Differences and Impact of Virtual versus In-Person Interactions – Year 1

PI: Allan Reiss


The ubiquity of technology in today's world is exemplified in our ability to connect with each other instantly all around the globe. Advances in video conferencing capabilities combined with dramatic socio-dynamic shifts brought about by COVID-19, have redefined the ways in which humans interact in modern society. Human reliance on effective virtual interfacing (e.g., zoom conferencing) is evermore present in today's COVID-19 world, and will undoubtedly expand in the future. This digitalization has direct implications for the output and impact of human interactions across all industries and practices like medicine, design, and education, to name a few. While the emergent field of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) hyperscanning – measuring two or more brains at the same time – has begun to elucidate the neurobiological signatures that underlie human-to-human interactions, very little is currently understood about how virtual interfaces influence these signatures. Our proposed research aim is therefore to apply fNIRS hyperscanning to quantify and derive the neural differences between virtual and in-person interactions of humans in collaborative settings using both digital and analog interfaces. Specifically, we aim to understand and uncover the influence of virtual and in-person interaction on inter-brain coherence and related human-to-human behavior (e.g., joint task performance, creativity, empathy etc.) during an innovation event. Key objectives include: [1] Objective I: Determine differences in collaborative outcomes (e.g.creativity) and inter-brain synchrony in virtual versus in-person interactions using both analog and digital manipulatives (study I). [2] Objective II: Determine neural differences between virtual and inperson interactions with respect to social information processing (e.g., empathy) and innovation (study II).


Grace Hawthorne, Stephanie Christina Balters