Schedule of Events | Search Abstracts | Symposia | Invited Symposia | Poster Sessions | Data Blitz Sessions

Poster B31

Audience effects are associated with widespread prefrontal activity and physiological changes

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Isla L Jones1 (, Michelle Tsang1, Zihui Wu1, Antonia Hamilton1; 1University College London, United Kingdom

Being watched causes changes in performance on many tasks, both social and non-social, but the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying these audience effects are not yet fully understood. This study aims to elucidate the neural and physiological correlates of audience effects in naturalistic face-to-face settings. Wearable fNIRS brain imaging (22 channels over prefrontal cortex), ECG and behavioural data were collected while 49 participants completed easy or hard mental arithmetic tasks in three within-participant conditions: no audience, mere presence (two people with their back to the participant) and visible audience (two people watching the participant). Results showed a large effect of being watched (compared to mere presence or no audience) across prefrontal cortex, with more brain signal in 16 of 22 channels (p<0.05, Bonferroni corrected). These effects were stronger in the easy task blocks than the difficult task blocks. When being watched, heart rate increased and heart-rate variability decreased, indicating more arousal. Behavioural task performance varied between participants and, on average, was unchanged across audience conditions. Facial motion was higher in both visible audience and mere presence conditions compared to no audience. These results indicate that both arousal and the desire to manage one’s reputation in the presence of others impact on brain activity patterns when participants are being watched. We discuss the results in terms of theories of audience effects and the importance of studying real-world social interactions.

Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Other


CNS Account Login


April 13–16  |  2024