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Seeing Others Receive Support Online: Effects of Self-Disclosure and Similarity on Perceived Support Availability and Behavior Intention

Presenter: Yining Zhou Malloch & Jingwen Zhang

Nov 30, 2017
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM

Kerr Hall 386

Presenter: Yining Zhou Malloch & Jingwen Zhang

Title: Seeing Others Receive Support Online: Effects of Self-Disclosure and Similarity on Perceived Support Availability and Behavior Intention

Abstract: Participation in online support groups leads to improved health. While lurkers comprise the majority of online support group participants, the literature on how lurkers benefit from viewing others’ posts and comments is sparse. This study focused on two key features of online support groups, self-disclosure and similarity, and tested their effects on influencing viewers’ perceived similarity with the poster. In addition, it tested whether self-disclosure and similarity had indirect effects on behavior intention through three theoretical mediators. We conducted a 2 (similar vs. dissimilar) by 3 (factual vs. cognitive vs. emotional self-disclosure) between-subject online experiment involving 280 adult overweight participants who used weight-control related online support groups in the past month. Findings show similarity of health status led to increased level of perceived similarity and moderated the effects of self-disclosure. When viewers shared similar health status with the poster, both cognitive and emotional self-disclosure increased perceived similarity in comparison to factual disclosure. Path analyses show perceived similarity increased diet intention directly, and through increasing identification and perceived support availability as well. Contributions to theories on computer-mediated communication and implications to design effective online support groups are discussed. 

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