News | September 29, 2023

Books Are the Best Zoom Background for Online Meetings Say Researchers

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A new study by psychologists at the University of Durham has found the answer to creating the best first impression in a virtual meeting, such as Teams or Zoom, is a visual background of books. 

In this latest research - Virtual first impressions: Zoom backgrounds affect judgements of trust and competence -  Associate Professor Paddy Ross and colleagues from the Department of Psychology, investigated what is really contributing to best, and worst, first impressions in a virtual environment. The study assessed the views of more than 160 people who were asked to evaluate a selection of images of people against a variety of virtual backgrounds and with a mix of neutral and happy facial expressions. 

The research found a background of books or a bookcase and/or plants significantly contributed towards creating a trusting and competent first impression.

"Books were likely rated highly due to the positive relationship between literacy with intelligence and reading with academic performance," write the researchers, "which reflects the decisive preference for a wall with books or bookshelves in videoconferencing i.e. if the target is in front of books they might have read them all and be a smart person."

They add that further studies should explore these findings further, for example by altering the type of book from the academic to novel or autobiography.

Comedic or living room backgrounds consistently scored the lowest.

The study also discovered that gender is having an impact, with women consistently appearing more trustworthy and competent than men regardless of the kind of virtual background. Additionally, a smiley, happy demeanour was found to be an extra ingredient that can help towards creating a trusting and competent impression.