  1. They frustrated 65 participants as they tried to order things online. By monitoring their mouse movement, they found annoyed users increased their cursor distance but decreased their speed.
  2. This time they focused on 126 participants on a mock e-commerce site. Researchers could identify the exact point at which a user became frustrated 80% of the time.
  3. 80 participants reported on their own emotional levels as they interacted with an online product configurator. They noted their level of emotion after completing each step. The research found that not only does mouse movement give away negative emotions, it also suggests their intensity.

These three experiments found that frustrated people moved their cursors in more sporadic, but jagged, motions. They were much less precise and jerkier than their happy counterparts, and they actually used their mouse more.

A happy internet user will move in a more direct, precise manner to achieve his or her goal. Often, they’ll move in a straight line or curve.

The researchers tied this behaviour into attentional control theory (ACT). This refers to an individual’s capacity to choose what they pay attention to, and what they ignore. In this instance, the user’s attention switches to the thing that’s upsetting him or her.

Anger and frustration are the only emotions that can be definitively identified at the moment, but in future, it’s expected that mouse movement analysis will give great insight into all consumer emotions.


There are already studies that suggest mouse movement can identify dishonesty. In the future, it might even be used to prevent identity theft.

A group had to answer six expected questions, six unexpected questions and four control questions that required a ‘yes’ answer. It was also given the same number of questions with a ‘no’ answer.

Half of the group was told to respond truthfully (for the control), the other half was given a fake profile to memorise. After two rounds of testing to make sure the group's members knew the profile information, they responded to the relevant questions via a computer.

Mouse tracking software followed their movements. Apparently, the liars took a much more circuitous route than the truth-tellers. Their path to the right button wandered all over, even when they were telling the truth! Researchers put this down to the entire situation making them feel uncomfortable.

This leads experts to believe that this type of mouse movement could indicate dishonesty.

This is just the beginning for mouse movement tracking. In the future, we're sure it will be a very effective user analysis tool.

Can marketers use mouse movement to their advantage?

Absolutely! Mouse movement analysis is another way to learn more about your audience – never a bad thing!

Align your content with your users' emotions

If you can identify a user’s emotions, you can cater to him or her and build upon these emotions to help you achieve your goals.

For example, imagine you work for a charity saving kittens. Chances are the visitors to your site are worried about kittens in need. Your landing page could include a picture of a sad bedraggled kitten on one side, and a healthy clean kitten on the other. The narrative this suggests transforms feelings of concern into joy. This will convince visitors that what you’re doing is right and encourage them to convert – result!

Emotions can have a great effect on conversions because decisions are made on an emotional level. Tap into that, and you’ll be one step closer to conversion.

However, you must be careful when trying to use emotional persuasion to increase conversions. Go over the top and you could come across as manipulative and creepy; not the brand image you want to put out!

Aim to evoke positive emotions like anticipation, joy, surprise and trust and you'll be on the right track.

Figure out which elements cause specific emotional responses

By identifying patterns, you can attribute which elements of your site cause specific emotions.

A landing page with a broken button could cause frustration. If mouse movement analysis shows that people are jerking their cursors around the screen on this page, you’ll know that you need to fix this!

With other elements, like certain types of text, images and formatting, you could use A/B testing to see which emotions they evoke. If they affect your marketing outcomes positively, keep them in, if not, get rid of them.

This will all lead to a reduction in bounce rates and visitor retention, as you’ll be improving the user experience!

Use insights to optimise your website

Understanding your users is vital for optimising your website. Mouse movement analysis gives another layer of insight that will quickly prove invaluable.

It will enable you to deliver highly-personalised, relevant content at the right times. This data can also help you make informed decisions, and feel confident in the way your strategy is operating.

FABRIC8 use a unique blend of behavioural psychology and analytics software – including mouse movement tracking – to fine-tune strategies and maximise the amount of traffic to our clients’ sites.

This new type of data has really helped us improve our understanding of different visitor segments and we can’t wait to see how this technology will develop. Watch this space!