By John Ikani
Scientists have confirmed that your brain operates differently during Zoom conversations compared to in-person interactions.
A recent study reveals a significant reduction in neural signalling when communicating through video calls as opposed to face-to-face discussions.
When observing the brain activity of someone engaged in a real-life conversation, researchers uncovered a detailed and intricate system of neurological functions. However, on Zoom, this complexity was notably diminished.
This suggests that something essential is missing when speaking with someone online, with Zoom failing to stimulate the brain in the same way as in-person interactions.
This finding is somewhat surprising, as conventional models suggest that the brain should process faces similarly, whether in a Zoom call or in real life, given the similarities in facial features. Yet, this new study suggests a fundamental distinction between the two contexts.
Yale Professor Joy Hirsch, the lead author of the study, explains, “In this study, we find that the social systems of the human brain are more active during real live in-person encounters than on Zoom.
Zoom appears to be an impoverished social communication system relative to in-person conditions.”
To arrive at these conclusions, researchers monitored real-time brain activity and analyzed other indicators, such as eye movements. Apart from reduced neural activity during Zoom conversations, they noticed that people’s eyes lingered longer on real faces.
In addition, the brains of both individuals engaged in in-person discussions exhibited better synchronization, indicating the exchange of more social cues.
“Overall, the dynamic and natural social interactions that occur spontaneously during in-person interactions appear to be less apparent or absent during Zoom encounters,” noted Professor Hirsch. “This is a really robust effect.”
The study underscores the continued significance of face-to-face encounters, even as technology companies develop new means of remote interaction.
According to the authors, “Online representations of faces, at least with current technology, do not have the same ‘privileged access’ to social neural circuitry in the brain that is typical of the real thing.”
These findings are detailed in a newly published paper titled “Separable Processes for Live ‘In-Person’ and Live ‘Zoom-like’ Faces” in Imaging Neuroscience.