Robustness of Physiological Synchrony in Wearable Electrodermal Activity and Heart Rate as a Measure of Attentional Engagement to Movie Clips


Individuals that pay attention to narrative stimuli show synchronized heart rate (HR) and electrodermal activity (EDA) responses. The degree to which this physiological synchrony occurs is related to attentional engagement. Factors that can influence attention, such as instructions, salience of the narrative stimulus and characteristics of the individual, affect physiological synchrony. The demonstrability of synchrony depends on the amount of data used in the analysis. We investigated how demonstrability of physiological synchrony varies with varying group size and stimulus duration. Thirty participants watched six 10 min movie clips while their HR and EDA were monitored using wearable sensors (Movisens EdaMove 4 and Wahoo Tickr, respectively). We calculated inter-subject correlations as a measure of synchrony. Group size and stimulus duration were varied by using data from subsets of the participants and movie clips in the analysis. We found that for HR, higher synchrony correlated significantly with the number of answers correct for questions about the movie, confirming that physiological synchrony is associated with attention. For both HR and EDA, with increasing amounts of data used, the percentage of participants with significant synchrony increased. Importantly, we found that it did not matter how the amount of data was increased. Increasing the group size or increasing the stimulus duration led to the same results. Initial comparisons with results from other studies suggest that our results do not only apply to our specific set of stimuli and participants. All in all, the current work can act as a guideline for future research, indicating the amount of data minimally needed for robust analysis of synchrony based on inter-subject correlations.