To Identify or Not to Identify: A Theoretical Model of Receiver Responses to Anonymous Communication


Stephen A. Rains; e-mail:


Although anonymity has been studied for well over a century, scholarship on anonymous communication has been fragmented and the role of message receivers, in particular, warrants greater attention. A theoretical model is developed here explaining receiver responses to anonymous communication. The context of the communication, degree to which the source is perceived to be anonymous, receiver’s desire to identify the source, and potential ability to determine the source’s identity are posited to influence receiver attempts at identifying (or further anonymizing) the source as well as perceptions of the source, message, and medium. The study concludes by identifying instances where anonymity may be particularly beneficial or problematic for message receivers and offering directions for future research.