A self-awareness approach to computer-mediated communication

Mike Z. Yao, Andrew J. Flanagin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many explanations of both pro- and anti-social behaviors in computer-mediated communication (CMC) appear to hinge on changes in individual self-awareness. In spite of this, little research has been devoted to understanding the effects of self-awareness in CMC. To fill this void, this study examined the effects of individuals' public and private self-awareness in anonymous, time-restricted, and synchronous CMC. Two experiments were conducted. A pilot experiment tested and confirmed the effectiveness of using a Web camera combined with an alleged online audience to enhance users' public self-awareness. In the main study users' private and public self-awareness were manipulated in a crossed 2 × 2 factorial design. Pairs of participants completed a Desert Survival Problem via a synchronous, text-only chat program. After the task, they evaluated each other on intimacy, task/social orientation, formality, politeness, attraction, and group identification. The results suggest that a lack of private and public self-awareness does not automatically lead to impersonal tendencies in CMC as deindividuation perspectives of CMC would argue. Moreover, participants in this study were able to form favorable impressions in a completely anonymous environment based on brief interaction, which lends strong support to the idealization proposed by hyperpersonal theory. Findings are used to modify and extend current theoretical perspectives on CMC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-544
Number of pages27
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • CMC
  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Hyperpersonal theory
  • Impression formation
  • Self-awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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