Members of the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (BLCC) are researching the use of technology for social interaction, including communication (for example, self-disclosure processes, deception, relationship development and social capital). This work has now been extended to consider the use of avatars in social interaction, social networking sites (such as Facebook and Snapchat), virtual communities and communication accommodation.
Impression formation and compatibility matching when switching between computer mediated and face-to-face social interactions
We are conducting a series of experiments using sociometric sensors, personality measurements, verbal and non-verbal analysis to examine first impression formation between online and offline contexts.
Linguistic accommodation is the tendency for people to move their language towards that of the person they are talking to (this can include adopting the accent/intonation as well as the words used). We have been studying how this tendency to accommodate varies across individuals (called the ‘Zelig Quotient’ after the Woody Allen movie), and how it relates to personality, rapport and persuasion in both face-to-face and online settings.
Individual differences in susceptibility to influence techniques (IDSIT)
This is a three-year collaborative project (2015-2018) involving a range of organisations and BLCC. The project is focused on identifying what makes people susceptible to a variety of influence techniques commonly used in phishing e-mails and online scams.
The majority of influence techniques are designed to increase the likelihood that people will rely on automatic processing mechanisms when making decisions rather than systematically considering potential options. In order to do this, social norms such as obedience to authority and reciprocating actions, emotional responses such as fear, excitement and desperation, and limited cognitive resources are exploited in communications.
Through a programme of laboratory- and field- based research, the IDSIT project aims to understand the potential impact of individual differences on susceptibility to these techniques.
Language and leadership
In collaboration with colleagues in the Bristol Leadership Centre at UWE Bristol, Oxford University and Sheffield University, we have been examining how people in leadership positions in online communities use language, and whether or not specific forms of language can be used to predict who will become influential within a group, and who will fail.