Beliefs and Attributions toward Computing Technology: The Moderating Role of Social Cues in Interfaces

Beliefs and Attributions toward Computing Technology: The Moderating Role of Social Cues in Interfaces

Richard D. Johnson (Department of Management, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY, USA), Natasha Veltri (Information & Technology Management, University of Tampa, Tampa, FL, USA) and Jason B. Thatcher (College of Business and Behavioral Science, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/joeuc.2015070102


This study critiques and extends the work of , who investigated the relations between social cues in an interface, user personality, user beliefs about the social role and capabilities of computers, and the attributions of responsibility users made for their interactions and outcomes with a computer. In this study, rather than examining the simple, direct effects investigated previously, we examine the moderating role of social cues in the interface. In addition, building upon recent findings from psychology, the authors assess personality traits individually, rather than aggregating them. To evaluate the theorized relations, 152 individuals participated in a controlled laboratory experiment, where social cues in two computer interfaces were manipulated. Results indicate that social cues moderate the relations between personality, beliefs about the social role of computing, and the attributions made. In addition, the results suggest that disaggregating personality traits is theoretically and practically richer than aggregating them.
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Human-computer interaction (HCI) researchers have devoted substantial attention to examining the influence of social cues on user reactions to computing technology (cf. Hess, Fuller, & Matthew, 2005; Nass, Fogg, & Moon, 1996; Qiu & Benbasat, 2009; Reeves & Nass, 1996; Shneiderman, 1998; Turkle, 2003). Social cues, such as interactions through language, voice response, pictorial representation, and the fulfillment of a social role (e.g. personal assistant), signal the user that he or she is interacting with an independent, social, and intelligent entity (R. D. Johnson, Marakas, & Palmer, 2008). For example, Apple’s Siri manifests these cues when it uses natural language, humor, and other human-like responses. Over time, computing artifacts that were originally designed and viewed as sterile, lifeless, machines have become essential social partners as we complete daily tasks, creating a gap between what designers envision and how users perceive them (Ciborra, 2002; Dourish, 2001; Turkle, 2003).

The challenge facing designers is that although social cues can lead to more natural and effective interaction, greater trust, and increased purchase intentions, (cf. Moon, 2000; Qiu & Benbasat, 2009; Reeves & Nass, 1996), these same cues can lead users to develop a fundamental misunderstanding about the capabilities and limitations of computing technology (Shneiderman, 1998; Winograd & Flores, 1987). For example, critics have argued that users who ascribe social characteristics to a computer may allow it to “generate a final decision without questioning its actions” (R. D. Johnson, Marakas, & Palmer, 2006, p. 447). A recent stream of research by R.D. Johnson and colleagues (R. D. Johnson et al., 2006; R. D. Johnson, Marakas et al., 2008; R. D. Johnson, Veltri, & Hornik, 2008; Marakas, Johnson, & Palmer, 2000) has used attribution theory to explain how user personality and interface design affect how individuals come to ascribe responsibility for interactions and outcomes to the computer (see Table 1 for an overview).

As can be seen in this table, a number of factors have been investigated, but three factors have been consistently identified as key antecedents to the attributions made:

  • Core Self-Evaluations (CORE): A personality trait that represents “fundamental, subconscious conclusions individuals reach about themselves” (Judge, Locke, Durham, & Kluger, 1998, p. 18);

  • Computing Technology Continuum of Perspective (CP): An individual’s generalized beliefs about the social role and capabilities of computers (R. D. Johnson et al., 2006);

  • Social Cues in the Interface: See Table 1.

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