We like people who are easy to read : the influence of processing fluency in impression formation



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Processing fluency describes the assessment of how easy a stimulus is to cognitively process, an assessment which can be mistakenly applied to judgments of other aspects of the stimulus. This dissertation introduces a novel approach to understanding the development of impressions from online profiles by incorporating the role of processing fluency in interpersonal judgments based on a social networking profile. 195 participants (155 females) were asked to view the "about me" section of a social networking profile, which had been manipulated according to one of three fluency conditions to be harder or easier to process. Participants completed scales assessing liking, similarity, trust, and compatibility, and their disclosure was measured in an open-response item. Confirming expectations based on the processing fluency literature, each of these variables was increased in the high fluency profile condition. No differences in these variables were found between the low fluency conditions and a control condition, and analysis revealed that the manipulations intended to lower fluency may have been too salient to participants. Broadly, this study shows that processing fluency can influence impression formation from online profiles across a number of meaningful relational variables. Enhancing processing ease may allow online interactants a relational "jump-start," increasing liking, perceptions of similarity, trust, compatibility, and disclosure. These findings hold important implications for the role of processing fluency in computer-mediated communication and for models of online relationship development.