General Online Research 2011

March 14-16, 2011, Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf


Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or room to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview

C6: Virtual Actions, Real Feelings

Time: Wednesday, 16/Mar/2011: 10:30am - 11:30am
Session Chair: Benedikt Köhler


More style than substance? Misrepresentation in online mate search

Doreen Zillmann, Schmitz Andreas

University of Bamberg, Germany

Relevance & Research Question: In recent times, the internet has become an important partner market. Especially dating sites have established specific opportunity structures for finding a mate online. Finding a mate requires information about potential mates in the market and an evaluation of the information in order to realize a satisfying match. In online dating, a major source of information is the user’s self-presentation in his online profile. Due to the special opportunity structure of online dating sites, there is a fundamental problem of information asymmetry ; namely, the sender of information is in a better position to know the truth about important characteristics (e.g. about age, educational level) than the receiver is. Thus, misrepresentation and selective self-presentation in the online profile are easily performed and – on the receiver’s side – difficult to discover.

In this paper, we (1) analyse the frequency of misrepresentation and (2) actors’ strategies of misrepresentation in online dating profiles.

Methods & Data: We use survey data from an online panel study conducted on a major German online dating site.

Results: Regarding the first question, our data show that there is a general low proportion of (stated) misrepresentation. Regarding our second research question, the empirical results show that, in general, misrepresentation varies with men’s and women’s mate value which reflects their chances of finding a mate. Focusing on men’s and women’s misrepresentation of their educational level and physical attractiveness, our analysis reveal that men and women use deception strategically to compensate for disadvantages in the online mate market due to the possession of unattractive resources from the perspective of the opposite gender. Furthermore, there are trade-off mechanisms at work as men and women are able to compensate for disadvantages not only by using deception but also by signaling additional valuable resources they can offer to potential mates.

Added Value: Our results suggest that (1) the extent of the trust problem within the online mating market is on the basis of stated misrepresentation small and (2) while presenting them-selves to potential mates, men and women (still) refer to traditional norms and gender roles.

Zillmann-More style than substance Misrepresentation-157.pdf

Hum@n Touch = Healing Touch? Psychological effects of private HIV-Blogs on recipients’ health cognitions

German Neubaum1, Nicole C. Krämer1, Bettina Fromm2

1University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany; 2Zentrum für Medien- und Gesundheitskommunikation e.V., Germany

Relevance & Research Question:

Within the context of user-generated applications in the Web 2.0 more and more people with serious diseases use diary-like weblogs to share their intimate thoughts and experiences with the world. Previous studies investigated the reasons for patients to engage in online self-disclosure, the effects of such personal and emotional diaries on non-diseased recipients are largely unexplored. The current study examined whether the reception of a HIV-weblog affects the recipients´ relevant cognitions and subsequent health behavior (e.g. condom use). Against the background of the framing concept, the risk-as-feelings hypothesis and findings of persuasion research, narrative and person-centered messages can be assumed to be more influential with regard to health-related self-beliefs and the preventive health behavior than general disease information.

Methods & Data:

In an online experiment, 261 participants were assigned to one of the two conditions that varied with regard to the framing of a message. The experimental condition included four articles of a fictitious HIV-weblog with a personal perspective as a stimulus, while the control condition contained four articles of a governmental AIDS website with the same content as the weblog, but from a non person-centered perspective. As dependent variables, perceived credibility of the source, recall of the content, attention towards the different types, perceptions of personal risk of infection, attitudes towards condoms and their use, self-efficacy towards condom use and intention to use condoms were measured.


The person-centered HIV-weblog had a better effect on content-recall and attention towards the presented message than the non person-centered website. Further, the attitudes and the self-efficacy towards condom use of the weblog-readers were significantly better than those of the website-readers. Nevertheless, the perceived credibility as well as the severity of HIV was perceived higher in the non person-centered condition.

Added value:

The personal and emotional frame of patients’ weblogs affects health related cognitions of the recipients in a positive way. Therefore, health related messages with a “human touch” might be an appropriate means to persuade non-diseased readers to show a preventive health behavior. This aspect should be considered in future (online) health communication.

Neubaum-Hum@n Touch Healing Touch Psychological effects-152.pdf

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