Technology seems to harm communication, study shows

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Technology seems to harm communication, study shows

The brains of mothers and their teenagers talking in person and then through technology have been observed.

Communication between two individuals is not as effective if it is done by technology, found a Montreal researcher, and it could even require a greater effort of concentration from the brain.

This could explain Zoom fatigue, the unease many people have felt during the pandemic after spending an entire day online chatting with colleagues.

Our findings clearly illustrate the price that we pay for the technology, write the authors in the medical journal NeuroImage .

Guillaume Dumas, a researcher from the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine, and his colleagues used an electroencephalogram to examine the brains of mothers and their teenagers who were chatting in person and then through technology. The examination showed that the brains of the participants did not react in the same way at all.

The researchers found that the participants' brains synchronized when they were in each other's presence, which did not happen when they were chatting through a screen. . Specifically, they were able to measure that nine important links united the two brains during the in-person conversation, compared to only one during the virtual conversation.

It is believed that these links could allow interlocutors to communicate their emotional state or non-verbal cues to their partner.

It's the old adage of being on the same page. We show that, precisely, we are less on the same wavelength when we are by videoconference, than when we are face to face, said Mr. Dumas, who discussed his work first with The Canadian Press. .

“We pay a bit of a price for using technology to communicate by having a communication can -be of lower quality and less authentic compared to what our brain is used to, to what it was made for. »

— Guillaume Dumas, University of Montreal

Our brains are the product of tens of thousands of years of evolution, he recalled. Compared to the evolution of technology, the biological evolution of our brains is relatively slow, and so we still have relatively the same brains as our Homo sapiens ancestors ten years ago. or twenty thousand years.

Consequently, he continues, our brain is wired to manage interactions and communications with others in real time, face to face.

< p class="e-p">The researchers found that the frontal region of the mother's brain linked to each of the regions measured in the child's brain. The frontal cortex is associated with higher social functions, including social cognition and decision-making in a social context.

In-person communication, Dumas said, makes it easier to convey and pick up on nonverbal cues, perhaps anticipating what the other is going to say, understanding innuendo or things that are more subtle in terms of communication, which is definitely more difficult in the presence of a two-dimensional image.

We will have to force a little more from an attention point of view, said Mr. Dumas. It is much more complicated to maintain communication, a bit like talking on the phone and there is a lot of noise around. We feel that it's not pleasant, that you have to put a lot more energy, a lot more effort to manage to communicate with the other person.

Several factors have been cited to explain Zoom fatigue, including delayed social feedback, difficulty sustaining attention, people who don't show their faces, posture problems, and responses that are slow in coming due to switched off microphones.

This new study adds reduced brain synchronization to that list. x27;an hour-long online meeting, Dumas said.

This study suggests that the human brain needs in-person interactions to develop properly, the researchers write. This therefore raises concerns about the development of empathy and collaboration among young people who are heavy consumers of technology-assisted communication, especially after two years of pandemic during which much of their life is spent. x27;is moved online.

There are plenty of experiments in neuroscience that show that there are what are called critical periods, therefore periods that are critical for certain learning, underlined Mr. Dumas.

“And if we go beyond those periods […] it becomes much more difficult to catch up with the thing than if we learned the thing at the right time in development. »

— Guillaume Dumas, University of Montreal

He cites as an example the acquisition of social norms, the acceptance of others and by others, the communication and interactions with others, which occur during adolescence.

Technology-assisted communications, he continues, provide opportunities for things that were more difficult in a conventional mode of interaction, such as cyberbullying.

People who don't would not have acted out in reality have much less difficulty engaging in toxic behavior on the Internet, Dumas said.

“According to the literature and our states of knowledge, it would make total sense that, precisely, the disembodiment of the other facilitates these toxic behaviors. »

— Guillaume Dumas, University of Montreal

Technology-assisted communication can offer great benefits and allow certain populations to obtain services that would otherwise be otherwise inaccessible, Dumas pointed out.

“But examples of situations where less optimal virtual communication might be problematic are many. It is therefore questionable whether online psychotherapy is as effective as in person. »

— Guillaume Dumas, University of Montreal

The same goes for distance learning. In a study published in 2021, undergraduate university students rated distance learning as ranging from somewhat difficult to extremely difficult.

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