Evaluation of a prototype for eye contact in video communication

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för psykologi

Abstract: Today, video communication is common in private and professional communication, and during corona pandemic 2020, its use has increased significantly. This has raised the issue on the fact that video communication is not as perceived as natural as a face-to-face conversation, and the lack of eye contact can be a contributing cause. This study has developed and evaluated a video communication design where it was possible for users to have eye contact. It was also possible to manipulate the camera position. The aim of the study was to evaluate the usefulness of the design in research on eye contact, which gave the opportunity to also investigate how this affects the experience of the conversation. The study also investigated how the self-view affects experience of conversations. Twelve persons participated in the study. After a relaxed conversation, a semi-structured interview was conducted on how they experienced the different camera angles. The participants eye movements were also recorded. The result shows a significant and consistent perceived difference between different camera positions. The usual camera position with 15° decentration felt familiar and the extreme decentration of 45° position felt unreal and abnormal. When given the opportunity for eye contact, the participants felt significantly more present in the conversation with increased sense of reality. The Self-view was perceived as an obstacle to feel present, but gave a sense of control. These results are discussed in relation to the need to adapt video communication to social processes and its biological origin, e.g. the eyes function for we-ness and the implication of seeing oneself during conversations.

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