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Staring at yourself during virtual chats may worsen your mood

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A new study finds that the more a person stares at themself while talking with a partner in an online chat, the more their mood degrades over the course of the conversation. Alcohol use appears to worsen the problem, the researchers found.

Reported in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the findings point to a potentially problematic role of online meeting platforms in exacerbating psychological problems like anxiety and depression, the researchers said.

“We used eye-tracking technology to examine the relationship between mood, alcohol and attentional focus during virtual social interaction,” said Talia Ariss, a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign doctoral candidate who led the research with U. of I. psychology professor Catharine Fairbairn. “We found that participants who spent more time looking at themselves during the conversation felt worse after the call, even after controlling for pre-interaction negative mood. And those who were under the influence of alcohol spent more time looking at themselves.”

Editor’s notes:

To reach Talia Ariss, email tariss2@illinois.edu.

To reach Catharine Fairbairn, email cfairbai@illinois.edu.

The paper “Where to look? Alcohol, affect, and gaze behavior during a virtual social interaction” is in press in the journal Clinical Psychological Science and available from the U. of I. News Bureau.

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