Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Using Dual-Process Theory and Cues of Identifiability to Explain Supportive Exchanges on Social Ques

Student Researcher(s)

Michelle L. Acevedo Callejas (Ph.D Candidate); Ashley M. Peterson (Ph.D Candidate); Michael Broghammer (Masters Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

This paper was based on a project as part of the Psychology of Communication Technology course (Comm517).

 

INTRODUCTION

Social Q&As are gratifying for users because of opportunities to fulfill information needs and build social relationships, but the mechanisms underlying selection and rating of answers by question askers are understudied. Using dual-process theory of supportive communication (Bodie & Burleson, 2008; Burleson, 2009), this paper examines the role that question asker motivation plays on attention to message features and answer provider cues for response selection and rating. Question asker’s motivation was positively associated with selection of longer, more positive, and more informal responses. Question length mediated the association between motivation and response rating.

 

RESEARCH QUESTION / HYPOTHESES

H1: Verbosity of the question asked will be associated with message features of the selected answer, such that question verbosity will be positively associated with a) the length of the selected answer, b) the positivity of the selected answer, c) the sociality, and d) the informality of the selected answer.

H2: There is an association between features of the selected answer and asker rating, such that answers which are a) longer, b) more positive, c) more social, and d) more casual will be rated more highly.

H3: Message features of the selected answer would mediate the association between question verbosity and asker rating, such that the more verbose the question the asker posed, the more highly they would rate the response they selected, because this answer would be a) longer, b) more positive, c) more social, and d) more casual.

H4: For members of the Yahoo! Answers community, there is a positive association between identifiability of the selected answer provider and the asker’s rating of the quality of the answer.

H5: For members of the Yahoo! Answers community, identifiability of the question asker will moderate the association identifiability of the selected answer provider and the asker’s rating of the quality of the answer, such that only when the question asker is more identified, answers of users who are more identified will be rated more highly.

 

METHOD

To test our hypotheses, we conducted a content analysis of Yahoo! Answers was conducted. Inclusion criteria were: a) question posted at least for four days and b) threads with selected answer and rating of selected answer. In total, 450 questions and selected answers was collected over the period of one month (March 5 through April 5 of 2019). Questions and selected answers were equally sample from: a) business and finance, b) pets, and c) family and relationships. These three topics were chosen to cover a range of levels of subjectivity in questions asked. The three student authors collected the data. We assessed intercoder reliability with a sample of 33 questions and best answers. The independent variables assessed in this study were positive words, social words, and informal words, length of the question, length of the selected answer, identifiability cues of the question asker, and identifiability cues of the selected answer provider. The dependent variable was the question asker’s rating of the selected answer.

 

RESULTS

Predictions were partially supported. Specifically, Question verbosity positively predicted selected answer length, positivity, and informality. Also, selected answer length, sociality, and informality positively predicted answer rating. Selected answer length mediated the association between question verbosity and asker rating. Contrary to expectations, answer provider’s identifiability negatively predicted asker ratings. Also, unexpectedly, question asker cues of identifiability did not moderate the association between selected answer provider’s identifiability and asker rating.


CONCLUSIONS/DISCUSSION

Theoretically, our study extends dual-process theory of supportive communication (Bodie & Burleson, 2008; Burleson, 2009) to social Q&As. Practically, it provides insight to answer providers on these sites about how to offer quality support. More research is needed to disentangle variance on selection and asker rating explained by question asker motivations to attend to message cues from that accounted for by motivation by answer providers to offer more quality support to seemingly motivated users. In both cases, however, results suggest answer providers should generate messages that attend to relational aspects of social Q&As.

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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