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New Stanford study says Zoom calls trigger our fight-or-flight survival reflex



Should every meeting be a call to increase? Americans are celebrating the one-year anniversary of orders to stay home and work remotely with a growing sense of pandemic fatigue. And new study finds that staring into the faces of your colleagues, up close and personal, and your own probably triggers your “battle or flight” survival reflex.

“The brain is especially attentive to people, and when we see adults, we interpret them as close. Our fight-or-flight reflex responds,” said Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University̵

7;s Virtual Interaction Laboratory. said Business Insider. He added: “From an evolutionary point of view, if there was a very large human face next to you and it was staring right into your eyes, you would probably get into a conflict or mating. None of the answers are suitable for a business meeting.”


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They aren’t, but the number of users of Zoom and other video conferencing platforms has jumped from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands in the last year. And while physically distant, users make continuous eye contact through the screen at close range for longer periods than ever. At the same time, nonverbal cues are distorted (does your boss make a face of what you just said, or is a family member simply out of sight of the camera?) And physical movements are limited.

Not only do you get tired of watching video conferences all day in a box, but you also stare at your own. Seeing your image reflected in the camera can be stressful, research shows, consciously and unconsciously, leading to self-criticism and negative consequences for mental health.


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Even as Americans gradually return to work next year, “video conferencing is here to stay,” Bailson said. Like many other pandemics, Zoom and his colleagues are likely to become part of the new norm.

“Even when face-to-face meetings become safe again, it’s likely that the culture has finally shifted enough to remove some of the earlier stigmas against virtual meetings,” he wrote. “With slight changes to the interface, Zoom has the potential. continue to boost productivity and reduce carbon emissions by replacing commuting. “

For this reason, Bailenson says that while it doesn’t spend Zoom to “insult” the company, there are both smaller and larger changes that could improve the experience. New technologies, such as virtual reality, can also provide better solutions to the limitations of virtual interactions.

Until then, the next time you plan a meeting, ask yourself, can this meeting be a phone call? Or better yet, an email?


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