Dr. Julie Boland, Professor of Psychology and Linguistics

Zoom Disrupts the Rhythm of Conversation

Conversation might be our superpower. As Dr. Julie Boland will explain, carrying on a conversation requires very efficient multi-tasking, yet it often feels effortless. Researchers have proposed several automatic mechanisms that could facilitate this effortless multi-tasking. One such mechanism is the synching of a group of neurons into an "oscillatory timer" that fires in rhythm with our partner's speech rate. This oscillator could help us to time our responses to begin as the other speaker is ending their turn. In recent research, Dr. Boland has found evidence for the hypothesis that videoconferencing software like Zoom disrupts the rhythm of the oscillator, because of inherent, variable, electronic transmission delays. This is likely to be one factor that makes Zoom conversations more tiring than face to face conversations.

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