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Abstract

This study explores whether in the absence of face-to-face interaction individuals rely on mediated “clues” for constructing their perceptions of other individuals. Specifically, we assess whether individuals use the information in email usernames to create basic assumptions about the sender of a message. Ninety-four male and 206 female participants completed self-report surveys asking their perceptions of an instructor-assigned, fictional group member including sex, age, race, and work productivity. A majority of participants assigned biological sex, ethnicity, and age to the fictional member. Participants often identified the creative emails as belonging to Caucasian males, while plain usernames were unknown and perceived as significantly more productive. The majority of participants chose to delete the message, listing lack of recognition as a reason for avoidance. These results suggest that email usernames may shape perceptions when other, nonverbal cues are absent.