Examining the relationship between social media characteristics and psychological dispositions

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Grace, D
Ross, M
Shao, W
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Purpose: – This paper aims to adopt a novel approach to the study of individuals’ psychological dispositions that predict Facebook usage/non-usage. Given the historically disappointing results associated with studies that treat personality traits/dispositions as enduring and invariant, contemporary thought accepts that it is the interaction between dispositions and situations that influence behaviour. In this study, the situation (in this case, Facebook) is positioned as the antecedent stimulus for the activation of context-relevant psychological dispositions that, subsequently, facilitate behavioural prediction (i.e. Facebook usage/non-usage). Moreover, Facebook (the stimulus) is examined through its perceived psychological, rather than normative, features to identify context-relevant dispositions.

Design/methodology/approach: – This two-study project adopts a research framework developed through the integration of communication theories and theoretical frameworks and psychological processing theories. Study 1 adopted a qualitative approach to determine the psychological features of Facebook, as perceived from the individual’s standpoint. Study 2 involved a national online survey, developed from the findings from Study 1, to explore context-relevant psychological dispositions in their prediction of Facebook behaviour.

Findings: – The findings of Study 1 lead to the identification of the perceived psychological features of Facebook which are categorised under the umbrella terms of interaction, self-image control, usage volition and risk. Using these features (identified in Study 1) to guide in the selection of context-relevant dispositions, rather than arbitrarily selecting dispositions, the hypotheses for Study 2 are developed. As a result, Study 2 involves the discriminant analysis of data gathered from 579 user/non-users of Facebook to determine if context-relevant psychological dispositions accurately predict behaviour of both users and non-users of Facebook.

Originality/value: – The findings provide a psychological roadmap for Facebook advertisers, which can be used to develop and test media-specific advertising strategy. Furthermore, a significant contribution of this study resides within the research approach itself which can be used to guide not only media research but also other marketing and business research that is characterized by context specificity.

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European Journal of Marketing

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© 2015 Emerald. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.

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