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Effects of Representational Similarity on Deindividuation and Conformity to Group Norms in Computer-Mediated Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  6 interaction, but those in the deindividuation condition were represented by the same cartoon characters whereas the individuated participants appeared in various forms of cartoon characters. If the standardized form of message delivery in text-based CMC makes messages less unique and less recognizable as products of a specific individual (Shamp, 1991), the uniform representation of CMC partners would likely cause the same deindividuation effect. H1: People will more likely attribute different characteristics to each interaction partner when each person is represented by a unique character compared to when everyone is represented by the same character. By manipulating visual representation, this study also aims to test the assumption of the SIDE model that deindividuation strengthens the impact of group norms only when a group identity is made salient a priori (Postmes et al., 2001). Instead, we propose that certain contextual cues, such as uniform representation of participants, may serve as a cause of both deindividuation and social identification, not necessarily requiring an already salient group identity shared with interactants. According to Social Identity Theory (Tajfel, 1978, Tajfel & Turner, 1986), self- conception comprises at least two major components, social and personal identity. While the former refers to self-descriptions related to group memberships (e.g., nationality), the latter refers to more personal self-descriptions, reflecting personality traits and specific attributes of the individual. The distinction between personal and social identity has important implications for social behaviors, for different situations ‘switch on’ different self-schemata and people perceive social stimuli and control their behavior according to the salient level of identity (Turner, 1984). Visual representation might be one of such situational factors. Obviously the manipulation of visual representation is not as explicit and powerful a definition of social identity as labeling people a group with its own name and a common goal. Nevertheless, given that certain visual characteristics, such as gender and ethnicity, have shown robust effects on social identification (e.g., Biernat & Vescio, 1993; Hewstone, Hantzi, & Johnson, 1991) and that similarity is an important basis for psychological group formation as a

Authors: Lee, Eun-Ju.
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interaction, but those in the deindividuation condition were represented by the same cartoon
characters whereas the individuated participants appeared in various forms of cartoon characters.
If the standardized form of message delivery in text-based CMC makes messages less unique and
less recognizable as products of a specific individual (Shamp, 1991), the uniform representation
of CMC partners would likely cause the same deindividuation effect.
H1: People will more likely attribute different characteristics to each interaction partner
when each person is represented by a unique character compared to when everyone is represented
by the same character.
By manipulating visual representation, this study also aims to test the assumption of the
SIDE model that deindividuation strengthens the impact of group norms only when a group
identity is made salient a priori (Postmes et al., 2001). Instead, we propose that certain contextual
cues, such as uniform representation of participants, may serve as a cause of both deindividuation
and social identification, not necessarily requiring an already salient group identity shared with
interactants. According to Social Identity Theory (Tajfel, 1978, Tajfel & Turner, 1986), self-
conception comprises at least two major components, social and personal identity. While the
former refers to self-descriptions related to group memberships (e.g., nationality), the latter refers
to more personal self-descriptions, reflecting personality traits and specific attributes of the
individual. The distinction between personal and social identity has important implications for
social behaviors, for different situations ‘switch on’ different self-schemata and people perceive
social stimuli and control their behavior according to the salient level of identity (Turner, 1984).
Visual representation might be one of such situational factors.
Obviously the manipulation of visual representation is not as explicit and powerful a
definition of social identity as labeling people a group with its own name and a common goal.
Nevertheless, given that certain visual characteristics, such as gender and ethnicity, have shown
robust effects on social identification (e.g., Biernat & Vescio, 1993; Hewstone, Hantzi, &
Johnson, 1991) and that similarity is an important basis for psychological group formation as a


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