Download Full Text (655 KB)

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Michelle Drouin


Department of Psychology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne


As instant messaging (IM), text messaging, and other computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools are now frequent substitutes for face-to-face (ftf) and phone conversations (e.g., Shiu & Lenhart, 2004; Smith, 2011), researchers have become interested in the equivalencies in these technologies for fostering and sustaining relationships (Jiang, Bazarova, & Hancock, 2011; Walther, Loh, & Granka, 2005). Additionally, because teens and young adults often choose CMC over ftf communication, researchers have also been examining the motivations for and psychological correlates of these choices (e.g., Peirce, 2009; Valkenburg & Peter, 2011).

In this study, we examined the equivalency of three communication mediums (IM, voice, and ftf) for eliciting positive appraisals of a stranger’s personality traits. We also examined the equivalency of these conversations in terms of their linguistic content and the amount of language style matching (LSM), an indicator of compatibility, that occurred.

Young adult undergraduates (N = 242) participated in dyads. Upon arrival, participants were introduced to their conversation partner and were then escorted to a private room where they completed an online survey assessing their conversation partner’s personality traits (TIPI) and likelihood that they would be friends. Next, participants were assigned randomly to one of three conditions: ftf, voice (Skype), or IM, and were instructed to have a 10-minute “normal conversation” with their partner via this medium. After the interaction, participants completed the TIPI, friendship appraisals, and several personality inventories. Conversations were transcribed, and we used LIWC and LSM programs (Pennebaker Conglomerates, 2012) to determine whether there were differences in the linguistic content for the three mediums.

Only those who had never seen their conversation partners (n = 188) were retained for analysis. The ftf and voice conditions produced higher appraisals than the IM condition of conversation partners’ agreeableness and conscientiousness. Those in the IM condition were also less likely to identify their conversation partner as a potential friend. Meanwhile, linguistic analyses showed that the IM condition contained proportionally more sexual content; however, other types of intimate language (e.g., positive emotions) and LSM were proportionally higher in the ftf and voice conditions.

Some communication modes might be better for fostering group or dyadic cohesion. Although text-based communication is convenient and popular, it may not be the ideal mode for fostering relationships among strangers.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Stop Instant Messaging/Texting and Call Someone! The Downfalls of IM for Interpersonal Communication

Included in

Psychology Commons