Computer-mediated-communication (CMC) research suggests that unembodied media can surpass in-person communication due to their utility to bypass the nonverbal components of verbal communication such as physical presence and facial expressions. However, recent results on communicative humanoids suggest the importance of the physical embodiment of conversational partners. These contradictory findings are strengthened by the fact that almost all of these results are based on the subjective assessments of the behavioural impacts of these systems. To investigate these opposing views of the potential role of the embodiment during communication, we compare the effect of a physically embodied medium that is remotely controlled by a human operator with such unembodied media as telephones and video-chat systems on the frontal brain activity of human subjects, given the pivotal role of this region in social cognition and verbal comprehension. Our results provide evidence that communicating through a physically embodied medium affects the frontal brain activity of humans whose patterns potentially resemble those of in-person communication. These findings argue for the significance of embodiment in naturalistic scenarios of social interaction, such as storytelling and verbal comprehension, and the potential application of brain information as a promising sensory gateway in the characterization of behavioural responses in human-robot interaction.
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