When more is more? The impact of breadth and depth of information disclosure on attributional confidence about and interpersonal attraction to a social network site profile owner

Lemi Baruh, Zeynep Cemalcılar


Social network sites (SNSs) provide users with ample opportunity to share information about themselves and to engage in social browsing to learn about others. This article reports results from two experiments (with participants from the U.S.) that investigate the impacts of breadth and depth of information disclosed in a profile on viewers’ attributional confidence about and interpersonal attraction to the profile owner. In the first experiment (n = 320), participants viewed a profile containing either low or high breadth of information. Analyses indicated that, higher breadth of information shared in the profile increased interpersonal attraction and that attributional confidence mediated this relationship. The second experiment (n = 537) tested the respective influences of breadth (low vs. high) and depth of disclosure (low vs. high) in a profile on perceivers’ attributional confidence and interpersonal attraction. Analyses indicated that, while increasing the breadth of information had a positive impact on interpersonal attraction to profile owners, increasing the depth of information reduced attraction. Additionally, there was a significant interaction between breadth and depth of information in predicting attributional confidence; increasing the depth of information shared in an SNS profile enhanced attributional confidence only when the breadth of information shared was low.

Bibliographic citation

Baruh, L., & Cemalcılar, Z. (2018). When more is more? The impact of breadth and depth of information disclosure on attributional confidence about and interpersonal attraction to a social network site profile owner. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 12(1), article 1. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5817/CP2018-1-1


Social Network site profiles; impression formation; personal information; attributional confidence; self-disclosure breadth; self-disclosure depth

Full Text:



Show references Hide references

Afifi, W. A., & Burgoon, J. K. (2000). The impact of violations on uncertainty and the consequences for attractiveness. Human Communication Research, 26, 203–233. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2000.tb00756.x

Ajzen, I. (1974). Effects of information on interpersonal attraction: Similarity versus affective value. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 374-380. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0036002

Altman, I., & Taylor, D. (1973). Social penetration: The development of interpersonal relationships. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1993). Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 431–441. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.64.3.431

Anderson, S. P., & de Palma, A. (2009). Information congestion. RAND Journal of Economics, 4, 688–709. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-2171.2009.00085.x

Anderson, S. P., & de Palma, A. (2012). Competition for attention in the Information (overload) Age. RAND Journal of Economics, 43, 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-2171.2011.00155.x

Antheunis, M. L., Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2010). Getting acquainted through social network sites: Testing a model of online uncertainty reduction and social attraction. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 100–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2009.07.005

Archer, R. L., & Berg, J. H. (1978). Disclosure reciprocity and its limits: A reactance analysis. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 14, 527–540. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-1031(78)90047-1

Attrill, A., & Jalil, R. (2011). Revealing only the superficial me: Exploring categorical self-disclosure online. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 1634–1642. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.02.001

Baruh, L., & Cemalcılar, Z. (2015). Rubbernecking effect of intimate information on Twitter: When getting attention works against interpersonal attraction. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18, 506–513. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2015.0099

Baruh, L., Cemalcılar, Z., Bisson, C., & Chisik, Y. (2017). First impressions on social network sites: Impact of self-disclosure breadth on Attraction. In A. Skarzauskiene & N. Gudeliene (Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Social Media (pp. 54–62). Vilnius: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited.

Baym, N. K. (2010). Personal connections in a digital age. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bazarova, N. N. (2012). Public intimacy: Disclosure interpretation and social judgments on Facebook. Journal of Communication, 62, 815–832. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01664.x

Bazarova, N. N., & Choi, Y. H. (2014). Self-disclosure in social media: Extending the functional approach to disclosure motivations and characteristics on social network sites. Journal of Communication, 64, 635–657. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12106

Bazarova, N. N., Taft, J. G., Choi, Y. H., & Cosley, D. (2013). Managing impressions and relationships on Facebook: Self-presentational and relational concerns revealed through the analysis of language style. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 32, 121-141. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X12456384

boyd, D., Perez, J., & Loyola, V. (2008). Facebook’s privacy trainwreck. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 14, 13–20. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856507084416

Beer, A., & Brooks, C. (2011). Information quality in personality judgment: The value of personal disclosure. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 175–185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2011.01.001

Beer, A., & Watson, D. (2010). The effects of information and exposure on self-other agreement. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 38–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2009.10.002

Berger, C. R., & Calabrese, R. J. (1975). Some explorations in initial interaction and beyond: Toward a developmental theory of interpersonal communication. Human Communication Research, 1, 99–112. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.1975.tb00258.x

Black, S. L., & Johnson, A. F. (2012). Employers’ use of social networking sites in the selection process. Journal of Social Media in Society, 1, 8–28.

Bouchillon, B. C., & Gotlieb, M. R. (2016). Making them count: Facebook sociability for optimizing the accumulation of social capital. Social Science Computer Review, 35, 299–318. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439315626422

Brown, V. R., & Vaughn, E. D. (2011). The writing on the (Facebook) wall: The use of social networking sites in hiring decisions. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 219–225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-011-9221-x

Byrne, D. (1971). The attraction paradigm. New York: Academic Press

Chaikin, A. L., & Derlega, V. J. (1974). Variables affecting the appropriateness of self-disclosure. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 588–593. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0036614

Chen, Y. C., Shang, R. A., & Kao, C. Y. (2009). The effects of information overload on consumers’ subjective state towards buying decision in the internet shopping environment. Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 8, 48–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.elerap.2008.09.001

Choi, Y. H., & Bazarova, N. N. (2015). Self-disclosure characteristics and motivations in social media: Extending the functional model to multiple social network sites. Human Communication Research, 41, 480–500. https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12053

Clatterbuck, G. W. (1979). Attributional confidence and uncertainty in initial interaction. Human Communication Research, 5, 147–157. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.1979.tb00630.x

Collins, N. L., & Miller, L. C. (1994). Self-disclosure and liking: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 457–475. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.116.3.457

Derlega, V. J., Winstead, B. A., & Greene, K. (2008). Self-disclosure and starting a close relationship. In S. Sprecher, A. Wenzel, & J. Harvey (Eds.), Handbook of relationship initiation (pp. 153–174). New York: Psychology Press.

Eppler, M. J., & Mengis, J. (2004). The concept of information overload: A review of the literature from organization science, accounting, MIS, and related disciplines. The Information Society, 20, 325–344. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972240490507974

Funder, D. C. (1995). On the accuracy of personality judgment: A realistic approach. Psychological Review, 102, 652–670. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.102.4.652

Funder, D. C. (2012). Accurate personality judgment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 177–182. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721412445309

Gibbs, J. L., Ellison, N. B., & Heino, R. D. (2006). Self-presentation in online personals: The role of anticipated future interaction, self-disclosure, and perceived success in internet dating. Communication Research, 33, 152–177. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650205285368

Greene, K., Derlega, V. J., & Mathews, A. (2006). Self-disclosure in personal relationships. In A. Vangelisti & D. Perlman (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of personal relationships (pp. 409–427). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hancock, J. T., & Dunham, P. J. (2001). Impression formation in computer-mediated communication revisited: An analysis of the breadth and intensity of impressions. Communication Research, 28, 325–347. https://doi.org/10.1177/009365001028003004

Hayes, A. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. New York: The Guilford Press.

Herring, S. C. (2003). Gender and power in online communication. In J. Holmes & M. Meyerhoff (Eds.), The handbook of language and gender (pp. 202-228). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Hoek, J., O’Kane, P., & McCracken, M. (2016). Publishing personal information online: How employers’ access, observe and utilise social networking sites within selection procedures. Personnel Review, 45(1), 67–83. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-05-2014-0099

Ignatius, E., & Kokkonen, M. (2007). Factors contributing to verbal self-disclosure. Nordic Psychology, 59, 362–391. https://doi.org/10.1027/1901-2276.59.4.362

Jackson, T. W., & Farzaneh, P. (2012). Theory-based model of factors affecting information overload. International Journal of Information Management, 32, 523–532. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2012.04.006

Jiang, L. C., Bazarova, N. N., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). The disclosure-intimacy link in computer-mediated communication: An attributional extension of the hyperpersonal model. Human Communication Research, 37, 58-77. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2010.01393.x

Jin, S.-A. A. (2013). Peeling back the multiple layers of Twitter’s private disclosure onion: The roles of virtual identity discrepancy and personality traits in communication privacy management on Twitter. New Media & Society, 15, 813–833. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444812471814

Joinson, A. N. (2001). Self-disclosure in computer-mediated communication: The role of self-awareness and visual anonymity. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 177–192. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.36

Jones, Q., Moldovan, M., Raban, D., & Butler, B. (2008). Empirical evidence of information overload constraining chat channel community interactions. In Proceedings of the ACM 2008 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work - CSCW ’08 (pp. 323–332). https://doi.org/10.1145/1460563.1460616

Jones, Q., Ravid, G., & Rafaeli, S. (2004). Information overload and the message dynamics of online interaction spaces: A theoretical model and empirical exploration. Information Systems Research, 15, 194–211. https://doi.org/10.1287/isre.1040.0023

Kashian, N., Jang, J. woo, Shin, S. Y., Dai, Y., & Walther, J. B. (2017). Self-disclosure and liking in computer-mediated communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 275–283. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.01.041

Katzer, J., & Fletcher, P. T. (1992). The information environment of managers. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 27, 227–263.

Koroleva, K., Krasnova, H., & Günther, O. (2010). “Stop spamming me!” - Exploring information overload on Facebook. In Proceedings of the Sixteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS) (paper 447).

Kraus, M. W., & Keltner, D. (2009). Signs of socioeconomic status: A thin-slicing approach. Psychological Science, 20, 99–106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02251.x

Lampe, C., Ellison, N., & Steinfield, C. (2006). A Face(book) in the crowd: Social searching vs. social browsing. In Proceedings 20th Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (pp. 167–170). New York: ACM Press.

Ledbetter, A. M., Mazer, J. P., DeGroot, J. M., Meyer, K. R., Mao, Y., & Swafford, B. (2011). Attitudes toward online social connection and self-disclosure as predictors of Facebook communication and relational closeness. Communication Research, 38, 27–53. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650210365537

Limperos, A. M., Tamul, D. J., Woolley, J. K., Spinda, J. S. W., & Sundar, S. S. (2014). “It’s not who you know, but who you add:” An investigation into the differential impact of friend adding and self-disclosure on interpersonal perceptions on Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 496–505. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.02.037

Lin, R., Levordashka, A., & Utz, S. (2016). Ambient intimacy on Twitter. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 10(1), article 6. https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2016-1-6

Lin, R., & Utz, S. (2017). Self-disclosure on SNS: Do disclosure intimacy and narrativity influence interpersonal closeness and social attraction? Computers in Human Behavior, 70, 426–436. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.01.012

Marwick, A. E., & boyd, d. (2011). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media & Society, 13, 114-133. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444810365313

McKenna, K. Y. A., Green, A. S., & Gleason, M. E. J. (2002). Relationship formation on the Internet: What’s the big attraction? Journal of Social Issues, 58, 9–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-4560.00246

Merkle, E. R., & Richardson, R. (2000). Digital dating and virtual relating: Conceptualizing computer mediated romantic relationships. Family Relations, 49, 187–192. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00187.x

Montoya, R. M., & Horton, R. S. (2004). On the importance of cognitive evaluation as a determinant of interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 696–712. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.86.5.696

Nelson, M. R. (1994). We have the information you want, but getting it will cost you! Crossroads, 1(1), 11–15. https://doi.org/10.1145/197177.197183

Nguyen, M., Bin, Y. S., & Campbell, A. (2012). Comparing online and offline self-disclosure: A systematic review. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 103–111. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2011.0277

Nielsen, J. (2006). F-shaped pattern for reading web content. Retrieved from www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html

Norton, M. I., Frost, J. H., & Ariely, D. (2007). Less is more: The lure of ambiguity, or why familiarity breeds contempt. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 97–105. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.92.1.97

Nosko, A., Wood, E., & Molema, S. (2010). All about me: Disclosure in online social networking profiles: The case of Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 406–418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2009.11.012

Orben, A. C., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2017). Social media and relationship development: The effect of valence and intimacy of posts. Computers in Human Behavior, 73, 489–498. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.04.006

Pratt, L., Wiseman, R. L., Cody, M. J., & Wendt, P. F. (1999). Interrogative strategies and information exchange in computer-mediated communication. Communication Quarterly, 47(1), 46–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/01463379909370123

Perry, V. G., & Blumenthal, P. M. (2012). Understanding the fine print: The need for effective testing of mandatory mortgage loan disclosures. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 31, 305–312. https://doi.org/10.1509/jppm.12.055

Reis, H. T., & Patrick, B. C. (1996). Attachment and intimacy: Component processes. In E. T. Higgins & A. W. Kruglanski (Eds.) Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (pp. 523–563). New York: Guilford Press.

Rızvanoğlu, K., & Öztürk, Ö. (2010). A close look at the phenomenon: an eye tracking study on the usability of the profile pages in social networking sites. In 7th International Symposium of Interactive Media Design (pp. 1–12). Istanbul.

Schouten, A. P., Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2009). An experimental test of processes underlying self-disclosure in computer-mediated communication. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 3(2), article 3. Retrieved from https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/4227/3270

Scott, G. G., & Hand, C. J. (2016). Motivation determines Facebook viewing strategy: An eye movement analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 267–280. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.029

Scott, G. G., Sinclair, J., Short, E., & Bruce, G. (2014). It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it: Language use on facebook impacts employability but not attractiveness. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17, 562–566. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2013.0584

Smith, A. (2011). Why Americans use social media. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media//Files/Reports/2011/Why%20Americans%20Use%20Social%20Media.pdf

Somers, D. (2017, February). Do colleges look at your social media accounts? U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2017-02-10/colleges-really-are-looking-at-your-social-media-accounts

Sprecher, S., Treger, S., & Wondra, J. D. (2013). Effects of self-disclosure role on liking, closeness, and other impressions in get-acquainted interactions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30, 497–514. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407512459033

Steijn, W. M. P., & Schouten, A. P. (2013). Information sharing and relationships on social networking sites. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 16, 582–587. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2012.0392

Stvilia, B., Twidale, M. B., Smith, L. C., & Gasser, L. (2005). Assessing information quality of a community-based encyclopedia. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Quality (pp. 442–454). https://doi.org/

Sunnafrank, M. J. (1986). Predicted outcome value during initial interactions: A reformulation of uncertainty reduction theory. Human Communication Research, 13, 3–33. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.1986.tb00092.x

Taddei, S., & Contena, B. (2013). Privacy, trust and control: Which relationships with online self-disclosure? Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 821–826. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.022

Taylor, D. A. (1979). Motivational bases. In G. J. Chelune (Ed.), Self-disclosure: Origins, patterns, and implications of openness in interpersonal relationships (pp. 110-151). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tidwell, L. C., & Walther, J. B. (2002). Computer-mediated communication effects on disclosure, impressions, and interpersonal evaluations. Human Communication Research, 28, 317-348. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2002.tb00811.x

Tobii Technology AB: How to catch your valentine’s eye: Online dating eye-tracking study reveals that men look, women read (2012). Business Wire. Retrieved from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120207006032/en/tobii-technology-ab-catch-valentine’s-eye-onlin

Toma, C. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2012). What lies beneath: The linguistic traces of deception in online dating profiles. Journal of Communication, 62, 78–97. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01619.x

Utz, S. (2010). Show me your friends and I will tell you what type of person you are: How one’s profile, number of friends, and type of friends influence impression formation on social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15, 314–335. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2010.01522.x

Utz, S. (2015). The function of self-disclosure on social network sites: not only intimate, but also entertaining self-disclosure increases the feeling of connection. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.076

Walther, J. B. (1992). Interpersonal effects in computer-mediated interaction: A relational perspective. Communication Research, 19, 52–90. https://doi.org/10.1177/009365092019001003

Walther, J. B. (1993). Impression development in computer-mediated interaction. Western Journal of Communication, 57, 381-398. https://doi.org/10.1080/105703193093744

Wheeless, L. R., & Grotz, J. (1976). Conceptualization and measurement of reported self‐disclosure. Human Communication Research, 2, 338–346. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.1976.tb00494.x