Gender Differences in Perceived Gratifications Obtained through Electronic Mail
Harper, Vernon B., Harper, Erika J., Quarterly Review of Distance Education
Electronic mail provides users with unique positive psychological consequences that differentiate it from other media. These consequences or gratifications have been mentioned separately across the electronic mail literature, yet there is no specific measure for these gratifications. The study found that females (M = 7.7; SD = 1.8) achieve higher levels (SD = 1.9 F = 28.02; p < .01; ... = .31) of interpersonal gratification than do males (M = 6.5; SD = 1.9).
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Computer-mediated communication researchers have devoted tremendous scholastic activity over the last 35 years to understand the cognitive and interpersonal justifications for electronic mail use. One specific area of investigation has centered upon the positive perceived consequences achieved through electronic mail interaction. However, there are no measures for researchers to compare or evaluate electronic mail gratifications. Equally, the literature holds very little data concerning the role that gender may play in achieving electronic mail gratifications. The present report addresses these issues by scaling electronic mail gratifications and assessing whether gender poses any significant influence.
The uses and gratifications (U&G) perspective is one of the most durable and malleable approaches to the psychology of mediated interaction. The essence of the perspective is that people use particular media because they receive measurable gratifications in return. From its origin, the keystone of the approach is the notion that individuals are active participants in the communication process, which is an idea that has been reiterated for over 5 decades (Ball-Rokeach, 1985; Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955).
Palmgreen (1984) described that a variety of variables (values, beliefs, attitudes) initiated the media utilization process and developed into the gratifications sought (GS) variable. Loosely recognized as motivation, the GS variable builds within the individual and influences the consumption or avoidance of mediated messages [Note: although the literature adequately presents gratification outcomes achieved through electronic mail interaction, specific avoidance activities were not found and thus could be sufficiently scaled.]. Gratifications obtained (GO) are believed to be the positive cognitive result of media utilization, which accordingly have a reinforcing effect upon GS variables. Palmgreen and Raybura (1982) explain "the feedback relationship between behavior and descriptive beliefs ... suggests that gratifications obtained . . . might be linked to beliefs and . . . into a more general process theory of uses and gratifications" (p. 578). With this literature in mind, the present query into electronic mail gratifications is constructed around the notion that GO variables are the most indicative of the entire gratification process.
One additional concern refers to the types of electronic mail gratifications. In pursuit of these, the body of electronic mail research yielded three categories that lead to psychological fulfillment (interpersonal, organizational, and intrinsic). Interpersonal relational maintenance is clearly one of the most often identified gratifications obtained from electronic mail interaction. Stafford, Kline, and Dimmick (1999) conducted an extensive examination concerning the utility of electronic mail and found that people mostly used electronic mail for interpersonal reasons. The authors noted that "individuals appear to sustain relationships via e-mail" (p. 666).
Additionally, gender has proven to be influential in these interpersonal relational activities. Investigators have found that females achieve higher levels of motivation (Jackson, 2001), perceived presence (Olaniran, 1993), language style and use of graphical accents (Sussman & Tyson, 2000) and perceived relational development (Boneva, Kraut, & Fröhlich, 2001) than males. …