Stanford researchers identify ‘Zoom fatigue’ causes

Stanford researchers identify ‘Zoom fatigue’ causes
Researchers at Stanford University have identified four causes for video conference fatigue, with Professor Jeremy Bailenson, director, Stanford Virtual Human Interactions Lab, identifying possible solutions for these effects.

  1. Too close for comfort

The researchers identified close-up eye contact as ‘highly intense’ due to the unnatural size of faces on screen. This can be caused by monitor size and the use of an external monitor, causing faces to appear too large for comfort.

Bailenson explained: “Social anxiety of public speaking is one of the biggest phobias that exists in our population. What’s happening, in effect, when you’re using Zoom for many, many hours is you’re in this hyper-aroused state.”

Stanford offered taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimise face sizes, using an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between the user and the grid.

  1. Looking in the mirror

Being able to view your own face on camera during a videocall can be unnatural, according to the researchers, citing studies which show that viewing a reflection of yourself can make you critical of yourself. Bailenson said: “It’s taxing on us. It’s stressful. And there’s a lot of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror.”

Bailenson suggests that platforms need to change the default practice of beaming the video to the user and the recipient. Currently, users can use the “hide self view” button.  

  1. Staying put

Bailenson identified the lack of movement by staying within a set field of view , causing the user to stay in the same space with unnatural, limited movement. Stanford has identified that people should rethink the room they are videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether items such as an external keyboard can create distance or flexibility. An external camera away from the screen can allow users to pace and doodle in a manner similar to real meetings. Turning off video periodically was also identified as a potential ground rule to set for groups, providing an opportunity for a nonverbal rest.

  1. Cognitive overload

Stanford researchers noted that in face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is natural, with everybody making and interpreting gestures and nonverbal cues subcionsciously. These can be harder to communicate over videoconferencing, causing people to work harder to send and receive signals. Bailenson explained: “You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the centre of the video. If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.”

Bailenson suggests providing yourself with an ‘audio only’ break; Bailenson said: “This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen, so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.”

Photo credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock 

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