Biosignals reflect pair-dynamics in collaborative work: EDA and ECG study of pair-programming in a classroom environment

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle


Original languageEnglish
Article number3138
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Research units

  • Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
  • University of Helsinki


Collaboration is a complex phenomenon, where intersubjective dynamics can greatly affect the productive outcome. Evaluation of collaboration is thus of great interest, and can potentially help achieve better outcomes and performance. However, quantitative measurement of collaboration is difficult, because much of the interaction occurs in the intersubjective space between collaborators. Manual observation and/or self-reports are subjective, laborious, and have a poor temporal resolution. The problem is compounded in natural settings where task-activity and response-compliance cannot be controlled. Physiological signals provide an objective mean to quantify intersubjective rapport (as synchrony), but require novel methods to support broad deployment outside the lab. We studied 28 student dyads during a self-directed classroom pair-programming exercise. Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activation was measured during task performance using electrodermal activity and electrocardiography. Results suggest that (a) we can isolate cognitive processes (mental workload) from confounding environmental effects, and (b) electrodermal signals show role-specific but correlated affective response profiles. We demonstrate the potential for social physiological compliance to quantify pair-work in natural settings, with no experimental manipulation of participants required. Our objective approach has a high temporal resolution, is scalable, non-intrusive, and robust.

ID: 18143677