The Role of Empathy in Making Availability Judgments from Video and Silhouette Awareness Information

Boris de Ruyter1, *, Ehsan Baha2, Marten Pijl1, Panos Markopoulos2
1 Philips Research Europe, HTC 34, AE 5656 Eindhoven, The Netherlands
2 Industrial Design, Eindhoven University, Den Dolech 2, 5612 AZ, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

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de Ruyter et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Philips Research Europe, HTC 34, AE 5656 Eindhoven, The Netherlands; Tel: +31-40-2747630; Fax: +31-40-2746321; E-mail:


This paper reports research concerning video media spaces for the home and specifically the extent to which different approaches for video obfuscation can balance conflicting requirements for awareness between connected individuals and privacy. Different filtering techniques were compared regarding the ability of observers to make inferences regarding the observed, and with regards to the acceptability of being observed through such media. So far, related research has only considered individual differences between observers at a cursory level. We report on two experiments that evaluated whether people ability to empathize with others influences their ability to evaluate the availability of another person based on a video footage. We focused on supporting judgments of availability for communication comparing full video and on silhouette based obfuscation. The first experiment indicated a strong relation between empathy score and availability judgments. This effect was strongest for both males and females in the silhouette visualization condition. To further understand and confirm the effects found in this study, a second experiment involving more test participants and controlling for the correctness of availability judgments was conducted. Our findings suggest that empathetic skills specifically, and social cognition skills more generally, are critical factors for availability judgments.

Keywords: Availability management,, interruptions, home media spaces, empathy, gender differences, privacy, awareness systems.