May 7, 2022 8:50:00 pm
Zoom meetings, Google Meet calls, brainstorming on WhatsApp, sharing ideas on Instagram — this has become the norm of our times. But, can virtual communication crush one’s creative ability? A new study says so.
Published on nature.com, the study, titled ‘Virtual communication curbs creative idea generation’, recruited 602 people who were randomly paired and instructed to come up with creative uses for everyday products, like bubble wrap and Frisbee, in five minutes and then spend one minute in choosing which one they think is the most creative idea. The participants were randomly assigned to work together on this task either in person or virtually.
Their performance was then gauged by student judges who determined the result based on how many ideas they came up with and the creative value of their ideas. For example, a creative use for a Frisbee is to knock fruit out of a tree or deliver a message, whereas, a less creative idea is to use it as a picnic plate or a hat.
In the study, researchers also used eye-tracking software to find out what the participants were focusing on. They found that virtual participants spent more time looking directly at their partners and did not notice their surroundings, which often helps in generating creative ideas. It also stated that participants who were on videoconference remembered less of their surroundings.
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The findings of this study were replicated in a larger and more complex setting outside the lab as well — with 1,490 employees of a telecommunications company with branches in five countries. They were asked to come up with new product ideas and choose one among them to submit as a proposal for a new product.
The study, then, found that similar patterns appear even in high-tech brainstorming video calls, even if people become more acquainted with Zoon or Google Meet. However, it also discovered that video conferencing did not hinder the process of choosing the best out of the five ideas.
“Here we show that, even if video interaction could communicate the same information, there remains an inherent and overlooked physical difference in communicating through the video that is not psychologically benign: in-person teams operate in a fully shared physical space, whereas, virtual teams inhabit a virtual space that is bounded by the screen in front of each member. Our data suggest that this physical difference in shared space compels virtual communicators to narrow their visual field by concentrating on the screen and filtering out peripheral visual stimuli that are not visible or relevant to their partner,” stated the study.
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