Problems Associated with Computer-Mediated Communication Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience Perspectives

Problems Associated with Computer-Mediated Communication Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience Perspectives

Gülsen Yildirim (Informatics Institute, METU, Turkey) and Didem Gökçay (Informatics Institute, METU, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-892-6.ch011
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In this chapter, the authors examine some of behavioral problems frequently observed in computer-mediated communication and point out that a subset of these behavioral problems is similar to those of patients with brain lesions. The authors try to draw an analogy between the lack of affective features in text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC) versus the functional deficits brought along by regional brain damage. In addition, they review the social psychological studies that identify behavioral problems in CMC, and merge the literature in these different domains to propose some requirements for initiating conceptual changes in text-based CMC applications.
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Humans solve real life problems through an intricate interplay between emotion and cognition. In general, cognitive processing demands conscious involvement of the individual, but emotional processing employs automatic survival mechanisms as well. In daily situations, communication usually occurs through face-to-face (FtF) interaction. This type of interaction contains adequate environmental context for generation of subjective judgments automatically, using the emotional circuitry in our brains. For example, individuals are capable of evaluating the real intent or meaning behind a sentence, not only by judging the content in semantics (which is accomplished by cognitive procedures), but also by judging facial expressions, prosody in speech and sensory inputs received from the surrounding environment. A sentence which is neutral according to semantic content can be conceived as a happy or a fearsome event, if extra information regarding subjective ratings of the present situational cues is provided by the emotional circuitry.

On the other hand, computer- mediated communication (CMC) became an indispensable part of our lives. For more than two decades, CMC applications have been evolving continuously (Antheunis et al., 2010). Starting the journey with primitive and asynchronous text-based communication tools, the latest generation of CMC applications such as social network sites is very different from the initial examples of CMC applications in terms of both media richness and the largeness of the communities using those applications (Antheunis et al., 2010). For instance, social network sites are different from conventional CMC applications as they support both offline-online and asynchronous-synchronous communication, the audiovisual content and “one-to-many communication” (Antheunis et al., 2010; Ross et al., 2009). In addition, users of the social network sites can interact with each other in all passive, active and interactive strategies in order to collect more information about the individuals of the target of the social attraction (Antheunis et al., 2010).

Although CMC eases our lives, it also brings along some problems. The anonymous and socially disconnected medium of CMC applications cause people to exhibit behaviors which are otherwise prohibited to be performed in natural social environments (Short et al., 1976; Siegel et al., 1986). In addition, CMC ranks far behind FtF communication in terms of media richness causing less social presence, reduced social norms and control (Daft & Lengel, 1986). Because of these reasons, people communicating through CMC, whether in a text-based environment or not, exhibit a multitude of negative behaviors such as flaming (Siegel et al., 1986; Moor et al., 2010), fearlessness (Maksimova, 2005), and inability to self-monitor (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991; Short et al., 1976; Zhao et al., 2008). Furthermore, there is a lack of awareness in this type of miscommunication (Kruger et al., 2005) as well as inability to evaluate social cues (Lo, 2008; McKenna et al., 2002; Bargh et al., 2002).

Interestingly, similar behavioral problems also exist in patient populations with damage to the limbic system and its anatomic correlates. In this study, we investigated the behavioral problems in CMC from both socio-psychology (Section 2) and cognitive neurology perspectives (Section 3) by examining the literature. We found striking behavioral similarities between the users of, mainly, text-based communication platforms and patients with deficits of the limbic system (amygdala, OFC and septal nuclei). These similarities and the fundamental concepts about limbic system are provided in Section 3. In light of the problems of CMC and corresponding anomalies in the human brain, we will present a preliminary perspective to help to interpret problems associated with text-based CMC and emphasize the immediate need for the enhancement of the affective dimension in platforms that depend primarily on text.

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