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Awkward Pauses in Online Calls Make the Other Person Think Less of You, Just Like You Always Suspected

Being vindicated never felt so massively upsetting.

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It’s happened to everyone at least once: you’re talking to someone over Skype or Google Hangout, and there’s a connection problem that causes you to interrupt your conversation partner. Rational logic would dictate that you’d both understand the situation and take it in stride. Your anxiety disorder says the opposite. Guess which one is right?

In a study that looked at the effects of transmission delay on communication, a team from the Telekom Innovation Laboratories at Technische Universität Berlin found that people’s views of one another’s attentiveness depended heavily on the effectiveness and speed of their connection. When there were more and longer delays in connectivity, study participants were more likely to judge their interlocutors for it.

The study was published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, but research assistant Katrin Schoenenberg also took to The Conversation, an Australian news website, to elaborate on their findings.

“The awkwardness is heightened if people are unfamiliar to each other. They have no prior knowledge about the other person’s personality or how they normally speak,” she writes. “We added artificial delays to the line in our research and found that the judgements people made about their interlocutor depended on the length of that delay.”

She adds that for delays of up to 1.2 seconds, people rated one another as “less attentive, friendly and self-disciplined than if there was no delay.” However, if the conversation was more clearly structured from the beginning—meaning that people knew exactly when it was their turn to speak and what they should say—then they were more quick to blame the technology when the dialogue went south.

So far there appears to be no solution to this problem, aside from never speaking to anyone ever again and staying inside your house forever so no one will know how awkward you are. Schoenenberg notes that paid services are trying their best to lower the amount of lag between users, but at a certain point, it comes down to bandwidth accessibility, which will, of course, never be perfect. That’s okay. I didn’t need other people to think that I’m a capable, friendly, worthwhile person, right? If you need me, I’ll be crawling under the covers and communicating only via text.

(via Phys.org, image via Forgetting Sarah Marshall)

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