Winter 2023 Workshops - Roman Family Center | Chicago Booth

Winter 2023 Workshops

When: Mondays 10:00–11:30 a.m.
Where: Harper Center C06

Monday, February 27, 2023

Melanie Brucks 
Columbia Business School

"Perceptual Distortions Undermine Virtual Communication"

The COVID-19 pandemic engendered the widespread adoption of videoconferencing across numerous sectors, including healthcare, sales, education, and hiring. Although videocalls offer many benefits, this paper examines a novel issue introduced by this communication medium: perceptual distortions, in which audiovisual information is unnaturally warped. We test our predictions in the empirical context of glitches, or small and fleeting errors like lags and freezes in audio or video. Although consumers and managers believe that that these interruptions do not affect judgments, five studies across several consequential domains suggest that lay intuitions are incorrect. Results reveal that, despite not affecting objective comprehension, minor video-call glitches undermine persuasion and connection. This is because glitches violate fundamental expectations of human interaction (e.g., by distorting one’s face, misaligning audio and visual cues, or making movement appear “choppy”), evoking a sense of “uncanniness” or eeriness. Consequently, we find that glitches only undermine post-communication outcomes in contexts intended to mimic face-to-face interactions. We end by exploring possible interventions to counteract this sense of uncanniness and recoup the communication harms incurred by glitches.