Subjective Evaluation of Performance in a Collaborative Task Is Better Predicted From Autonomic Response Than From True Achievements

Author: Alexander Maye1, Jürgen Lorenz2, Mircea Stoica1, Andreas K Engel1
1 Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.
2 Laboratory of Human Biology and Physiology, Faculty of Life Science, Applied Science University, Hamburg, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Front Hum Neurosci
Date published: 2020 Jul 17
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 234 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00234. , Word Count: 267

Whereas the fundamental role of the body in social cognition seems to be generally accepted, elucidating the bodily mechanisms associated with non-verbal communication and cooperation between two or more persons is still a challenging endeavor. In this article we propose a fresh approach for investigating the function of the autonomic nervous system that is reflected in parameters of heart rate variability, respiration, and electrodermal activity in a social setting. We analyzed autonomic parameters of dyads solving a target-tracking task together with the partner or individually. A machine classifier was trained to predict the subjects' rating of performance and collaboration either from tracking error data or from the set of autonomic parameters. When subjects collaborated, this classifier could predict the subjective performance ratings better from the autonomic response than from the objective performance of the subjects. However, when they solved the task individually, predictability from autonomic parameters dropped to the level of objective performance, indicating that subjects were more rational in rating their performance in this condition. Moreover, the model captured general knowledge about the population that allows it to predict the performance ratings of an unseen subject significantly better than chance. Our results suggest that, in particular in situations that require collaboration with others, evaluation of performance is shaped by the bodily processes that are quantified by autonomic parameters. Therefore, subjective performance assessments appear to be modulated not only by the output of a rational or discriminative system that tracks the objective performance but to a significant extent also by interoceptive processes.

KEYWORDS: biophysical methods; embodied cognition; human behavior; joint attention; self-perception.

PMID: 32765234 PMCID: PMC7379897 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00234