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How One Company Is Using A.I. to Predict Panic Over Covid-19

How One Company Is Using A.I. to Predict Panic Over Covid-19

From empty grocery store shelves to empty city streets, there are many visible signs of increased anxiety over the coronavirus crisis. But how m

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From empty grocery store shelves to empty city streets, there are many visible signs of increased anxiety over the coronavirus crisis. But how much is this concern really permeating people’s lives?

Dayton, Ohio-based behavioral analytics company Cognovi Labs has found a way to measure people’s emotional response towards Covid-19–in real-time–with its Coronavirus Panic Index.

The index combines technology–developed at the Wright State University KNO.E.SIS Innovation Center in Dayton, Ohio–with behavioral psychology to analyze conversations across social platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and blogs. The text, and its context, are categorized into emotions (joy, anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise) using machine learning. Then it’s all translated into behavioral signals, which are calibrated on a scale of zero to 100–zero being “at home emotionally” and 100 being somewhere near “nervous breakdown.” The points are then plotted on a map.

“It’s not just what people say or how they talk, it’s the emotional sentiment behind that,” says Ben-Ami Gradwohl, co-founder and CEO of Cognovi Labs.

For businesses, the tool can be used to gauge people’s emotional reactions towards the virus, employment, the stock market or certain industries or activities, such as shopping or travel.

“We want to understand how emotions translate to action,” Gradwohl says. “We have a chief psychology officer as part of the team to translate that–what people say, how they say it–and most importantly, how they felt when they said it, and what that’s going to mean for the future.”

So where are we emotionally as a country? Gradwohol says there was a huge spike in emotional sentiment, especially fear toward the coronavirus early on, at the end of January into February, weeks before the stock market crash–and even before the majority of people in the U.S. were affected. Now he says, the level of panic overall has started to flatten.

“The anxiety has become much more focused as time has gone on,” he says, noting that as people become more accustomed to the reality of a crisis, they begin to focus on the circumstances of the situation as opposed to the crisis itself. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, the concern is seen in the rise of topics like social distancing, home schooling, and unemployement.

“As human beings, we have a tendency to bounce back both from grief and from overly being excited and happy,” he says. “We’ve seen that on the coronavirus conversation in general, it really spiked. But now if you look at the dashboard, you see it coming down, especially if you turn on the seven day moving average.”

Published on: Mar 27, 2020

This article is from Inc.com

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