Mediated Impression Management: Written Evaluation


Class: Communication Theory

Name: Joy Stone

Assignment #1


1. Reference Information

  • O'Sullivan, Patrick B., "What You Don't Know Won't Hurt Me: Impression Management Functions of Communication Channels in Relationships." Human Communication Research, Jul 2000, Vol. 26 Issue 3, p403.

  • 2. Institutional Affiliation and academic rank of author at time of publication

  • Patrick B. O'Sullivan (Ph.D., University of California-Santa Barbara, 1996) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Illinois State University.

  • 3. Theory/Research Questions

    • Epistemology: Social Scientific/ Objectivist

  • The information management framework and the impression management model of strategic communication channel use in close relationships, both by O’Sullivan, influenced the development of the mediated impression management model incorporating elements of symbolic interaction and theory and research from interpersonal and relational communication literature.This study focused on the people who use technology for communication rather than the technology itself, specifically, how a channel is selected and the implications of channel selection in interpersonal relationships.

  • Developments in technology have increased the options of mediated channels for communication. Strategic channel selection influences the amount of self-revelation necessary, and provides a way to control the ambiguity and clarity of information communicated and to manage the impression resulting from that communication. Mediated channels allow control of the timing, duration and nature of information exchanged in order to maximize reward and minimize cost. The selected channel itself carries symbolic meaning. Social skills in the use of certain channels may also influence the choice.

    • Two factors involved in this process include locus and valence. Locus defines whether the self-presentational issue is in one’s self or one’s partner. Valence is the possibility that the self-presentation will be threatened or supported. So there are four possible conditions:

    a. "confess," a negative-valence issue for self

    b. "boost," a positive-valence issue for self

    c. "accuse," a negative-valence issue for partner

    d. "praise," a positive-valence issue for partner

    Three hypotheses were tested in this study.

    H1: When a preferred impression is expected to be threatened, preferences for mediated channels will be higher than when a preferred impression is expected to be supported.

    H2: When one’s own preferred impression is expected to be salient, preferences for mediated channels will be higher than when a partner’s preferred impression is expected to be salient.

    H3: When one’s own preferred impression is expected to be threatened, preferences for mediated channels will be higher than in the other conditions.

    4. Data/ Method(s)

  • Data were collected from 136 undergraduate students in communication courses who had identified themselves as currently in a premarital romantic relationship. Through the use of questionnaire, four communication channels were studied in comparison with face-to-face: telephone, answering machine, letters, and email. Each respondent was asked to indicate their degree of preference for each channel compared to face-to-face in situations corresponding to the four conditions of valence (positive or negative) and locus (self or partner).

  • 5. Analysis/ Findings

  • A strong preference for mediated channels when self-presentation was threatened and face-to-face preference for supported self-presentation events would be considered evidence of the strategic value of channel selection for impression management.

    • Results supported the predictions of the three hypotheses, indicating that valence and locus are factors in the selection of mediated channels.

    6. Conclusions/ Implications/ Future Research

  • This study shows that selection of media channels for impression management in personal relationships is influenced by an interaction between locus and valence. The findings confirm a higher preference for media channels in situations with negative issues than positive issues.

  • People are aware of the limiting effects of mediated channels of communication and how those limits can control ambiguity and clarity in certain situations where positive impression is threatened. Mediated channels provide more control over the timing and duration of the message, allowing limited self-revelation compared to face-to-face.

  • Actual relational situations may be more complex than those discussed in this study. Other factors may be at work in the strategic planning of a self-revelatory episode. The influence of personal values and goals on channel selection may also be questions for further research.

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