The effect of interaction topic and social ties on media choice and the role of four underlying mechanisms

Emmelyn A. J. Croes 1 , Marjolijn L. Antheunis 1 , Alexander P. Schouten 1 , Emiel J. Krahmer 1 , and Daniëlle N. M. Bleize 2
  • 1 Tilburg University, Tilburg Center for Cognition and Communication, Tilburg, Netherlands
  • 2 Radboud University, Behavioural Science Institute, Tilburg, Netherlands


This study employed a scenario-based approach whereby participants were asked to choose which communication channel they prefer in certain situations. The first aim was to determine the effect of the topic of interactions and social ties on channel choice. The second aim was to examine the underlying mechanisms (controllability, anonymity, co-presence, and affective understanding) in the relation between interaction topic and social ties and channel choice. A questionnaire was administered among 238 participants, who were presented five communication scenarios with topics of low and high intimacy and four social ties, ranging from weak to strong. Results revealed that preference for face-to-face (FtF) communication was highest, followed by audio-only computer-mediated communication (CMC) and text-based CMC. Preference for FtF communication was higher when people valued feeling co-present and decreased when people valued feeling anonymous. Our results showed that communication channel choice is strategic and the choice for FtF ommunication, audio-only and text-based CMC largely depends on controllability, anonymity and co-presence.

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