Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Sri Siddhi N. Upadhyay

Krisztina V. Jakobsen

Kethera Fogler


Given the importance of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and the uniqueness of the cues that have meaning in this environment, research is warranted to investigate how the relationship between the people communicating via CMC might impact the way the message and cues are interpreted. This study aims to investigate whether different inherent levels of authority and familiarity between a message sender and recipient affect how email tone is interpreted. Previous studies demonstrate that when individuals communicate with authority figures, they employ different strategies than when communicating with peers. Furthermore, individuals adapt their behavior to mimic the interactants behavior, which in turn may lead to authority figures mimicking the formality and politeness used. Additionally, when individuals are familiar with people in a group in a face-to-face setting, they reported higher satisfaction ratings than working with strangers, but this same effect was not seen in CMC groups. Participants read stories featuring a main character’s interactions with a secondary character (i.e., mom, professor, classmate, friend), and an email reply at the end, in which participants were asked to rate the tone of that reply from the sender (i.e., secondary character). Results indicate that individuals with high authority (mom and professor) had more positive tone ratings on average than individuals with low authority (classmate and friend). However, there was no main effect found for familiarity, and no interaction effect. The findings provide partial evidence that information about a sender may be another cue in CMC that provides context to help disambiguate the meaning of messages.



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