Public defence in Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, MA Alvaro Chang Arana

Understanding misunderstanding
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Title of the doctoral thesis: Investigating interpersonal accuracy in design and music performance: Contextual influences in mutual understanding

Opponent: Principal Research Scientist Jari Jussila, Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), Finland
Custos: Professor (emeritus) Mikko Sams, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering

The doctoral thesis will be publicly displayed 10 days before the defence in the publication archive of Aalto University.

Electronic doctoral thesis

Public defence announcement:

How will my supervisor react if I ask for a raise? Is my client interested in the product I am selling? Is this physician judging me? Is their face expression or body posture telling me they are interested in me? What would my psychologist think if I reveal this secret to them? Constantly, and across social contexts, we attempt to know what someone else is thinking or feeling. The correct understanding of others' mental states – interpersonal accuracy – is key for successful social interactions and to better understand our deeply social nature.

This thesis explores the utility of interpersonal accuracy literature and methods to investigate two social activities: design and music performance. In design, correctly understanding the user's needs is crucial for successful design outcomes. In a music performance, a musician may experience anxiety, but it is not known whether listeners can detect it accurately. We found that, in design as in music performance, participants were inaccurate. We observed that designers were approximately 50% accurate when inferring users' thoughts and feelings. Although, designers showed higher accuracy when inferring mental contents relevant to design in contrast to mental contents irrelevant to design. Listeners of an online performance perceived lower anxiety than that reported by the musician. However, the listeners' interpersonal accuracy was affected by their musical background and whether they were only listening or simultaneously listening and watching the performance.

This thesis may be of use for designers interested in building empathy with users, musicians interested in performance anxiety, as well as researchers interested in social interactions. The thesis also displays different methodologies for studying interpersonal accuracy in different contexts. This can be of interest for researchers aiming at investigating social interactions in similar or different contexts.

Contact details of the doctoral student: [email protected]

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