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Effects of Representational Similarity on Deindividuation and Conformity to Group Norms in Computer-Mediated Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  18 Experiment 1 demonstrated that uniform character representation, under certain conditions, led people to deindividuate their interaction partners and to adhere to the group norm. Yet, some issues need further clarification. First, the deindividuation index needs to be cross- validated with other related measures. We operationalized deindividuation as the lack of differences in attributions of various personal characteristics (e.g., social attractiveness, competence, trustworthiness) to each partner. In doing so, we asked participants to rate each partner along several dimensions and compared the composite ratings. One potential problem with this operationalization is that it does not directly capture how similar people perceived other discussants are to each other: Given the very limited individuating cues available about interactants, participants might have felt reluctant to rate the interactants differently, not because they believed the interactants were of the same kind, but because it was difficult to justify attributions of different personal characteristics to invisible strangers after less than 30-minute technology-mediated interaction. Therefore, for a more stringent test of deindividuation effect of uniform representation, a comparison with a direct measure of similarity between other members is in order. H1: Individuals will perceive other members to be more similar to each other when everyone is represented by the same characters compared to when each person is represented by a unique character. Another issue concerns what mediates the impact of deindividuation on social influence. We proposed that identical characters would facilitate deindividuation and group identification with the partners and that this enhanced attachment to group would account for increased social influence (Lea et al., 2001). Nevertheless, identification with the group was not directly measured in Experiment 1. We instead measured perceived similarity with each partner as an indicator of group identification, which has some limitations. First, although interpersonal similarities and differences often serve as an important basis for spontaneous social categorizations, studies have shown that interpersonal similarity does not necessarily translate into group identification and

Authors: Lee, Eun-Ju.
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18
Experiment 1 demonstrated that uniform character representation, under certain
conditions, led people to deindividuate their interaction partners and to adhere to the group norm.
Yet, some issues need further clarification. First, the deindividuation index needs to be cross-
validated with other related measures. We operationalized deindividuation as the lack of
differences in attributions of various personal characteristics (e.g., social attractiveness,
competence, trustworthiness) to each partner. In doing so, we asked participants to rate each
partner along several dimensions and compared the composite ratings. One potential problem
with this operationalization is that it does not directly capture how similar people perceived other
discussants are to each other: Given the very limited individuating cues available about
interactants, participants might have felt reluctant to rate the interactants differently, not because
they believed the interactants were of the same kind, but because it was difficult to justify
attributions of different personal characteristics to invisible strangers after less than 30-minute
technology-mediated interaction. Therefore, for a more stringent test of deindividuation effect of
uniform representation, a comparison with a direct measure of similarity between other members
is in order.
H1: Individuals will perceive other members to be more similar to each other when
everyone is represented by the same characters compared to when each person is represented by a
unique character.
Another issue concerns what mediates the impact of deindividuation on social influence.
We proposed that identical characters would facilitate deindividuation and group identification
with the partners and that this enhanced attachment to group would account for increased social
influence (Lea et al., 2001). Nevertheless, identification with the group was not directly measured
in Experiment 1. We instead measured perceived similarity with each partner as an indicator of
group identification, which has some limitations. First, although interpersonal similarities and
differences often serve as an important basis for spontaneous social categorizations, studies have
shown that interpersonal similarity does not necessarily translate into group identification and


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