Some things are better left unseen — research shows that watching yourself in a video meeting is not a good thing

I’m a big fan of virtual meetings: For planning outreach activities taking place in France with a team in Norway while sitting in my office in Germany (see here, and definitely check out the product of that planning meeting, Elin Darelius’ & Team’s blog from a 13-m-diameter rotating tank!), when giving a lecture in Iceland from my office in Norway (see here), or even when taking examinations via Skype when sitting in Nadine’s apartment in Norway and the panel was sitting in Germany (see here).

BUT I’ve known it all along: It makes me less focussed on the discussions in a Skype meeting when I can see myself. Because I start thinking about how people on the other end perceive me, if they are wondering about what’s in the shelves behind me, whether the angle of the camera is as bad as it feels. Or, as Hassell & Cotton (2017) write, objective self-awareness increases, as does cognitive load. In a laboratory study, they find that “seeing one’s own feed during video mediated communication does make a difference, and it can be detrimental to task performance”.

Interesting! So next time I’m in a video conference, I’ll just put a post-it note on my screen to cover my face. Problem solved! Or maybe then I’ll only wonder about what the other side is seeing… But it’s worth a try!


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