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Can You See the Real Me? Activation and Expression of the “True Self” on the Internet

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Abstract

Those who feel better able to express their “true selves” in Internet rather than face-to-face interaction settings are more likely to form close relationships with people met on the Internet (McKenna, Green, & Gleason, this issue). Building on these correlational findings from survey data, we conducted three laboratory experiments to directly test the hypothesized causal role of differential self-expression in Internet relationship formation. Experiments 1 and 2, using a reaction time task, found that for university undergraduates, the true-self concept is more accessible in memory during Internet interactions, and the actual self more accessible during face-to-face interactions. Experiment 3 confirmed that people randomly assigned to interact over the Internet (vs. face to face) were better able to express their true-self qualities to their partners.

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