Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Tell Me More: The Effects of Mobile Screen Size on Self-disclosure

Student Researcher(s)

Bikalpa Neupane (Ph.D Candidate); Eugene Cho (Ph.D Candidate); Jinping Wang (Ph.D Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

This paper was based on a project required for the fulfillment of COMM 506, fall 2016 final project.
 
INTRODUCTION
A between-subject quasi-experiment with two levels of screen size (small vs. large) was conducted to investigate how the difference in screen sizes could affect the level of self-disclosure in two types of sensitive information (i.e., health and transactional information) when using mobile devices. We tested the mediation effects of perceived intimacy, perceived feeling of being watched, and trustworthiness. In addition, we observed that the level of mobile power usage moderated the relationship between screen size and self-disclosure.


RESEARCH QUESTION / HYPOTHESES
RQ: For mobile device users, controlling for their privacy concern and presence of others, what is the relationship between the screen size and the level of self-disclosure?
RQ1: How will the level of mobile power usage moderate the effects of screen size on (a) health and (b) transactional information disclosure?

Hypotheses:
H1a: Using a small (vs. large) screen size is more likely to elicit higher level of self-disclosure on sensitive health information.

H1b: Using a small (vs. large) screen size is more likely to elicit higher level of self-disclosure on sensitive transactional information.

H2: The relationship between the screen size and disclosure of (a) health and (b) transactional information will be positively mediated by perceived intimacy

H3: The relationship between the screen size and disclosure of (a) health and (b) transactional information will be positively mediated by perceived trustworthiness

H4: The relationship between the screen size and disclosure of (a) health and (b) transactional information will be negatively mediated by perceived feeling of being watched.

METHOD
A between-subject quasi-experiment with two level of screen size (small vs. large) was conducted. Among a total of 227 participants (79 men, 148 women; 145 smartphones, 82 tablets), 114 were undergraduates (102 smartphones, 12 tablets), and 113 were MTurkers (43 smartphones, 70 tablets). Participants received a survey link through email or text with specific instructions to use their tablets or smartphones device to answer the questionnaire.


RESULTS
As predicted, findings suggested that being exposed to a small (vs. large) screen elicited more disclosure related to health information. However, no corresponding effects appeared with transactional information disclosure. In addition, the level of mobile power usage moderated the relationship between screen size and self-disclosure, in that only among low power users, using larger screen size tended to inhibit health information disclosure, whereas, such association did not appear significant among medium and high power users.

CONCLUSIONS/DISCUSSION
The results support the idea that screen size could exert significant effect on people’s self-disclosure. However, the relationship of the effect pertains to the nature of the topic and the context of information sharing. In terms of health information disclosure, users tend to disclose more on smaller screens, while screen sizes seemed to have no effects on promoting users’ comforts of sharing highly personal and sensitive information for practical and transactional purposes.

Unfortunately, none of the potential mediators suggested in the study appeared to show significant influence, failing to identify the reason behind why the screen size of mobile devices hinder or facilitate the level of self-disclosure.

Another interesting finding from the study relates to the significant moderating effects of the level of power usage. Especially, the amount of self-disclosure stayed comparatively high regardless of the screen size among medium and high power users. However, large screen size tended to inhibit disclosure among low power users. This seems to reflect the nature of power users who are considered as more likely to be early adopters of new mobile devices and systems (Zhong, 2016), thus leaving them comfortable sharing information notwithstanding the device difference (smartphone vs. tablet).

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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