Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Conversational Task Increases Heart Rate Variability on Individuals Susceptible to Perceived Social Isolation

Version 1 : Received: 18 May 2021 / Approved: 19 May 2021 / Online: 19 May 2021 (12:42:21 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Journal reference: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2021, 18
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18189858


Studies showed that introversion is the strongest personality trait related to perceived social isolation (loneliness), which can predict various complications beyond objective isolation such as living alone. Lonely individuals are more likely resort to social media for instantaneous comfort, but it is not a perpetual solution. Largely negative implications including poorer interpersonal relationship and depression were reported due to excessive social media usage. Conversational task is an established intervention to improve verbal communication, cognitive and behavioral adaptation among lonely individuals. Despite that behavioral benefits have been reported, it is unclear if they are accompanied by objective benefits underlying physiological changes. Here, we investigate the physiological signals from 28 healthy individuals during a conversational task. Participants were ranked by trait extraversion, where greater introversion is associated with increased susceptibility to perceived social isolation as compared to participants with greater extraversion as controls. We found that introverts had a greater tendency to be neurotic, and these participants also exhibited significant differences in task-related electrodermal activity (EDA), heart rate (HR) and HR variability (HRV) as compared to controls. Notably, resting state HRV among individuals susceptible to perceived loneliness was below the healthy thresholds established in literature. Conversational task with a stranger significantly increased HRV among individuals susceptible to isolation up to levels as seen in controls. Since HRV is also elevated by physical exercise and administration of oxytocin hormone (one form of therapy for behavioral isolation), conversational therapy among introverts could potentially confer physiological benefits to ameliorate social isolation and loneliness. Our findings also suggest that although the recent pandemic have changed how people are interacting typically, we should maintain a healthy dose of social interaction innovatively.


Heart rate variability (HRV); Conversation; Extraversion personality; Perceived social isolation



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