The Influence of Synchrony and Sensory Modality on the Person Perception Process in Computer-Mediated Groups


  • Kristine L. Nowak,

    Corresponding author
    1. (Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2000) is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Science department, and director of the human computer interaction lab, at the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses on the person perception process and user satisfaction in computer-mediated interactions. She is also interested in design and usability issues involving computer media. See for more information.
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  • James Watt,

    Corresponding author
    1. (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin) is Director of the Rensselaer Social and Behavioral Research Laboratory and Chair of the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research interests include online marketing communication and distance collaboration technologies.
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  • Joseph B. Walther

    Corresponding author
    1. (Ph.D., University of Arizona) is a professor of communication at Cornell University. His research focuses on the use of communication cues in the management of relationships and their effects, with special emphasis on computer-mediated communication in personal, social, and collaborative work settings.
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Address: Department of Communication Sciences, University of Connecticut, 850 Bolton Road, U-1085, Storrs, CT 06269 USA

Address: James Watt, LL&C, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180 USA

Address: Dept. of Communication, Cornell University, 336 Kennedy Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4203 USA


This study examined the effects of synchrony and the number of cues on the person perception process in computer-mediated communication. One hundred and forty-two participants in groups of three or four engaged in collaboration over five weeks to develop oral reports, using alternate versions of communication systems or meeting face-to-face. Consistent with the hyperpersonal model, those using low cue media felt their partners were more credible, and reported more social attraction, less uncertainty, and more involvement in the interaction than those using high cue media. People interacting with synchronous media felt increased social attraction, self-reported involvement, and certainty. They also felt that their conversations were more effective, although this effect appeared mainly in low cue groups. Results of an exploratory path analysis suggest that future research should focus on causal chains rather than direct effects, and that intervening variables (such as involvement) may be central to our understanding of the effects of communication technology systems.