The benign online disinhibition effect: Could situational factors induce self-disclosure and prosocial behaviors?


The current study, which focuses on the benign effects of disinhibition, was designed as a continuation of an earlier study conducted on the toxic effects of online disinhibition (Lapidot-Lefler & Barak, 2012). Using a factorial design, the study examined the effects of three online situational factors—anonymity, invisibility, and lack of eye contact—on inducing self-disclosure and prosocial behaviors as expressions of benign online disinhibition. Random pairs of adult strangers (n = 144) discussed a dilemma and were required to reach a joint solution using online chat. Self-disclosure and prosocial behavior effects were measured using participants’ self-reports, expert judges’ ratings of chat transcripts, and textual analyses of the conversations. Results suggested that the interaction between anonymity and invisibility had a significant effect on the revealing of emotions. Lack of eye contact, the interaction between anonymity and invisibility and the interaction between lack of eye contact and invisibility had a significant effect on the inducement of first-person words. The interaction between anonymity, invisibility and lack of eye contact had significant effects on the total self-disclosure score, yet no significant effects were found for prosocial behaviors. A discussion of the findings with regard to previous research on toxic online disinhibition suggests that different factors play a role in the inducement of benign vs. toxic online disinhibition effects. More research is required to substantiate current findings and determine the nature of the contribution of each situational factor.

online communication, benign disinhibition, anonymity, invisibility, eye contact
Author biographies

Noam Lapidot-Lefler

Author photo Noam Lapidot-Lefler, PhD, is a lecturer at the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Education, The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, and at the Department of Special Education, The Faculty of Education, Oranim College for Education, Israel. Her main research topic centers on Internet psychology, especially on aggression and disinhibition, and, in the field of education, she focuses on special education social spaces.

Azy Barak

Author photo Azy Barak is a professor of psychology in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at the University of Haifa. He is Fellow of the International Society for Mental Health Online (ISMHO), and is an active member of, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Research on Internet Interventions (ISRII). His research interests include psychological impact of the Internet on individuals, groups, couples, families, and communities, as well as exploitation of the Internet to promote various psychological-related applications. More information can be viewed at

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