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Effects of Representational Similarity on Deindividuation and Conformity to Group Norms in Computer-Mediated Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  16 The effects of character representation on deindividuation and conformity merit special note. Although the ostensible partners remained completely anonymous throughout the experiment, unlike the classical minimal group paradigm where the group membership is the only information revealed about other members (Tajfel, 1978), our participants were exposed to their partners’ decisions and supporting arguments on various scenarios, which supposedly reflect their values, personalities, and beliefs. Therefore, our finding that similarity between characters translated into the attribution of similarity to unknown interactants evidences quite robust effects of visual cues in CMC, considering that 1) participants were fully aware that characters were randomly assigned by the experimenter and thus had nothing to do with who their partners were, 2) there was no explicit “group” label imposed on the participant, which often renders the minimal group paradigm susceptible to the demand characteristics explanation, and 3) visual representation was not the only cue based on which people could form impressions and make inferences about their partners. Nevertheless, people not only felt more similar to the same- charactered partners but they also expressed greater agreement with their partners, at least when the group-level self-identity was salient. The SIDE model explains that deindividuation accentuates social identification effects, due to the lack of individuating information, which may dilute or crosscut the relative impact of social identity (Postmes et al., 1999). However, this account does not appear to explain our findings, for the deindividuation and individuation conditions in Experiment 1 did not differ in terms of the amount of individuating information. Instead, individual’s motivation to balance their need for individuation (uniqueness) and deindividuation (similarity) seems relevant in explaining why uniform representation elicits different reactions to the group norm. When a person is surrounded by individuals of different group membership, primed with his or her group- level identity, the search for similarity with others is likely to set in and uniform representation takes on a particular value as a group-defining cue. On the other hand, when a person is placed amongst people sharing the same background, with the person-level identity being salient,

Authors: Lee, Eun-Ju.
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16
The effects of character representation on deindividuation and conformity merit special
note. Although the ostensible partners remained completely anonymous throughout the
experiment, unlike the classical minimal group paradigm where the group membership is the only
information revealed about other members (Tajfel, 1978), our participants were exposed to their
partners’ decisions and supporting arguments on various scenarios, which supposedly reflect their
values, personalities, and beliefs. Therefore, our finding that similarity between characters
translated into the attribution of similarity to unknown interactants evidences quite robust effects
of visual cues in CMC, considering that 1) participants were fully aware that characters were
randomly assigned by the experimenter and thus had nothing to do with who their partners were,
2) there was no explicit “group” label imposed on the participant, which often renders the
minimal group paradigm susceptible to the demand characteristics explanation, and 3) visual
representation was not the only cue based on which people could form impressions and make
inferences about their partners. Nevertheless, people not only felt more similar to the same-
charactered partners but they also expressed greater agreement with their partners, at least when
the group-level self-identity was salient.
The SIDE model explains that deindividuation accentuates social identification effects,
due to the lack of individuating information, which may dilute or crosscut the relative impact of
social identity (Postmes et al., 1999). However, this account does not appear to explain our
findings, for the deindividuation and individuation conditions in Experiment 1 did not differ in
terms of the amount of individuating information. Instead, individual’s motivation to balance
their need for individuation (uniqueness) and deindividuation (similarity) seems relevant in
explaining why uniform representation elicits different reactions to the group norm. When a
person is surrounded by individuals of different group membership, primed with his or her group-
level identity, the search for similarity with others is likely to set in and uniform representation
takes on a particular value as a group-defining cue. On the other hand, when a person is placed
amongst people sharing the same background, with the person-level identity being salient,


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