As stated in a previous blog, “One of the main challenges (if not the biggest challenge) of conducting virtual lessons is their impersonal nature.”  Engaging students when they participate in a virtual classroom can be daunting. The non-contingent interactions that often occur in a well organized,  in-person classroom are difficult to replicate when students are staring at a screen.  

Now a recent study from the Yale School of Medicine has shed additional light on the problem with virtual classes:  “Critical differences exist between the neural correlates of social cognition in remote vs. face-to-face interactions.”  The study found that neural activity in the areas of the brain involved in facial processing significantly decreased during face-to-face interactions on Zoom and similar platforms compared to in-person interactions.” Eye contact is more active with face-to-face interactions than it is with online meetings.Neural studies, too, found differences: the brain area that is tuned to faces, the fusiform face area, was less active when processing virtual compared to real faces.”

The artificial online experience is not comparable with in-person instruction.  “These neural and behavioral differences highlight the importance of natural, in-person, paradigms and social context for understanding live and interactive face processing in humans.” Virtual interactions area a poor substitute for face-to-face communication.

Laura Maniglia