Social Biosensing & Digitally-Mediated Empathy

Technology-mediated communication affords great advantages such as surpassing the need to be physically co-located and enabling anonymity, but depending on the medium the verbal and nonverbal cues we rely on to convey our own and understand others’ thoughts and feelings are limited or altogether absent. How might we keep the advantages of technology-mediated communication and lessen this drawback?

This research seeks to explore the effects of sharing physiological data in communication on interpersonal processes like empathy. In this first study we observe that embedding their electrodermal activity (EDA) in a video of an anonymous person’s experience lowers observers’ accuracies of the person’s feelings, but functions similarly to narrative text as a reminder of the person’s presence and unique perspective. Future work will continue to explore these effects with broader interpretations of empathy and in different relationship types.

CHI 2019 Paper