Physiological Synchrony and its Effects on Recall in Peer Meetings

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    Type: Master
    Status: Assigned September 2020
    Student: Luca Albinati

    Meetings form an integral (if often boring) part of our work. A common approach to improve the effectiveness of such meetings is to create a record of it for later review, thus allowing participants to prepare for the next meeting. Being able to effectively follow up a meeting is crucial to its success. Technology can make record creation easier, e.g., by automatically creating a meeting transcript from a video recording. However, reading a full summary of a meeting can be cumbersome. Furthermore, such an “objective” view of the meeting does not consider the individual experience of each participant. An alternative approach is to provide participants with so-called “memory cues” – either semantic (e.g., words clouds showing key concepts discussed in the meeting) or episodic (e.g., short audio clips, pictures) – that allow them to recall, from their own memory, what transpired during the meeting. Today’s technology
    makes both the collection, preparation, and presentation of memory cues possible. The ubiquitous availability of screens (e.g., laptop screen savers, tablet and smartphone lock screens, wall-mounted displays) enables the ambient presentation of memory cues, while wearable recorders and sensors facilitate the comprehensive capture of one’s meeting experience. Wearable biophysical sensors (e.g., as integrated in smart watches) allow for a highly personalized capture process that “understands” how a meeting affects each participant.

    One interesting social process in a meeting is called “synchrony” – a cognitive, affective, and behavioral connection between two or more participants that creates a sort of “connection” or “vibe”. This connection has been shown to greatly improve the effectiveness of a meeting, as well as one’s recall. Social synchrony manifests itself physiologically in our brains: “synchronized” people have their brains react to a task or event simultaneously. While using an fMRI machine to measure each participant’s brain activity clearly is infeasible, prior research has shown that electrodermal activity (EDA) is a good proxy for brain activity. People who are synchronized not only have “synchronized” brain activity, but also show simultaneous changes in EDA.

    The goal of this Master’s thesis is to design, develop, and execute a small pilot experiment to study how the physiological synchrony of peers during a meeting affect their memory of the event, and how this can be used to create a recall-based productivity system.

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