Group polarization and computer mediated communication

David Hardisty

The present study examined polarization effects following face-to-face vs. computer mediated group interactions. Participants first privately noted their preferences concerning a risky choice scenario, then engaged in a group discussion to arrive at a consensus decision and, finally, indicated their preferences again in private. The computer mediated conditions included video conferencing in addition to text-only interaction.


Major Findings

  • While face-to-face groups often polarize, growing more extreme in their preferences and opinions than individuals, text-mediated groups (communicating with instant messages) do not show this effect. However, groups communicating with video-chat (rather than text-chat) show the same pattern as face-to-face groups.
  • This suggests that physical presence per se is relatively unimportant for polarization, but paralinguistic cues have a substantial impact.
  • This demonstrates that research on computer mediated communication must distinguish between different types of computer mediated communication.


Broader Impacts

  • The broad implication of these findings is that groups that are collaborating remotely should carefully choose the medium of interaction.


CRED2 Award (2010-2015): Funding was provided under the cooperative agreement NSF SES-0951516 awarded to the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions.