Neurophysiology of management communication: a pilot hyperscanning study

Michela Balconi, Francesca Pala, Maria Elide Vanutelli, Irene Venturella, Emanuela Salati, Silvio Carlo Ripamonti, Franco Natili

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Communication is an important factor in understanding intangible organisational assets value, and, together with the construction of robust relationships, is linked to higher performance levels and generating service. Thus, it is important for managers to be able to improve communication within his group. However, conventional modalities focused on management’s perspective rather than on the collaborators. Nonetheless, collaborators’ primary needs should include complete information and a good communication with his boss, within a circular and constructive perspective. Also, objective psychophysiological data in support of such organizational dynamics are still missing. Thus, the aim of the present pilot study was to explore an organizational interaction between a manager and a collaborator about job performance in a big service’s company. The sample consisted in 2 paired manager-collaborator couples. Managers were required to use two different communication styles and were provided a script to play: one was required to adopt a standard approach according to the company’s guidelines, while the other adopted a more cooperative approach. Meanwhile, cortical (Electroencephalographic, EEG) and peripheral (Heart Rate: HR; Skin Conductance Level and Response: SCL, SCR) activities were recorded. A first step of analyses permitted to identify 5 main standardized topics during the interviews: collaborator’s description of the team work; manager’s description of the team work; company’s practices; collaborator’s personal change; manager’s personal change. A second step consisted in the identification of neuro- and psychophysiological markers. Topic, job position (manager vs. collaborator) and manager’s style (standard vs. constructive) were considered to interpret data. A first important and general result showed that the interview was more arousing for the collaborator than the manager, with increased SCL irrespective of topic and style. A second result was related to the perceived significance of such topics by the two different job positions: in detail, concerning brain oscillations and their frequency range, greater Delta (0.5-3.5 Hz) and Theta (4-7.5 Hz) bands power emerged over frontal areas while managers talked about company’s practices and their own personal change. Since these brain responses are related to salience detection, these specific topics could be the most salient for managers, considering the identification with the company. A third point refers to manager’s style: results showed that managers playing a standard script showed increased HR than the cooperative colleague, thus revealing the presence of negative emotions like fear, involved in self-centred dynamics of change. On the other hand, the collaborator of the standard dyad was more ctivated (increased SCL) when his boss told about his need to change. Contrarily, the collaborator within the constructive dyad was more responsive when the manager talked about his own personal change. These first preliminary results highlight the importance of applying a neuroscientific approach to organizational contexts in a way to explore and modify important processes related to job position, manager collaborator dynamics, and communicative style.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-49
Number of pages2
JournalNeuropsychological Trends
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventXXIV Congresso Nazionale della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia - SIPF - Milano
Duration: 27 Oct 201629 Oct 2016


  • Hyperscanning
  • Management
  • Neuromanagement


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