Reduced Cues Theory
Computer mediated communication (CMC) includes text messages, email and social networking. Reduced cues theory (Culnan and Markus, 1987) states that a CMC lacks physical cues (eye contact and body language) therefore it is less effective than face to face (F2F) interaction in the development of a relationship . This lack of cues leads to deindividuation (lack of identity) which in turn leads to more impulsive or aggressive behaviour when communicating with others, changing the nature of relationships.
Social Identity Model of Deindividuation (SIDE)
Social Identity model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE) extends this idea but in contrast to reduced cues theory, SIDE states that this lack of individual identity can strengthen ones social identity giving us more confidence to form new relationships. This is because factors that usually lead to stereotypes (physical appearance) are limited; therefore we rely on perceived similarities which lead to a strong social identity.
Dubrovsky et al Support
Dubrovsky et al (1991) provides support for reduced cues theory. They found that CMC groups were more verbally aggressive and blunt compared to those in F2F groups when faced with tasks to complete, such as problem solving and risk assessment activities. This shows support for the idea that CMC leads to deindividuation and increased aggression.
However, this research may be out-dated as recent research implies that men in particular may use more facial signals in CMC (emoticons) than they would F2F (Whitty, 2003). Does this type of historical bias also mean that ALL previous research into relationships (romantic or otherwise) becomes invalid?
A limitation of research into most understudied relationships is that it is often culturally biased to more westernised, technologically advanced societies. Although psychologists are beginning to gain a better understanding of some understudied relationships, it is important to note that our understanding is still limited and that they remain “understudied”. Hence it can be argued the information we do have is a reductionist oversimplification, that cannot always be generalised to who subgroups of society.