Diffusion of responsibility on social networking sites
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NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Computers in Human Behavior. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 44 (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.049
Social networking sites regularly feature requests for assistance, although the massive number of users represents corresponding scope for diffusion of responsibility; and unlike most physical scenarios, the request for help is often made several days before assistance is offered. The present research used a specially-prepared imitation social networking site (SNS) with embedded requests for assistance, and manipulations of the number of virtual bystanders and time since the request was posted to test whether explanations of helping in physical settings apply to SNS contexts. Results showed that offers of assistance were explained less well by social impact theory, which states that propensity to offer help will decrease in proportion to the number of bystanders who can assist, than by the social influence model, which states that diffusion of responsibility effects will cease to become significantly stronger beyond a certain critical number of bystanders; and that assistance is offered more readily for recent requests than those made two days earlier.
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