Social Information Processing Theory


Theory in a Nutshell
 Relationships based on computer-mediated

communication (CMC) can be just as intimate and successful as face-to-face relationships.

Joe Walther – Michigan State University  Believes relationships grow

only to the extent that parties first gain information about each other and use that information to form interpersonal impressions of who they are.

 Interpersonal development 

Impression formation (the composite mental image one person forms of another) Relationship development

 The interacting parties draw closer if

they both like the image of the other they found.  Focuses on the personal information available through CMC and its effect on the composite mental image of the other that each one creates.

 Nonverbal cues are filtered out of the

interpersonal information that we send and receive through CMC like physical context, facial expression, tone of voice, etc are all missing but the loss is not fatal or injurious to a well-defined impression of the other or the relational development that it triggers.

 1. Verbal cues- When motivated to form impressions and develop relationships, all communicators employ any cue system available. So, when the nonverbal cue system

is taken away CMC users base their impressions on the linguistic content of the messages.  2. Extended time- The exchange rate is much slower than face-to-face so impressions are formed at a reduced rate. But over time the CMC relationships are not weaker or more fragile than those with nonverbal cues. Ex- Sipping vs. Gulping

 Pen Pals – discovering similarities and

expressiong affection through the written word alone.  Long-distance romantic relationships : started at friendly notes..progressed to passionate love letters.
 Dear John

Extended Time–Crucial Variable
 Anticipated future interaction – a way of

extending psychological time; the likelihood of future interaction motivates CMC users to develop a relationship.  Chronemics- people’s systematic handling of time and their interaction with others.

Hyperpersonal Perspective
 The claim that CMC relationships are often

more intimate than those developed when partners are physically together.
 Sender-an online positive portrayal without fear

of contradiction, which enables people to create an overwhelmingly favorable impression.  Receiver: Social identity deindividuation (SIDE) a theory that suggests CMC users overestimate their similarity with others they meet in online interest groups.

 Channel: asynchronous channel- a

nonsimultaneous medium of communication that each individual can use when he or she desires.  Feedback: self-fulfilling prophecy-the tendency for a person’s expectation of others to evoke a response from them that confirms what was originally anticipated.

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