An Experimental Test of Processes Underlying Self-Disclosure in Computer-Mediated Communication


A consistent finding in computer-mediated communication (CMC) and Internet research is that, compared to face-to-face communication, CMC results in higher levels of self-disclosure. We identified four possible mediators that may carry the influence of CMC on self-disclosure: self-presentation, similarity, self-awareness, and direct questioning. The validity of these mediators was tested in an experiment in which 81 cross-sex dyads were randomly assigned to three experimental conditions: a text-only CMC condition, a visual CMC condition, and a face-to-face condition. Self-disclosure was lower in the face-to-face condition than in the text-only CMC condition and the visual CMC condition. Between the two CMC conditions, no differences in self-disclosure were found. Of the four possible mediators, only direct questioning mediated the effect of CMC on self-disclosure. CMC dyads engaged in more direct questioning and therefore displayed higher levels of self-disclosure.

computer-mediated communication, self-disclosure, question asking, visual cues, webcam
Author biographies

Alexander P. Schouten

Author photoAlexander Schouten (Ph.D., 2007) is Assistant Professor of Information Systems at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, VU University Amsterdam. In his Ph.D. research, which was funded by the Dutch Science Foundation NWO, he investigated adolescents' use of new communication technologies, such as social networking sites and instant messaging. Currently, his research focuses on the effects of new communication technologies and virtual environments on team performance, decision making, self-presentation and social interaction and, in general, the use of new communication technologies in the workplace.

Patti M. Valkenburg

Author photoPatti M. Valkenburg (Ph.D., Leiden University, the Netherlands) is a Professor in the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, ASCoR, at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests focus on the effects of media on the cognitive, affective, and social development of children and adolescents.

Jochen Peter

Author photoJochen Peter (Ph.D., University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands) is a Professor in the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, ASCoR, at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on the consequences of adolescents' media use for their sexual socialization and psycho-social development. Specifically, he investigates the effects of teenagers' use of online sexually explicit material on their sexual attitudes and behaviors.

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