Pyschophysiology Lab

Participant monitored with sensors
Participant watching a football game

One form of research that’s growing in popularity is the use of physiology or “biometric” data to examine how viewers respond to media messages. The CCR is home to two labs that permit the measurement of numerous markers of viewers’ physiological response to study how they react to video messages.

The advantage of this form of research is twofold. First, physiology data often provides valuable insights on responses that may escape conscious awareness. In short, people may have a response without being actively aware of it. Second, continuous measurement of physiology throughout the viewing experience allows researchers to pinpoint responses to specific points in a message. This provides a clear advantage to posttest questionnaires, which typically allow for measuring response after the viewing experience.

Lab Hardware. Psychophysiology hardware in the CCR labs are typically used to record three common indicators of viewer response. Skin conductance, or electrodermal response, measures tiny changes in how much a viewer is sweating while watching a message. This typically serves as a reliable indicator of a viewer’s arousal response, or how exciting a message may be. Heart rate, or cardiac deceleration, is also concurrently measured to indicate how much attention a viewer is devoting to a message. Finally, facial electromyography, measures the activation of smile or frown muscles in the face to determine how pleasant or unpleasant a viewer finds a message to be. When combined, these measures provide a comprehensive look at viewer response on a much more granular level than simple self-report questionnaires.

Sample Study: Arousal Responses to Novel Television Production Techniques. Researchers in the lab have used physiology data to help understand response to a wide array of video messages. In one recent study, researchers used skin conductance to help explain the impact of novel production techniques in sports telecasts. Viewers watched selections from college football broadcasts, while skin conductance data was recorded throughout viewing. The researchers measured a number of frequent but imperceptible arousal responses that illustrate the benefit of certain production techniques.


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