The effect of simulated feedback about psychophysiological synchronization on perceived empathy and connectedness

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Abstract

Social interaction technologies have increasingly become available to psychotherapeutic practice. Despite evidence for their efficacy and other unique benefits, adoption among therapists is still relatively low. A main barrier for therapists is their perception that the ability to empathize and connect with their clients is compromised in technology-mediated interactions. However, the unique affordances of technologies also offer opportunities that could help overcome this barrier and possibly even enhance the empathic interaction. One potential direction is to augment social interaction with feedback derived from psychophysiological measures. A specific interpersonal psychophysiological phenomenon that seems particularly relevant is psychophysiological synchronization, the occurrence of substantial levels of synchrony in human physiology between persons, which has been linked to empathy. The current study investigates the effect of (simulated) feedback about psychophysiological synchronization on perceived empathy and connectedness. Sixty-six participants received simulated feedback, indicating high or low synchronization, while watching an emotionally salient movie simultaneously with a confederate in a separate room. Participants receiving feedback indicating high synchronization reported higher levels of perceived empathy and connectedness compared to the low synchronization feedback group. This study suggests that feedback about physiological synchronization might be used to influence levels of empathy and connectedness in remote interactions, which could potentially be applied to increase empathy between therapists and clients in technology-mediated psychological treatment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine
VolumeXX
Issue numberXX
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • technology-mediated interaction
  • psychophysiological synchronization
  • empathy
  • e-mental health

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