During the pandemic, many of us had to adjust to remote meetings where our home environment was visible to all participants on video. To avoid showing children, pets, or household messes in the picture, some people opted to use a special imaginary wallpaper as a background in video calls. However, a study conducted by the British University of Durham and published in the scientific journal Plos One found that this solution did not necessarily make a good impression on other participants.
In the research, Reader Paddy Ross and colleagues showed subjects images of smiling and serious women and men sitting in front of six different backgrounds, including a blank wall, a bookshelf, houseplants, a living room view, a blurred living room view, and an arctic landscape with a walrus lying on a glacier. Subjects were asked to rate how trustworthy and competent they perceived the people in the pictures. It was found that the background can strongly influence what people think about each other in remote meetings, with those with a bookshelf or houseplants visible behind them being considered the most reliable and competent.
In contrast, the worst reviews were produced by the walrus landscape. It was also found that smiling significantly improved ratings, showing that the background and facial expressions play a significant role in remote meeting perceptions. This study sheds light on the importance of one’s visual environment in influencing how they are perceived in a remote meeting setting.