Good Samaritans on social network services: Effects of shared context information on social supports for strangers

November 17, 2014

Technological developments in smart phones and various sensors have been growing at a rapid pace, which leads people to share their context information with other users and support strangers in social network services (SNS). This allows us to study the effects of shared context information on socially supportive behaviors of individuals (Good Samaritans) in SNS. Our aim of this study is to investigate the pattern of social support amongst strangers in SNS. We aim to find out which types and forms of context information induce high levels of willingness to provide social support among strangers. We focus on four different types of context information (location, activity, emotion, or physical environment), which vary by degree of self-disclosure. We also investigated two forms of context information (subjective vs. objective), which differ depending on the provision of human interpretation. In order to achieve our research goals, we first constructed a causal model between context information and social support mediated by the theory of mind, which consists of simulation theory (empathy) and theory theory (rational reasoning). To verify the model, we conducted two exploratory pre-studies and a controlled main experiment. Our results indicated that types and forms of context information affect social support, simulation theory and theory theory. First, we found that a high level of self-disclosure positively effects social support. Context information in the subjective form induced more social supports compared to the objective form even though the information content itself is the same. Emotional context information presented in the subjective form has the strongest positive effect on social support. Furthermore, a high level of self-disclosure was found to positively affect context form’s effect on simulation theory and social supports. In regard to theory theory, we discovered that high levels of self-disclosure have a positive effect. Both practical and theoretical implications of the study results have been presented. Theoretically, a conceptual model of the effects of context information on intention to provide social supports has been proposed and empirically verified. Practically, the interplay between context information types and forms can be utilized to construct social network services efficiently promoting social supports among fellow users. This paper ends with study limitations and implications.


 Sang Won Bae

Int. J. Human-Computer Studies 71 (2013) 900–918

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