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Effects of Representational Similarity on Deindividuation and Conformity to Group Norms in Computer-Mediated Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  26 sense of group unity. In the present studies, deindividuation was induced by means of standardized presentation of partners, a device presumably conducive to creating a sense of “we- ness”, and yet, the correlation between the two was not strikingly high. Therefore, to understand how deindividuation affects the pattern of social influence occurring within groups and between individuals, it seems critical to first examine what contextual factors cause deindividuation (Spears, Postmes, Lea, & Watt, 2001). For example, people might find it difficult or inappropriate to make distinctions between anonymous CMC partners, especially at the outset of the interaction. When anonymity is primarily responsible for deindividuation, group identification is less likely to automatically follow deindividuation, compared to when similarity (either virtual or real) has invoked deindividuation. In testing the SIDE model, we selected conformity to group norms as a form of social identification effects. Another aspect of social identification effect, perhaps as prevalent as ingroup favoritism, is intergroup differentiation. To generalize the SIDE model beyond the realm of assimilation to ingroup norms, it seems necessary to show that deindividuation amplifies the social differentiation process in the face of the conformity pressure from outgroup members, just as it accentuates social influence from ingroup members (Turner, 1991). Unfortunately, the manipulation of university affiliation in Experiment 1 failed to instigate a clear ingroup vs. outgroup contrast and thus did not allow us to elaborate on this possibility. In start contrast to the notion that standardized form of message delivery in CMC would render the medium less personal and subsequently decrease its potential for interpersonal influence and cohesion (Hiltz, Johnson, & Turoff, 1986), the present experiments demonstrate that uniform representation of interactants may serve as a basis on which people form a shared group identity with anonymous partners, which in turn enhances social influence. Indeed, lack of socio-contextual cues in the CMC environment seems to hinder people’s capacity to perceive invisible partners as unique individuals with idiosyncratic characteristics. This deindividuation state, however, does not necessarily lead people to computerize and dehumanize their partners

Authors: Lee, Eun-Ju.
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sense of group unity. In the present studies, deindividuation was induced by means of
standardized presentation of partners, a device presumably conducive to creating a sense of “we-
ness”, and yet, the correlation between the two was not strikingly high. Therefore, to understand
how deindividuation affects the pattern of social influence occurring within groups and between
individuals, it seems critical to first examine what contextual factors cause deindividuation
(Spears, Postmes, Lea, & Watt, 2001). For example, people might find it difficult or inappropriate
to make distinctions between anonymous CMC partners, especially at the outset of the
interaction. When anonymity is primarily responsible for deindividuation, group identification is
less likely to automatically follow deindividuation, compared to when similarity (either virtual or
real) has invoked deindividuation.
In testing the SIDE model, we selected conformity to group norms as a form of social
identification effects. Another aspect of social identification effect, perhaps as prevalent as
ingroup favoritism, is intergroup differentiation. To generalize the SIDE model beyond the realm
of assimilation to ingroup norms, it seems necessary to show that deindividuation amplifies the
social differentiation process in the face of the conformity pressure from outgroup members, just
as it accentuates social influence from ingroup members (Turner, 1991). Unfortunately, the
manipulation of university affiliation in Experiment 1 failed to instigate a clear ingroup vs.
outgroup contrast and thus did not allow us to elaborate on this possibility.
In start contrast to the notion that standardized form of message delivery in CMC would
render the medium less personal and subsequently decrease its potential for interpersonal
influence and cohesion (Hiltz, Johnson, & Turoff, 1986), the present experiments demonstrate
that uniform representation of interactants may serve as a basis on which people form a shared
group identity with anonymous partners, which in turn enhances social influence. Indeed, lack of
socio-contextual cues in the CMC environment seems to hinder people’s capacity to perceive
invisible partners as unique individuals with idiosyncratic characteristics. This deindividuation
state, however, does not necessarily lead people to computerize and dehumanize their partners


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