Scientists discover that the human brain works differently during online video conferencing

Ihor Romanko

Scientists have found out how the human brain reacts to online video communication

Have you ever felt awkward saying goodbye on Zoom? A new study suggests that your brain processes Zoom video chat conversations differently than it does in a regular face-to-face conversation even when you're talking to a real person.

The study conducted by researchers from Yale University revealed how important face-to-face communication is for our perception of other people, Science Alert writes.

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Social systems in the human brain are activated more during real face-to-face meetings than in Zoom video chats, said neuroscientist Joy Hirsch, senior author of the study. Online representation, at least with current technology, does not activate the social neural pathways in the brain that are activated in face-to-face meetings.

Previous studies that have used neuroimaging to examine brain activity during social interactions have typically focused on individuals rather than couples.

In this study, researchers compared two people's communication in real-time and video chats. The participants were 28 healthy adults of different ages, genders, and ethnicities without visual impairments.

In the study, Hirsch and her team used a variety of techniques, including functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fnirs), electroencephalography (EEG), and eye-tracking devices to systematically record the participants' brain and eye activity during communication.

The results of the comparison showed that during face-to-face meetings, the interlocutors showed more synchronized neural activity and social cueing. The study also found that eye contact was more intense during face-to-face meetings.

Even with modern high-resolution webcams, video chatting can limit eye contact. For example, when we look into the camera, we cannot see our partner's eyes, which makes natural eye contact less intense. On the other hand, when we look at the screen, it seems as if we are looking below our interlocutor's field of vision.

Although the results of this study are limited by the number of participants, they emphasize the importance of face-to-face communication for our brains and social connections. Humans are naturally social creatures, and our brains are adapted to process the dynamic facial cues we see during real-life interactions with other people.

According to the study, virtual communication via Zoom turned out to be less intense in terms of social cues and brain activity compared to face-to-face meetings.

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