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Facial Recognition Sheds Light on Why Pizza Makes us Happy

New social experiment from DIGIORNO shows smell of pizza in oven may bring more joy to gatherings than first bite
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Solon, Ohio

It’s no secret that pizza makes us happy*, but has anyone ever tried to figure out why? To better understand the power of pizza, DIGIORNO® conducted a social experiment that measured its effect on the moods of partygoers – and the result was surprising. While most would think it’s the first delicious bite that elevates our mood most, partygoers we studied were actually happiest when pizza was baking in the oven and its aroma filled the room.

Social Experiment by the Slice

To conduct this experiment, DIGIORNO recruited real people to host friends and family for a pizza party at a Manhattan loft. During three separate parties, the room was set up with more than 40 high-resolution cameras that captured footage of guests while pizza baked in the oven, and after it was served.

With the help of facial recognition and emotion-tracking software, the footage was then analyzed to identify patterns in emotion. For example, “joy” was classified based on indicators of happiness like smiles and eye movements.

“This experiment gave us unique insight into our belief that oven-fresh pizza helps people get more out of their occasions,” said Jeff Hamilton, President, Nestlé Foods Division, Nestlé USA. “We were able to learn about how, when and why moods may change in response to pizza in an exciting new way.”

The Results

Across all three gatherings, when pizza was in the oven, it coincided with the highest observable increase in joy – even greater than levels reached when the pizza was actually being eaten.

Notable findings include:

  • Pizza Prep: When pizza went into the oven, everyone’s mood improved, with joy increasing up to 18 percentage points.
  • That Smells Great: As smell permeated the room, partygoers were happiest, with joy increasing up to 24 percentage points.
  • It's Ready: Taking pizza out of the oven also had significant impact on the moods of partygoers, with an increase in joy up to 20 percentage points.
  • Serving up Slices: When hosts cut the pizza, partygoers experienced up to an 11 percentage point increase in joy.
  • Eating Pizza: As partygoers took their first bite and began eating pizza, increase in joy went up to 11 percentage points.

From putting it in the oven and smelling the aroma as it bakes to finally enjoying those first bites, there’s no doubt that baking pizza in your own oven is a sure-fire way to elevate any experience.

Follow along at and @DigiornoPizza on Twitter.

About the Social Experiment

DIGIORNO conducted a social experiment using 24 real people and measured the effect of oven-fresh pizza on gatherings. Three separate parties were set up with more than 40 high-resolution cameras to capture participants throughout the event. The footage was then processed using custom software that used facial recognition and emotion tracking to map the partygoers’ expressions. All measurements of joy are compared to five minutes after the beginning of each party, which was used as the baseline for testing.

Patterns were identified based on the levels of JOY displayed by partygoers in response to stimulus. Video was broken down to images at five-second intervals in order to process through facial analysis software. Patterns in emotion (Joy, Sorrow, Anger, Fear, Surprise) were calculated with Google’s Vision API on a scale of 0-4. The JOY scores were averaged on a per minute basis (by participants experiencing JOY only) and subtracted from the initial JOY felt upon arrival at the party.

Media Contacts:

David Weil
[email protected].

Sarah Factor, Nestlé USA
[email protected].

*88 percent of respondents said eating pizza makes them happy. Data according to survey from United Minds. This survey was designed and conducted by United Minds on behalf of DIGIORNO using an online survey of 1,086 Americans between 18 and 80 years of age. The sample was demographically representative of the US population. The survey was fielded Feb. 8-14, 2017.