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Hyperpersonal model

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Title: Hyperpersonal model  
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Hyperpersonal model

The hyperpersonal model is a model of interpersonal communication that suggests computer-mediated communication (CMC) can become hyperpersonal because it "exceeds [face-to-face] interaction," thus affording message senders a host of communicative advantages over traditional face-to-face (FtF) interaction.[1] Compared to ordinary FtF situations, a hyperpersonal message sender has a greater ability to strategically develop and edit self-presentation, enabling a selective and optimized presentation of one's self to others.[1]

The hyperpersonal model specifies conditions favorable to either interpersonal or impersonal interaction. The hyperpersonal model addresses three questions: 1) when is mediated interaction impersonal; 2) when is CMC interpersonal; and 3) when is CMC hyperpersonal? Hyperpersonal communication, according to Walther, is "more socially desirable than we tend to experience in parallel FtF interaction" (p. 17).[1] Combinations of media attributes, social phenomena, and social-psychological processes may lead CMC to become "hyperpersonal," that is, to exceed face-to-face (FtF) communication. This perspective suggests that CMC users may experience greater levels of intimacy, unity and liking within a group or dyad than similar groups or dyads interacting FtF.

Communication professor Joseph Walther is credited with the development of this theory in 1996, after extensive research on computer-mediated communication.

Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal

According to Walther's research(1996), the study of CMC went through three phases: from impersonal, to interpersonal, and finally to hyperpersonal. First, because CMC shows no nonverbal cues, some argued that CMC was more task-oriented than was FtF. The reasons are: 1) The concentration on the content of communication will not be distracted by social or emotional influences, so that CMC can "promote rationality by providing essential discipline."[1] 2) CMC is also advantageous in group decision making since it avoids the influence of pressure of peers and status. 3) CMC can facilitate the efficiency of group work since it saves time when irrelevant interpersonal influence decreases. 4) Group members can enjoy more "democratic" atmosphere in CMC than that in FtF communication. In addition, anonymity, which can result in more freedom for members to verbalize without feeling pressure from high-status members, is one of the most important features of CMC.[1]

Early CMC group research suggested that CMC groups were better for task-oriented interactions than their FtF counterparts. In task-oriented situations, where overly personal interpersonal interaction is not desired, then impersonal interaction is the appropriate kind of interaction, because the communication exchanges are more focused on the group’s task. For example, a geographically dispersed technology team tasked with solving a software application bug may be more productive when the communication is task focused rather than interpersonal in nature. This doesn’t mean that all CMC is impersonal, but points out that specific contexts may be better suited for impersonal interaction rather than personal exchanges.[1]

Then, Walther stated that CMC is not always impersonal; instead, it can also develop social relationships. Although, there is less social information exchange in CMC because of the absence of nonverbal cues, as the communication time increases, the exchange of social information is increasing accordingly. And the anticipation of future communication may make communicators to look for more information about the other. This mechanism leads to similar immediacy, similarity, composure, and receptivity as in FtF communication. However, there is a shortcoming. Since it takes time for CMC to achieve consensus, if the time for CMC is limited, the information exchanged will be much less than do FtF, which may impact the efficiency of group work.[1]

Finally, Walther brought up the concept of hyperpersonal communication, which demonstrates that "CMC that is more socially desirable than we tend to experience in parallel FtF interaction."[1] Walther proposes that CMC users do take part in hyperpersonal communication.[1] Senders and receivers engage in the process of selective-self presentation through the message they create and send. This can lead to the idealization of the sender by the receiver based on making attributions from available paralingual cues found in the message. This process is enhanced with asynchronous exchanges, letting both sender and receiver have ample time to consider the messages sent and received. Hyperpersonal interaction would be excessively or above normal personal interaction. In other words, online relationships can develop into hyperpersonal that is excessively personal. When users experience commonality and are self-aware, physically separated, and communicating via a limited-cues channel, they can selectively self-present and edit their communication, enabling them to construct and reciprocate representations of their partners and relations without the interference of environmental reality.[1] Hyperpersonal communication can thus be defined as computer-mediated interaction that is more attractive than experiences in similar FtF exchanges.[1] The hyperpersonal model can be understood by looking at the established communication processes that include sender, receiver, channel, and feedback. The sender uses the process of selective self-presentation; this refers to CMC users’ ability to manage their online image. Being able to self-censor and manipulate messages is possible to do within a CMC context to a greater extent than in FtF interactions, so individuals have greater control over what cues are sent.

He made this argument in four aspects of the communication process: receivers, senders, characteristics of the channel, and feedback processes.[1]



Walther argues that receivers have an "idealized perception" of the message sender in CMC. He says that the Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE) predicts that subtle context cues take on a strong value in CMC. The absence of FtF cues leads to the fact that receivers may be very sensitive to any subtle social or personality cues that occur in CMC communication this way, CMC partners build impressions of one another on minimal cues. With fewer cues on which to base their perceptions, receivers have to "fill in the gaps" of their understanding of the other interactant and often assume more positive characteristics of them. In other words, without FtF cues to mediate the interaction, participants may assume their partner is a "better person" than they actually are.[1]


In CMC, message senders have a greater opportunity to optimize their self-presentation. Walther argues, "[CMC participants] were better able to plan, and had increased opportunity to self-censor. With more time for message construction and less stress of ongoing interaction, users may have taken the opportunity to objective self-awareness, reflection, selection and transmission of preferable cues."[1] Message senders use the process of selective self-presentation, which refers to CMC users’ ability to manage their online image. Being able to self-censor and manipulate messages is possible to do within a CMC context to a greater extent than in FtF interactions, so individuals have greater control over what cues are sent. Walther points out that asynchronous messages and reduced communication cues contribute to selective self-presentation.[1] In CMC, communicators may inflate attributions about their communication partners. When communication partners are geographically dispersed, individuals are likely to make positive attributions if group salience is high. As a result, members are more likely to make attributions of similarity that lead to greater liking for partners. Paralinguistic cues are used as part of assessing communication partners when using CMC. Selective self-presentation provides an avenue for people to manage their image in a manner that FtF interaction does not.[1] Reduced communication cues and potentially asynchronous communication are both common in CMC.

Reduced Cues: CMC reduces cues present in normal FtF interactions. In CMC, first impressions aren't based on physical, and instead rely on information and personality. Senders impressions are more malleable than in an in-person interaction.[1]

Walther cites a study by Chilcoat and DeWine (1985) in which three interpersonal perceptions were examined (attractiveness, attitude similarity, and credibility) against three asynchronous communication vehicles (FtF, videoconferencing, and audioconferencing). One would expect FtF to produce higher ratings for the interpersonal characteristics, but the opposite was true: audioconferencing partners produced higher ratings of their partners' attractiveness, attitude similarity, and credibility than in videoconference or FtF interaction.[1]

Asynchronous channel

Since CMC doesn't require copresence the way FtF communication does, members can take part in activities at their own convenience, taking advantaged of disentrained communication channels. Walther cites a relaxation of time constraints in CMC, often allowing for an asynchronous mode of communication. For example, with group communication, "...Making temporal commitments becomes discretionary. Group members may attend to the group process independently in time. When partners may attend their groups at their convenience, limitations on the amount of partners' mutual time available for meetings are less problematic."[1]

Disentrained channels--most often asynchronous communication, via email or forums--gives individuals a way to manage their relationships within groups more efficiently than via FtF. Using asynchronous communication, such as email, individuals are able to manage group relationships in a way that maximizes time spent on group tasks. Through the process of entrainment, people synchronize their activities to meet the requirements of the group’s needs, which is constrained by each individuals time and attention. Entrainment can make it difficult for groups to complete tasks together since it requires FtF, and thus synchronous, communication, which may include off-topic discussions that hinder productivity. Asynchronous communication may mitigate entrainment associated with group interaction. According to Walther, asynchronous group interaction may not be constrained by time and/or competing commitments.[1] Group members using asynchronous communication can devote their full attention to the group when they have the opportunity. Greater attention can be spent focusing on tasks related to the group rather than spending time and effort on communication that is irrelevant to the goal.

According to Walther, CMC removes temporal limitations, thereby freeing time constraints. "Both task-oriented and socially oriented exchanges may take place without one constraining the time available for the other.

Feedback processes

Walther argues that the behavioral confirmation - "reciprocal influence that partners exert" in sender-receiver roles — is magnified in minimal-cue interaction like CMC. In another words, in CMC communication, we behave based on the expectation of the other and the social data occurring in communication process is selectively sent and perceived by communicators.[1] Feedback between sender and receiver is a critical part of the communication interaction for relationship development in either FtF or CMC relationships. However, feedback in a minimal-cue environment may be magnified. Behavioral confirmation is the process of communication partners developing impressions and intimacy as a result of interaction.[1] In CMC, behavioral confirmation along with magnification can become idealized, leading CMC partners to think feel greater affinity for CMC partners than he or she might develop in a FtF context. This kind of CMC interactions fosters the development of an intensification loop, explaining the hyperpersonal relationships that develop in a cues-limited environment.

Related theory

SIDE model

SIDE model is a recent development of deindividuation theory, refers to social identity/deindividuation model. It demonstrates that it is that the property of group identity increases, rather other that individual identity loses, that leading to the occurring changes of CMC users. SIDE model predicts that in CMC, the sense of self diminishes, while the sense of group increases. SIDE model is distinguished from classical deindividuation theory which put its focus on the sense of self rather than the sense of group identity.[2]

Social information processing (SIP)

Walther developed an alternate approach to the cues-filtered-out approach.[3] From the social information-processing (SIP) viewpoint, Walther states that people naturally want to develop social relationships.[3] With SIP, the idea of the rate at which social information is exchanged is introduced. Additionally, SIP looks at verbal strategies used in mediated communication.[3] Individuals strategically use language to convey a myriad of information about the sender, enabling the receiver to make attributes about the sender. Yet if CMC really was impersonal, why were so many people adopting CMC for social purposes, such as online gaming, bulletin boards and online chat groups? Walther advanced a different model to explain the growing trend toward the use of CMC for social interaction.[1] When media attributes, social phenomena and social-psychological processes are integrated, the result is what Walther called "hyperpersonal."[1]

Impression management

In the work titled 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life' (1959), Goffman demonstrated that in FtF communication, people use verbal and nonverbal languages to present appropriately and favorably to others since they care about the image or impression they leave for others and others' perception towards them. This phenomenon is called impression management. While in text-based CMC, the modification of impression is limited to "language, typographic, and chronemic information."[4]

FtF vs. CMC

In face-to-face communication, physical features such as appearance, facial expressions, gesture and postures is exposed to others, which can help to convey nonverbal information to help with the communication. Face-to-face communication is formed naturally in emotional, cognitive and physical aspects. Those nonverbal languages are the cues that lack in CMC communication.[4]

Some argue that the lack of nonverbal cues in CMC may decrease one's capability of fostering and managing accurate impression on others.[4] Additionally, the lack of nonverbal cues leads to the fact that CMC communication involves less emotional elements than FtF communication does, which contributes to less richness and interpersonal and expressive cues that may provide more positive impression.[5]

While other holds the opposite opinions. Walther suggested in his research in 1996 that CMC can actually improve the interpersonal bond between senders and receivers because of the lack of nonverbal cues and demographic messages.[5] Walther argued that nonverbal and demographic cues that occur in FtF communication play a distracting role; while in CMC communication, hyperpersonal interaction is created in which senders pay more attention on the strategy of delivering message so that the self-presentation is enhanced and optimized, which eventually improve the interpersonal interaction.[1][5]

Examples and application

  • Hian, Chuan, Trevor, and Detenber's 2006 study shows support for the hyperpersonal model. They found that relational intimacy increased at a faster rate in CMC than in FtF interactions.[6]
  • Anderson and Emmers-Sommer used hyperpersonal theory to test their predictors of relationship satisfaction in online romantic relationships. Based on hyperpersonal theory, it's likely that users of CMC would feel more satisfaction in an online relationship since the communication is enhanced and there a reduced amount of cues on which to base the relationship.[7]
  • In a 2006 study of politeness of requests made via email and voicemail, Kirk Duthler determined that emails were ranked more polite because users had more time to compose their requests compared to the voicemail user. Duthler's study supports hyperpersonal theory. He said: "The filtering of nonverbal cues advantages communicators. Communicators are strategically enabled to manipulate their identity, time the transmission of their messages, and plan, organize, and edit their communication in pursuit of relational goals. Such strategic control in CMC can facilitate negotiation, relationship development, and social tasks."[8]
  • The hyperpersonal theory is also confirmed in a study of the disclosure-intimacy link in CMC vs FtF communication. Research proved that CMC "intensified the association between disclosure and intimacy relative to face-to-face interactions, and this intensification was fully mediated by increased interpersonal (relationship) attributions observed in the computer-mediated condition."[9]
  • Jeanine Warisse Turner, Jean A. Grube, and Jennifer Meyers discussed in their work, titled ‘Developing an optimal match within online communities: An exploration of CMC support communities and traditional support’, the application of hyperpersonal model in the context of cancer treatment. They found that: 1) CMC can play a significantly important role for patients to seek support, which confirmed the hyperpersonal model in the context of patients’ communication; 2) the experience of face-to-face communication with a partner will enhance the relationship of hyperpersonal communication; 3) a deep face-to-face relationship may lead to an indirect way of communication since partners are concerned with offending others even though they still want to offer support, while CMC communication is more able to focus on a specific goal.[10]
  • In 2003, James D. Robinson and Jeanine Turner published a research titled 'Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal social support: Cancer and older adults'. This study focused on the social support and supportive communication of the old with cancer. They explore this fact from the optimal matching perspective brought up by Cutrona and Russell (1990), which demonstrate that "successful socially supportive interactions ... occur when the type of support desired by the individual is of the same type as the social support efforts of the provider."[11] In this article, the authors cited several previous studies to confirm that hyperpersonal communication is helpful for the olds with cancer illness in seeking social support.[11]
  • In the article titled "‘I’ve never clicked this much with anyone in my life’: Trust and hyperpersonal communication in online friendships", Samantha Henderson and Michael Gilding (2004) explored the development of trust in hyperpersonal communication. They found that, in hyperpersonal communication, 1) online trust depends on the reputation of pseudonymous identities; 2) the online communication performance is essential in building up online trust; 3) hyperpersonal communication and online trust can be facilitated by pre-commitment; 4) situational factors in Western societies can help to promote the active trust in hyperpersonal communication.[12]
  • Andrew C. High and Scott E. Caplan(2008) explore the application of hyperpersonal model in the context of mitigating social anxiety caused by the "desire to create a positive impression in social settings along with a general lack of self-presentational confidence."[13] The result indicated that the association of social anxiety and people’s perception of social anxiety and the association of social anxiety and one’s partner’s conversational satisfaction are contingent in CMC.[13]
  • The hyperpersonal model posits that in the absences of cues available in FtF encounters, distributed partners form exaggerated impressions other group members. Pena, Walther and Hancock (2007) looked at perceptions of dominance in collocated virtual groups versus distributed groups.[14] The results indicate that collocated groups perceived member dominance to be less extreme than in distributed groups. But there appeared to be no difference in the way collocated group members and distributed group member’s perceived dominance. This supports the assertion that CMC environments intensify impression development, as suggested by the hyperpersonal models element of selective self-presentation.
  • One study looking at perceived behaviors of assigned versus emergent leaders in CMC groups found that the "reification of behavioral stereotypes through hyperpersonal CMC allows emergent leaders to develop greater recognition" (p. 2).[15] The question posed by these authors was under which conditions, having an assigned group leader or an unassigned group leader, would a leader emerge in a CMC context. They speculated that leaders emerge in CMC groups, as suggested by the hyperpersonal model, through the development of online behaviors.[15] Wickham and Walther found that in CMC groups, there is greater consensus among group members about the group leader when the leader emerges from the group opposed to leaders being assigned to the group.[15] Within assigned leader groups, leaders were not rated as being more intelligent than other group members. In contrast, in unassigned leader groups, there was a strong associated between perceived intelligence and leader emergence.
  • Another study called Facebook: implications of visual cues on initiating friendship on Facebook affirms the "Hyperpersonal Model" in its results.More males & females showed a preference for attractive profile pictures when it came to initiating friendships.Thus non-verbal cues played an important role in this study. The emotions in virtual communication theory is also thus reaffirmed through this study as well.[16]
  • In their study "Mirror Mirror on my facebook wall: Effects of exposure to facebook on self esteem" authors Amy Gonzales & Jeffrey T.Hancock used the hyperpersonal model to study whether facebook usage enhanced self-esteem or not. The results of this study showed that participants became self-aware once they were on their individual profile pages. Once participants edited their facebook profile they reported high levels of self-esteem.These findings suggest that selective self representation in digital media leads to intensified relationship formation. Thus a high involvement on social media definitely enhances self-esteem.[17]
  • In their book "Truth ,Lies & Trust on the internet" authors Monica Whilly and Adam Johnson also affirm the hyperpersonal model. They talka bout the formation of hyperpersonal relationships being formed on the internet due to extreme proximity and closeness. In this book they go one step further and talk about the issues of truth, lies & trust in these relationships. Several stories in the book talk about how the internet's anonymity basically enables high levels of self disclosures in relationships which can in turn possibly lead to deception and flaming.[18]
  • In a study titled the "Perceptions of trustworthiness online : the role of visual and textual information by Catalina L.Toma looks at the role of textual information available in a
    • profile versus the images on an individual’s profile[19]
    • The findings were that textual information generally elicited more
    • trustworthiness among profile browsers and the addition of an image reduced
  • In another study by ANita L Blanchard titled "Testing a sense of a model of a community" talks about group salience being higher on a virtual community thus once again reaffirming the Hyperpersonal model assumptions.[20]
  • In another study titled "The lies we tell and what it says about us: Using behavorial characteristics to explain facebook activity" further breaks down online participants of communication into communicators (one to one) & broadcasters (one to many). They hyperpersonal model was affirmed in the communicators group who reported high group cohesion.[21]
  • In another study titled "Predictors of relationship satisfaction in online romantic relationships" affirmed the hyperpersonal model by predicting a high rate of satisfaction in relationships fostered online.[22]
  • Walther J.B also explored in a study the effect of CMC on an international collaborations and further affirmed the theory of hyperpersonal model. The results showed that relationships were fostered better in computer=mediated environments versus other mediations.[23]


Joyce Lamerichs and Hedwig F. M. Te Molder from the department of communication science at Wageningen University and Research Centre evaluate the ways in which computer-mediated communication (CMC) has thus far been conceptualized, proposing an alternative approach. They argue that traditional perspectives ignore participants’ everyday understanding of media use and media characteristics by relying on an individualistic and cognitive framework. The Social identity model of deindividuation effects model totally disregards identity construction in daily communication activities like talk, text & email. In order to understand this they tried to re study online interaction and specifically studied an online forum on depression. It is shown that participants’ identities do not so much mirror their inner worlds but are discourse practices in their own right.[24]

In another study by Sonja Utz titled "Social information processing in MUDS: The development of friendships in virtual worlds" conducted a study that actually examines friendships in the virtual world. This study revealed a high level of skepticism in participants when it came to CMC. This theory used the Social information processing theory.[25]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23, 3-43.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^ Lee Bee Hian; Sim Li Chuan; Tan Mon Kiat Trevor; Benjamin H. Detenber (2006). Getting to Know You: Exploring the Development of Relational Intimacy in Computer-mediated Communication Article first published online: 23 JUN 2006
  7. ^ Traci Anderson; Tara Emmers-Sommer (2006). Predictors of Relationship Satisfaction in Online Romantic Relationships. Communication Studies. Vol 57, No. 2, June 2006, pp. 153-172.
  8. ^ Duthler, Kirk W. (2006). The Politeness of Requests Made Via Email and Voicemail: Support for the Hyperpersonal Model. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 500-521.
  9. ^ L. Crystal Jiang, Natalie N. Bazarova, Jeffrey T. Hancock. The Disclosure–Intimacy Link in Computer-Mediated Communication: An Attributional Extension of the Hyperpersonal Model. Article first published online: 22 DEC 2010. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2010.01393.x
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^

External links

  • Hyperpersonal theory example
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