Personality Perception in Instant Messenger Communication in the Czech Republic and People's Republic of China

By Linkov, Václav; Smerk, Pavel et al. | Studia Psychologica, October 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Personality Perception in Instant Messenger Communication in the Czech Republic and People's Republic of China


Linkov, Václav, Smerk, Pavel, Li, Bingbing, Smahel, David, Studia Psychologica


When people meet a stranger they form an impression about him or her. This impression can be accurate and fit with the stranger 's personality, or it can be inaccurate and the perceiver will form a non-fitting impression about the stranger. The problem of when and how people get an accurate opinion about a stranger's personality has received considerable attention from social and personality psychologists. Research covers which personality traits can be best judged, in what circumstances, or which cues mediate this personality perception in different environments. Research about personality perception accuracy often assumes that results are universally valid for all cultures. The aim of the present research is to show that accuracy of personality perception is not universal and depends on cultural context, which is shown in the two studies of person perception accuracy following Instant Messenger (IM) communication in two cultures. The first study was conducted in the Czech Republic with Windows Live Messenger and the second study in China with QQ.

Person perception accuracy tends not to be high across various contexts. Ameta-analytical study by Connelly and Ones (2010) found average personality perception accuracy (measured as a correlation between self and stranger's rating) to be . 10 for neuroticism, .27 for extraversion, 16 for openness, . 12 for agreeableness, and. 18 for conscientiousness. There have been several studies that researched person perception accuracy on the Internet. For example, correlation between observers' rating of the personality of web site authors and their own self-rating found by Vazire and Gosling (2004) was .42 for openness to experience, .35 for conscientiousness, .31 for agreeableness, .26 for extraversion, and .21 for neuroticism.

Instant messenger - which was chosen as the environment for examining the accuracy of person perception in this study - is a software used for real time text-based communication on the Internet. For example, Windows Live Messenger (MSN), ICQ, or QQ are such instant messenger programs. The most important characteristics of IM communication are its lack of communication cues such as facial expression, tone of voice, or perception of social status from the clothing of the communication partner. This means that people have to use the text on the screen as almost the only cue to help them get an impression about their communication partner. Emoticons (:-),:(), the partner's arrangement of communication environment (chosen photo, color, and font of the written text) or the partner 's speed of writing are only poor substitutes for face-to-face communication cues. This information then helps people to form an impression about the writer. For example, people using more emoticons in emails were found to be more liked by their readers (Byron, Baldridge, 2007). Impressions made through the perception of these cues may not be correct, but they may be correct as well, because writing style in online communication is also connected with the writer's personality. In Holtgraves' (2011) research about cell phone text messages, a higher number of emoticons written by a subject correlated with the subject's neuroticism and (for female subjects) the total amount of text written by the subject correlated with the subject's extraversion.

Correlation between self and communication partner's view of one's personality after IM conversation was assessed by Rouse and Haass (2003). Their subjects first had talked about whatever they wanted, then they shared their opinions about the ideal campus and school and finally they filled out Big Five questionnaires about themselves and their communication partner. Person perception accuracy found by Rouse and Haas was .40 for conscientiousness, .04 for extraversion, .00 for agreeableness, -.06 for openness, and -.08 for neuroticism.

Despite the large body of research showing that person perception accuracy depends on who perceives it, the research com- paring accuracy of personality judgment in different cultures seems to be neglected. …

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