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From perception to behavior: Disclosure reciprocity and the intensification of intimacy in computer-mediated communication


This study proposes and tests a novel theoretical mechanism to explain increased self-disclosure intimacy in text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC) versus face-to-face (FtF) interactions. On the basis of joint effects of perception intensification processes in CMC and the disclosure reciprocity norm, the authors predict a perception-behavior intensification effect, according to which people perceive partners’ initial disclosures as more intimate in CMC than FtF and, consequently, reciprocate with more intimate disclosures of their own. An experiment compares disclosure reciprocity in text-based CMC and FtF conversations, in which participants interacted with a confederate who made either intimate or nonintimate disclosures across the two communication media. The utterances generated by the participants are coded for disclosure frequency and intimacy. Consistent with the proposed perception-behavior intensification effect, CMC participants perceive the confederate’s disclosures as more intimate, and, importantly, reciprocate with more intimate disclosures than FtF participants do.

L.C. Jiang
N. Bazarova
J.T. Hancock
Communication Research, 40, 125-143
Publication Date
February 1, 2013