首先，研究者进行了一个叫做“小插曲”的2 × 2 × 2 × 2混合因子实验，就是把一些情境用文字列出来，做成问卷，让被测者给这些情境下自己的内疚程度打分。“为重要的考试复习”和“在闲暇时间阅读小说”代表目标冲突的高低。而可行性规范的显著性则通过两种方式控制，一种通过社会网络期望，即被测试者是否期望被朋友联系，另一种通过技术线索，即是否收到智能手机的消息通知。被测试者会被随机分到两个版本中的一个，然后对各自八个情景作出反应。
这次试验采用了2 × 2的主体间设计，将目标冲突和规范显著性高低分为了四个场景，每个被测者被随机分配到一个场景。目标冲突的高低由测试练习来控制，一个房间宣布让被测试者在等待期间进行练习，形成高目标冲突。而另一个房间则不需要进行测试练习，从而形成低目标冲突。对于可行性规范，由工作人员的手机传来明显的消息提醒而形成高可行性规范的显著性，而在低可行性规范的场景下，工作人员则保持安静。
Too Much or Too Little Messaging? Situational Determinants of Guilt About Mobile Messaging.
Some studies have indicated that the use of mobile messengers can cause individuals to feel guilty and thus reduce well-being. As Self-Decide Theory (SDT) explains, individuals make free choices about their actions based on a full awareness of their personal needs and information about their environment. But what influences our use of messengers? And how do mobile messengers affect people’s feelings? In order to explore this topic comprehensively, the authors of this paper proposed two factors based on the summary of previous research: the experience of goal conflict and violations of the availability norm.
Firstly ,communication tools may create a sense of relational dependency that leads to a preference for social media, creating a “goal conflict”. For example, studying and playing on the phone are conflicting goals. Therefore, the authors propose the first hypothesis that the higher the goal conflict, the more guilt individuals will feel when using messengers frequently. It’s as if you keep chatting with your friends on WeChat the night before an exam instead of revising, which will create more guilt than usual.
Secondly, a number of studies indicate that individuals feel guilty about not checking interpersonal channels or responding late to calls or messages. This is where the availability norm comes into play. The social norms require people to regularly check their phones and respond to messages, which individuals internalize as their own pressure.The authors therefore proposed a second hypothesis, that the higher the salience of the norm, the more guilt individuals will feel when using messengers less frequently.
Finally, it has been found that people attribute their excessive or infrequent use of messengers to external factors in order to reduce their guilt, which leads to the third hypothesis proposed by the authors that there is an interaction between frequency of mobile messengers use, goal conflict and norm salience relationship. The night before the exam constantly chatting with friends on WeChat instead of revising will produce more guilt than usual, which is the content of hypothesis one. However, when you give yourself the excuse that “(s)he is a friend who is very important to me, and I should reply to her/his messages”, then your guilt will be reduced.The same is true for hypothesis two, and variants of these two hypotheses make up hypothesis three.
So let’s see how the authors test these three hypotheses.
First, the researchers conducted a 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 mixed factorial experiment called “vignette”.It is to list some situations in words, make a questionnaire, and ask the respondent to rate his or her level of guilt in these situations.
“Studying for an important exam” and “reading fiction during leisure time” represent high and low levels of conflicting goals.The availability norm was controlled in two ways, one through social network expectations, which is the participants expected to be contacted by friends, and the other through technical cues, which is they received a message notification from their smartphone. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two vignette versions and then responded to each of the eight scenes within the respective condition.
The data results confirmed the validity of hypotheses one and two, while the data for hypothesis three did not show significant differences.The authors suggest that reasons for this could be that participants did not actually experience guilt-inducing situations, which could indicate that the artificiality of the vignette experiment influenced results.
Therefore, the authors conducted a second experiment – the laboratory experiment.
The experiment used a 2 × 2 between-subjects design in which the target conflict and normative salience were divided into four scenes, and each participant was randomly assigned to a scene.The level of goal conflict was controlled by test practice, with one room announcing that the test subject would be allowed to practice during the waiting period, creating a high goal conflict. In contrast, the other room did not require test practice, resulting in a low goal conflict.For the availability norm, the salience of the high availability norm was formed by a visible message alert from the experimenter’s cell phone, while in the low availability norm scenario, the experimenter was kept quiet.
After 20 minutes the experiment ended and the participant expressed their level of guilt by filling out a scale. However, the data showed that the variable control of the availability norm was not successful and therefore the relevant data could not be used.For hypothesis one, there was no significant difference in the data results. Thus, all three hypotheses were not confirmed in the second experiment. The authors analyze the reasons for this result, overall, guilt levels were considerably lower in the laboratory setting than in the stereotypical scenarios in the vignette experiment.
These two experiments led to two common conclusions.
First, there was no evidence that goal conflict, availability norm salience, and messenger use interacted in influencing guilt. Nevertheless, it should be further investigated whether there are coping strategies that can reduce feelings of guilt about messenger use.
Second, individuals feel guiltier about using than not using messengers and that the frequency of checking messengers is directly related to guilt. This resonates with the current social commentary on media use. Put differently, grabbing the phone to message may inherently evoke more guilt because it represents a “guilty pleasure”, while not doing so may be evaluated positively as a brief “digital detox” or a demonstration of successful self-control.
Halfmann, A., Meier, A., & Reinecke, L. (2021). Too much or too little messaging? Situational determinants of guilt about mobile messaging. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 26(2), 72-90.