Hello Stranger!: Trust and Self-Disclosure Effects on Online Information Sharing

Hello Stranger!: Trust and Self-Disclosure Effects on Online Information Sharing

Sophie E. Tait (Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) and Debora Jeske (Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2015010104
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The current study examined the role of personality attributes and online profile characteristics as predictors of self-disclosure. The authors were specifically interested to learn how personality and profile attractiveness influenced the quantity and type of information individuals would be willing to share about themselves with a potential dating partner who they have never met before. The results of the online survey with 149 female participants revealed that the propensity to trust and extraversion were significant positive predictors of self-reported tendency to self-disclose potentially sensitive and identifying information, while greater profile attractiveness further increased the amount of information they were willing to share. These findings suggest that information disclosure is in part driven by personality and context, which has potential implications for how careful individuals are about revealing potentially sensitive information to strangers.
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1. Introduction

Self-disclosure is a prominent topic for research in the field of psychological investigation. Jourard (1963) defined self-disclosure as the truthful depiction of the self to others. The notion of self-disclosure within interpersonal relationships is explored through Social Penetration Theory (Altman & Taylor, 1973). According to this theory, intimacy increases through reciprocal disclosure and attraction in the relationship. Self-disclosure also holds a theoretical basis in Social Exchange Theory (Homans, 1958), which suggests that social interactions in interpersonal relationships involve a combination of subjectively perceived rewards and costs.

In recent work, disclosure behaviors have come into focus in the context of online communication such as social networking (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Indeed, individuals may be more willing to self-disclose a greater amount of information while online, owing to circumstantial aspects such as perceived situational control and anonymity (Taddei & Contena, 2013). According to the Privacy Calculus model (Dinev & Hart, 2006), individuals tend to focus on the benefits of online interactions and disclosure, while thus also risking that their personal information and privacy is compromised in the process. This process may have contributed to the increasing popularity of online dating sites (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007a), as more technologies and platforms enable individuals to develop relationships through virtual means. At the same time, concerns about online privacy perceptions are on the increase, challenging the model's applicability (Mesch, 2012).

In response to these developments, recent research has examined how self-disclosure is linked to other personality characteristics as well as the quantity of personal information shared online (Blackhart, Fitzpatrick, & Williamson, 2014). In particular, certain specific personality constructs have been emphasised within previous research as significant predictors of self-disclosure in the online environment (e.g., Liu, Ang, & Lwin, 2013). Some individuals may be more likely to disclose personal - and even intimate - information to people with whom they have never even met in real life. This is important in terms of online security and in response to security issues such as phishing. At the same time, self-disclosure of personal information is an important variable in the case of online dating; members exchange information about each other without necessarily being able to verify the identity, and thus true motives, of the other person.

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