About this Research Topic
Physiological synchronization is a phenomenon in which the central and autonomic nervous system responses of two or more individuals gradually converge as the individuals work together or simply talk to each other. This synchronization can be measured using diverse sensors; in the area of brain-computer interfaces, the technology of simultaneously measuring multiple people’s brain activity is specifically called hyper-scanning. Furthermore, the synchronization occurs involuntarily and provides rich information about social functioning and relationships. For example, in collaborative tasks, it reflects the collaboration quality as well as role dynamics (e.g., leaders vs. followers). In conversational scenarios, it reflects the degree of rapport – for example, between a therapist and their client or a teacher and their students. Finally, in shared experiences such as movie watching, it reflects moments of shared engagement.
Since physiological synchronization occurs automatically and can be measured in real-time during collaboration or communication, it could be used to enhance interpersonal interaction in diverse ways. For example, intelligent machines could use measured synchronization to dynamically assign subtasks to underutilized collaborators or assign robotic assistance to overworked collaborators, thus balancing overall workload and optimizing collaboration. Alternatively, synchronization could be visually presented to participants as a form of biofeedback that would allow them to change their behavior – for example, in education, it would allow teachers to better gauge which students are engaged and focus on unengaged students.
Finally, the information could be used by developers to improve the design of future group activities - for example, to identify the most engaging activities in a multiplayer game and redesign the game to be more focused on such activities. So far, most studies in the area of physiological synchronization and hyper-scanning have involved offline analysis of large samples. However, researchers are increasingly using this technology to enhance real-time collaboration and communication. This Research Topic thus aims to showcase emerging research on the state of a specific dyad or group based on physiological measurements, studies that present a person’s physiological responses to their partner with the aim of improving communication, and studies where computers or robots make intelligent task adaptation decisions based on measured synchrony. Furthermore, we encourage experimental, theoretical and simulation studies from all application areas, including but not limited to collaboration and teamwork, competition, education/training, mental health counseling, peer support, decision-making, and media analysis.
Finally, we encourage studies with specific target populations that may benefit from the technology in the future – e.g., participants with autism spectrum disorder. It is our hope that this Research Topic will lead to more widespread adoption of physiological synchronization and hyper-scanning as technological tools for enhancement of collaboration and communication, improving human health and wellbeing in countless ways.
Keywords: affective computing, collaboration, communication, hyperscanning, human-computer interaction, physiological synchronization
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