The effect of nonverbal cues on relationship formation
An unprecedented number of relationships begin online, propelling online dating into a billion-dollar industry. However, while the online dating industry has created an effective mechanism for matching and accessing profiles, it has largely neglected the quality of communication between individuals. We investigate whether the lack of nonverbal cues (inherent in the text-based communication tools commonly used by dating sites) hinders communication and relationship formation. In this study, members of a dating website interacted through one of four randomly assigned versions of a text chat, where each version featured an increasing number of nonverbal communication cues. A survey was then administered regarding users' perceptions of each other, the level and quality of information disclosure, and their interest in developing a relationship with the other person. Results suggest that restoring nonverbal cues through the use of avatars can help improve online interaction and relationship formation. Chat versions that featured more nonverbal cues were associated with more favorable perceptions, greater exchange of information, and a stronger desire to pursue a relationship. While both genders found nonverbal communication conducive to developing a relationship, men and women reacted differently to certain types of nonverbal communication. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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