An investigation of modes of access for the retrieval of emotional content of pictures

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Science and Technology


Susan M. Bonzi


Emotional content, Pictures, Image retrieval, Modes of access

Subject Categories

Library and Information Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This study investigated the feasibility of using visual browsing for the retrieval of emotional content of pictures. At the present time, the visual browsing technique is being used comparatively much less than descriptive keyword searching to access visual information. The traditional method, descriptive keyword searching, might be more applicable to retrieving the primary level of meaning in pictures, in terms of the types of image description, than the secondary or the tertiary level of image content. The latter two levels often depend on a relatively high degree of subjective interpretation. One of the best examples of the subjectivity, vagueness, and conditional-dependence of information is emotion.

The capabilities of the visual browsing method were examined through seeking answers to the following questions: (1) What is the most effective way of retrieving emotional content of pictures: keyword only, visual browsing only, or the combination of both? (2) Are there any visual features or components of images that are regarded as important and/or considered more by users? (3) What are pros and cons of using the different access modes?

The data necessary to answer the above questions were gathered through thinking-aloud and a post-search questionnaire. Results of this study include: (1) the combination mode resulted in the most successful search in terms of average precision, (2) subjects retrieved a larger number of good pictures using the combination mode or the visual browsing only mode, and (3) the subjects using the visual browsing mode looked through the retrieved pictures rapidly, thus having a better chance of finding more good pictures.

The study results indicate that the visual browsing method, used alone or combined with keyword access, provides the user with the capability of directly reacting to what he or she feels and expressing his or her information request by simply selecting a picture which best represents his or her needs. The study results found positive potential for the visual browsing technique to enhance the current state of image retrieval and to alleviate the difficulties, limitations, and problems associated with text-based image retrieval, especially the retrieval of subjective and interpretive information such as emotion.


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