Impact of Social Influence and Users' Perception of Coolness on Smartwatch Behavior

By Shin, Donghee; Biocca, Frank | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Impact of Social Influence and Users' Perception of Coolness on Smartwatch Behavior


Shin, Donghee, Biocca, Frank, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


Despite the huge growth in sales of smartwatches (Shin & Biocca, 2017b), consumers' upgrading behavior in relation to these devices has not yet received much attention in the literature. People tend to replace their existing smartwatch with a new one even when the watch they own is in good working condition (Shin, An, & Kim, 2016), which cannot be called a rational act (Park, Kim, Shon, & Shim, 2013). Irrationality in upgrading one's smartwatch is not necessarily surprising given that humans are so irrational that their irrational behavior can be reliably predicted (Shin, 2014). The predictability of human irrationality can be explained by the social functions of irrational behaviors, mainly through accounts that explain why a certain behavior exists. Humans' seemingly irrational behavior involves the use of specific functions to solve recurrent problems of survival and reproduction, especially in social environments (Calvo-Porral & Levy-Mangin, 2015).

To explore the unique behavior of upgrading a smartwatch, we discuss the phenomenon of and present logical explanations for why perceived usefulness (PU) grounded in rational decision making may not be a predictor of behavior in the case of upgrading a smartwatch, although social influence (SI) can be a predictor. We formed the following research questions to guide this study:

Research Question 1: What are the motivations of users who switch their smartwatch?

Research Question 2: How do social motives (e.g., social influence) influence the motivation to switch?

Research Question 3: How are the perceived benefits of switching one's smartwatch related to identity formation and perception of coolness?

We distinguish between SI and similarity avoidance, with the aim of explaining why the latter can be used to predict smartwatch upgrading. In examining predictors of this behavior, we sought to reveal the associations between upgrade intention and perceived similarity avoidance in smartwatch use. We also examined the dissociation between smartwatch upgrade intention and the original watch's PU, along with perceived SI in relation to the upgraded device.

Literature Review

Purchasing a smartwatch every 2 to 3 years is an unnecessary cost. In costly signaling theory (Miller, 2000), it is suggested that individuals often waste their resources to impress others. The latest models of smartwatch are expensive and can serve as signals of having material resources because they generally embody improved functions, increased device properties, and advanced fashionable style, which can help owners signal their intellectual superiority. Furthermore, the distinctiveness of a smartwatch is related to mobility and visibility of use (Rahim, Safin, Kheng, Abas, & Ali, 2016); users of smartwatches nearly always take their devices with them wherever they go, so that others can easily observe their possession of this device. This contrasts with the use of notebook computers, which are not always carried or used in a way that is visible to others. The visibility of the smartwatch provides individuals with a means of signaling their resources. Costly signaling behaviors are generated within the domain of competition, when individuals are faced with limited resources or the need to compete for potential mates, and when this domain is activated, individuals are typically motivated to distinguish themselves from others. If upgrading a smartwatch is a costly signaling behavior, it can be inferred that the motive for upgrading one of these watches is to distinguish oneself from others (Tseng & Lo, 2011). To be distinct, individuals need to avoid similarity with others, and because being distinct involves being visible to others, individuals must necessarily show themselves off to others.

As smartwatch users frequently switch and upgrade their devices, and because we believed that this behavioral tendency could hardly be explained as rational decision making grounded in PU, our first hypothesis was as follows:

Hypothesis 1: Smartwatch upgrade intention will not be associated with individuals' perception of usefulness. …

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