Visual Angle in Videoconferencing: The Issue of Trust

This post is part of a series examining articles on the communication aspects of videoconferencing.

Article Reference Bekkering, T. J. E. (2004). Visual angle in videoconferencing: The issue of trust. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3120803)


The visual angle in this research is the distance between the camera and the monitor – which can make it look like the person you are talking with isn’t actually looking at you. Bekkering wanted to see if this angle is related to the trust between individuals to possibly explain why videoconferencing has not been adopted as widely as phone and email. The study was done with undergraduate students as the subjects.

The study found that:

  • Eye contact is only perceived when the conversation partner looks straight into the camera.
  • Horizontal loss of eye contact decreases perceived trustworthiness.
  • Vertical loss of eye contact decreases perceived trustworthiness.
  • Perceived trustworthiness in video conditions is higher than in text-only conditions. (p. 89)

Conclusions included:

  • Videoconferencing adds to the ability to trust by the “ability to clarify communication with gestures and visual information” (p. 91).
  • Manufacturers should try to reduce the distance between the lens of the camera and the screen of the unit, particularly for desktop videoconferencing.
  • If users are aware of this, they can either compensate by learning to ignore the fact that someone might not be looking directly at you. Or they can try to adjust the camera & screen to place them as close together as possible.

Application to Curriculum VC

  • So what should we do? I think that content providers in particular need to be aware of this and plan for it. I think of Kasey at Mote Marine Sea Trek who does an amazing job at looking directly at the camera! (and being high energy too!)
  • In classroom-to-classroom collaborations, do your best to try to have students look at the camera. My favorite tip is from a participant in my Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections online class who suggested putting a beanie baby on top of the camera. Tell the students: “Talk to the pig” (or whatever it is)!!

Your Turn

  • What do you think? What are your tips for making sure that you and your students look at the camera in a videoconference?

Please comment!

0 replies on “Visual Angle in Videoconferencing: The Issue of Trust”

  1. One thing we do is to have multiple monitors with duplicate video feeds in our studio. So it’s easier for Kasey to see the near and far video from most camera angles. The screens are also positioned close to the cameras and the cameras are all at eye level.

  2. One thing that makes it so hard for me is that I am looking at the monitor with the class on it so I can see their reactions/faces and then it looks like I am not looking at them.

  3. I use the EyeCatcher to solve this problem. This system has a camera behind a mirror and gives you complete eye contact. The only problem is that this is a real desktop system, no HD and not equiped to use with larger groups.
    When I started to use larger systems I focused on the position of screen and camera. I favour the camera below the screen but also slightly in front of it. Then you have the smallest distance between the camera and the faces on the screen. At a distance of 3 meters or more it is as good as eye contact.

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