Email, IM's, chatrooms, blogs, discussion boards. Today much of our communication takes place online. From MySpace to Yahoogroups to Blogspot many of us have relationships with people we may never meet in person. The researchers call this Computer-Mediated Communication. This blog will explore in laymens terms the findings of this research.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Connecting through similarity

Whether you know it or not you are more easily influenced by people with whom your share some similarity than with someone very different than you. Communication researchers have long known this to be true of face to face encounters. However, a study by NICOLAS GUEGUEN (2003) of the Universite de Bretagne-Sud, Vannes, France, found a similar influence in computer-mediated communication.

Gueguen sent e-mails to 50 students asking them to participate in a survey on eating habits. In 25 of these e-mails the first name of the hypothetical researcher was the same as the first name of the recipient. In the other 25 it was different. More of the students in the first group responded to the survey than those in the second.

The researcher concluded

These results confirm the efficacy of similarity between the helper and the solicitor on helping behavior and are consistent with previous studies on helping behavior where similarity was manipulated by physical appearance or convergence of attitudes .

Certainly, this is the type of information that spammers might use in increasing the efficiency of their advertising. However, being aware of this technique, creates a more informed consumer.

But you don't need to be deceitful or manipulative to put this in principle to work in a more positive setting. For instance, if you're e-mailing a fellow member of a service club in another state seeking assistance on a project for the club in your area, emphasizing the similar challenges between your club and theirs, could increase your chances of a positive response.

So, the basic lesson here is: If you are trying to influence someone else's behavior, even online, emphasize those things you share in common with them.


Nicolas Gueguen (2003) Help on the Web: The effect of the same first name between the sender and the receptor in a request made by e-mail . The Psychological Record. Gambier: Summer .Vol.53, Iss. 3; pg. 459


Post a Comment

<< Home