Email as a Speed-Facilitating Device:
A Contribution to the Reduced-Cues Perspective on Communication


  • Massimo Bertacco,

    Corresponding author
    1. (Ph.D., University of Trieste, Italy) is a Post-doctoral researcher at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. His research interests are mediated communication and Self psychology. At present, his research focuses on the relation between the Self and cultural transitions.
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  • Antonella Deponte

    Corresponding author
    1. (Ph.D., University of Trieste, Italy), after a post-doctoral fellowship, is now teaching Social Psychology at the University of Trieste. Her research interests vary from the impact of CMC on human relations, to age-related stereotypes and intrinsic motivation.
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Address: Division of Social and Organizational Psychology, Université Catholique de Louvain, Place du Cardinal Mercier 10, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Address: Department of Psychology, University of Trieste, Via S. Anastasio 12, 34134 Trieste, Italy


Reduced-cues theories of communication assume that the sensorial stimulation of face-to-face interaction is essential for an optimal communicative experience. From a motivational perspective, Wicklund and Vandekerckhove (2000) took this theory further by hypothesizing that people involved in rapid communication in a setting poor in sensorial stimulation would tend to have (a) brief and (b) egocentric exchanges. Two experiments were developed in order to test these points. In Experiment 1, participants had to simulate communication with a long-lost friend either via a computer-typed letter (slow and without sensorial output media) or an email (fast and without sensorial output media). Results showed that email participants wrote shorter messages and were less likely to bring up friendship-related memories than letter participants. The second quasi-experimental study succeeded in extending the external validity of Experiment 1's findings. Research limits as well as scope for future research are discussed in the conclusions.