Online Decision-Making in Receiving Spam Emails Among College Students

Online Decision-Making in Receiving Spam Emails Among College Students

Zheng Yan (University at Albany - SUNY, USA) and Hamide Y. Gozu (University at Albany, State University of New York, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2012010101
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Decision-making in the real world has been extensively studied, whereas decision-making in the cyber world is relatively unknown. The present study investigated how email users made their decisions to read or delete spam emails, unsolicited junk emails sent indiscriminately, when they received various kinds of emails in the everyday life. An experimental survey was designed to manipulate two variables, decision-making strategy (intuitive or rational decision) and information availability (limited or detailed information), and administrated via a professional survey website PsycData to 171 college students. It was found that (a) rational decision strategy outperformed intuitive decision strategy, (b) better decision was made with detailed information than with limited information, (c) the effect size of information availability was approximately ten times as large as that of decision-making strategy, and (d) no interaction effects was present between decision-making strategy and information availability. Practical implications are discussed.
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Emails are particularly useful for daily communications and social interactions (Judd & Kennedy, 2010; Phillips & Reddie, 2008; Sheer & Fung, 2007) and have become one of the fastest and most convenient communicational methods (NSF, 2010). However, frequently through billions of spam emails received by email users in the world every day, emails have been found to be particularly harmful, including g cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment (Beran & Li, 2005; Cassidy, Jackson, & Brown, 2009), identity theft (Lynch, 2005), and online viruses (Shih & Chiang, 2004). As the Internet version of junk mails, spam emails generally refers to various kinds of unsolicited bulk email messages sent indiscriminately to email users and account for more than 50% of total inbound email messages (M86 Security, 2011; Mehta, Atreja, & Jain, 2008). Thus, to better understand how email users should protect themselves from pervasive harmful emails while they fully enjoy using emails for beneficial communications and interactions, it is important to empirically examine how email users would make decisions (e.g., whether one should make a intuitively or analytic decision to read or delete an email) when they receive spam emails. More generally, given that decision-making in the real world has been extensively studied but decision-making in the cyber world is relatively unknown, theoretically, studies on email decision making will add new knowledge of online decision-making and enhance current understanding of real-world decision making. Considering the increasing challenges of Internet safety and the increasing literature on attitudes and behaviors of Internet safety, practically, this line of research will inform Internet users how to make safe decisions besides how to foster safe attitudes and perform safe behaviors.

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