Academic journal article Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences

What Makes a Difference in On-Line Impressions? Avatars, Attribution, and Cognitive Processes

Academic journal article Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences

What Makes a Difference in On-Line Impressions? Avatars, Attribution, and Cognitive Processes

Article excerpt

In an on-line chat room, users encounter their conversation partners in a casual manner and interact through the exchange of messages usually without knowing each other. During the conversation, the interacting subjects form the first impressions of each other based on a rudimentary cue of their partner's digital identity, such as their nickname, avatar, email address, etc. The identity cues can be achromatic, simple text messages or colourful, dynamic figures with facial expressions and gestures like Disney's cartoon characters. As the communication is going on, a perceiver in computer- mediated communication (CMC) attends to the first several sentences by which he or she may figure out their chat partner's background information, mood, and characteristics. In this process, each person's degree of devotion to the conversation affects his or her forming an overall impression of conversation partner. For instance, each perceiver during the interactions could be distracted by other background or situational condition. We see our fundamental contribution in this paper as the bringing together of cognitive social psychology theory and research on modes of communication to elucidating the impression formation process in on-line chat. These two research traditions have largely existed in isolation from each other. By bringing them together, we expect to reveal how crucial cognitive tendencies affect and interact with communication modes to determine online impressions in chat rooms. Theory suggests that if perceivers describe a target person as "insincere" or "greedy" from their own observations, their negative expectations about the target become the basis of generalized negative attributions.

With negative expectations, perceivers worry about the target's next course of actions and try to protect themselves from potential risk and vulnerability. Having to interact with the target adds to the urgency of self protective motivation (Darley et al., 1988; Harris and Perkins, 1995), and studies show the perseverance of expectancies in various conditions (Epley and Kruger, 2005; Harris, 1991). Related to forming impressions, on-line representations including nicknames, avatars, and self-descriptions have received significant research attention recently (Jacobson, 1999; Kim, 2001; Lee and Nass, 2002; Nan et al., 2006; Nowak and Rauh, 2005; Wallace, 2001). These studies show that different modes of digital identities influence on person's perception. The purpose of this experiment was to examine when perceivers confirm or disconfirm their negative expectations about a chat partner in a synchronous chatting system. Three independent variables have been chosen: (a) type of attribution (to situational vs. dispositional factors), (b) Busyness (cognitively non-busy vs. cognitively busy condition), and (c) CMC (text-only based vs. avatar-plustext based mode). In this study it was assumed that communicating participants' perceptions of the target would be influenced by the attributional bias, by the kind of identity cues and by how distracted they were during the interactions.

Attributional process

People easily conclude that their target has a certain disposition from observing only a single vivid behaviour or a small sample because their cognitive systems are tuned to move easily and spontaneously from acts to dispositions (Gilbert, Pelham, and Krull, 1988; Jones and Davis, 1965). Interpersonal expectations also colour a perceiver's views of the target and guide the perceiver's behaviour toward the target (Snyder, 1984). Darley and Gross (1983) found that even though the target's presentation is ambiguous, perceivers use demographic cues to interpret the target's uncertain academic capabilities as high or low. Interpretation of a target's behaviour and attributions of target's personal characteristics maybe seen as two aspects of the same cognitive process. Perceivers spontaneously search for reasons, particularly when outcomes are negative or unexpected (Weiner, 1985). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.