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Summary: The more a person looks at themselves during a virtual meeting, the more their mood drops, a new study reports.

Source: University of Illinois

A new study reveals that the more a person looks at themselves while talking with a partner in an online chat, the more their mood deteriorates during the conversation. Drinking alcohol appears to make the problem worse, the researchers found.

Reported in the newspaper Clinical Psychological Sciencesthe findings point to a potentially problematic role for online meeting platforms in exacerbating psychological issues like anxiety and depression, the researchers said.

“We used eye-tracking technology to examine the relationship between mood, alcohol, and attentional focus during virtual social interaction,” said Talia Ariss, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana. -Champaign who led the research with Catharine, professor of psychology at the University of the Island. Fairbairn.

“We found that participants who spent more time looking at each other during the conversation felt worse after the call, even after controlling for negative mood before the interaction. alcohol spent more time looking at each other.

The findings add to previous studies suggesting that people who focus more on themselves than on external realities — especially during social interactions — may be susceptible to mood disorders, Ariss said.

“The more self-centered a person is, the more likely they are to report feeling emotions consistent with things like anxiety and even depression,” she said.

“Users of online video calling platform Zoom have increased 30-fold during the pandemic – from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in April 2020,” the researchers wrote.

“The pandemic has led to increased levels of depression and anxiety, and given reports of heightened self-awareness and ‘fatigue’ during virtual exchanges, some have advanced a role for the virtual interaction in exacerbating these trends.”

In the study, participants answered questions about their emotional state before and after online conversations. They were asked to talk about their likes and dislikes about living in the local community during the discussions and to discuss their musical preferences.

Talia Ariss, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of the Island, and her colleagues found that people who looked at each other during an online chat tended to have a lower mood after the conversation, an effect worsened by the alcohol consumption. Credit: Michelle Hassel

Participants could see themselves and their interlocutors on a split-screen monitor. Some drank an alcoholic drink before speaking and others drank a non-alcoholic drink.

In general, the participants looked at their interlocutors on the screen much more than they looked at themselves, the researchers found. But there were significant differences in the amount of time individual participants spent looking at each other.

“The cool thing about virtual social interactions, especially on platforms like Zoom, is that you can simulate the experience of looking in a mirror,” Ariss said. This allows researchers to explore how self-focus influences a host of other factors, she said.

Adding alcohol to the experiment and using eye-tracking technology also allowed scientists to explore how mild intoxication affects where a person focuses their attention.

Credit: University of Illinois

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“In the context of in-person social interactions, there is strong evidence that alcohol acts as a social lubricant in drinkers and has these mood-enhancing properties,” Ariss said.

“This did not hold true, however, in online conversations, where drinking correlated with greater self-focus and had none of its typical effects on mood.”

“At this point in the pandemic, many of us have realized that virtual interactions just aren’t the same as face-to-face,” Fairbairn said.

“A lot of people struggle with fatigue and melancholy after a full day of Zoom meetings. Our work suggests that the auto-view offered on many online video platforms could make these interactions more cumbersome than they need to be.

Funding: The National Institutes of Health supported this research.

About this psychology research news

Author: Diana Yates
Source: University of Illinois
Contact: Diana Yates – University of Illinois
Image: Image is credited to Michelle Hassel

Original research: The findings will be presented in Clinical Psychological Sciences

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