Shall We Meet? An Experimental Comparison of Video Conferences and Face-To-Face Meetings
67 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 30, 2020
The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the way in which human beings interact with one another. As government restrictions on face-to-face meetings tighten, more and more activities take place via virtual communications. This shift raises interesting questions on whether or not virtual communications are a perfect substitute to meeting in person. In this paper, we investigate experimentally whether face-to-face meetings (FtF) differ from video conferences (VC) in an information-flow task. Subjects are faced with a brain teaser and receive a set of clues. Each subject can invest their endowment to increase the probability of communicating with another subject. Successful communications enable the subjects to easily solve the teaser, as comparing clues with the other subject quickly reveals that each communicating pair holds complementary clues. Thus, if information is exchanged effectively, the performance of the subjects should be high. Varying the type of medium (FtF or VC) available for communication, we find that while performance itself does not depend on the medium, subjects do display significant differences in their willingness to invest, ex-ante beliefs, and ex-post reporting on the exchange of information during communication. Particularly, age plays an important role: Younger subjects are more optimistic about the prospect of virtual meetings, but less likely to invest their endowment. We relate our findings to several real-world settings, which have become ever-relevant in light of the pandemic, and discuss some implications for the design of regulatory systems.
Keywords: : face-to-face, video conference, virtual teams, social distancing, covid-19, communication, information flow
JEL Classification: D02, D23, D83, K20, O39
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