July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
What you see is what you get: Webcam viewing angle influences social coordination
Author Affiliations
  • Laura Thomas
    Department of Psychology, North Dakota State University
  • Daniel Pemstein
    Department of Criminal Justice and Political Science, North Dakota State University
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 438. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.438
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      Laura Thomas, Daniel Pemstein; What you see is what you get: Webcam viewing angle influences social coordination. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):438. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.438.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Increasingly, people communicate remotely using video chat programs such as Skype. The constrained viewing angles these programs afford limit and alter the visual information available to users, potentially influencing perception and cognition. We examined how camera placement affected participants' performance in a joint decision-making task. Participants played a two-person game that presented each player with two options. Players received higher payoffs when they coordinated around the same option than when they failed to coordinate, but each player's largest payoff was associated with coordination around a different option. Participants sat in separate rooms in front of identical computer monitors—one in which the webcam rested above the center of the monitor and the other in which the webcam rested the same distance below the center of the monitor—and, using Skype, discussed the game for two minutes. Following the Skype call, each participant independently chose one of the two available options. Although the participants reported being unaware of any differences in viewing angle, we found that participants who sat in front of the monitor with the low webcam received a larger payoff almost twice as often as participants who sat in front of the monitor with the high webcam (p<.05). Participants in the high webcam condition were more likely to defer to a partner they looked up to, making coordination choices that rewarded their partner more than themselves. When participants instead played a game in which the camera viewing angles were the same across monitors, no such inequalities were apparent in their choices. These results demonstrate that a subtle perceptual cue—viewing angle—affects higher-order decision-making processes. They also suggest that the viewing conditions during video chat may trigger embodied associations of size or height.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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