BACKGROUND: Estimating engagement levels from postural micromovements has been summarized by some researchers as: increased proximity to the screen is a marker for engagement, while increased postural movement is a signal for disengagement or negative affect. However, these findings are inconclusive: the movement hypothesis challenges other findings of dyadic interaction in humans, and experiments on the positional hypothesis diverge from it.<br /><br />HYPOTHESES: (1) Under controlled conditions, adding a relevant visual stimulus to an auditory stimulus will preferentially result in Non-Instrumental Movement Inhibition (NIMI) of the head. (2) When instrumental movements are eliminated and computer-interaction rate is held constant, for two identically-structured stimuli, cognitive engagement (i.e., interest) will result in measurable NIMI of the body generally.<br /><br />METHODS: Twenty-seven healthy participants were seated in front of a computer monitor and speakers. Discrete 3-min stimuli were presented with interactions mediated via a handheld trackball without any keyboard, to minimize instrumental movements of the participant's body. Music videos and audio-only music were used to test hypothesis (1). Time-sensitive, highly interactive stimuli were used to test hypothesis (2). Subjective responses were assessed via visual analog scales. The computer users' movements were quantified using video motion tracking from the lateral aspect. Repeated measures ANOVAs with Tukey post hoc comparisons were performed.<br /><br />RESULTS: For two equivalently-engaging music videos, eliminating the visual content elicited significantly increased non-instrumental movements of the head (while also decreasing subjective engagement); a highly engaging user-selected piece of favorite music led to further increased non-instrumental movement. For two comparable reading tasks, the more engaging reading significantly inhibited (42%) movement of the head and thigh; however, when a highly engaging video game was compared to the boring reading, even though the reading task and the game had similar levels of interaction (trackball clicks), only thigh movement was significantly inhibited, not head movement.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: NIMI can be elicited by adding a relevant visual accompaniment to an audio-only stimulus or by making a stimulus cognitively engaging. However, these results presume that all other factors are held constant, because total movement rates can be affected by cognitive engagement, instrumental movements, visual requirements, and the time-sensitivity of the stimulus.
Witchel, H. J., Santos, C. P., Ackah, J. K., Westling, C. E. I., & Chockalingam, N. (2016). Non-Instrumental Movement Inhibition (NIMI) Differentially Suppresses Head and Thigh Movements during Screenic Engagement: Dependence on Interaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00157