Stanford University

Intimate heartbeats: Opportunities for affective communication technology

Janssen, J.H., Bailenson J.N., IJsselsteijn, W.A., & Westerink, J.H.D.M. (2010). Intimate heartbeats: Opportunities for affective communication technology. IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, 1 (2), 72-80.

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Despite a variety of new communication technologies, loneliness is prevalent in Western countries. Boosting emotional communication through intimate connections has the potential to reduce loneliness. New technologies might exploit biosignals as intimate emotional cues because of their strong relationship to emotions. Through two studies, we investigate the possibilities of heartbeat communication as an intimate cue. In the first study (N = 32), we demonstrate, using self-report and behavioral tracking in an immersive virtual environment, that heartbeat perception influences social behavior in a similar manner as traditional intimate signals such as gaze and interpersonal distance. In the second study (N = 34), we demonstrate that a sound of the heartbeat is not sufficient to cause the effect; the stimulus must be attributed to the conversational partner in order to have influence. Together, these results show that heartbeat communication is a promising way to increase intimacy. Implications and possibilities for applications are discussed.

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