The Effect of Need to Belong on Online Social Behaviors and Cognitive Interactions
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The ubiquity of the online and social networking community has changed how people communicate with friends and strangers. The need to belong, one of the fundamental social needs in human’s society, plays an important role in building quality communication and social connection. The studies reported here contribute to our understanding of 1) relationship between the need to belong and online social participation, 2) people’s strategies in consuming belongingness-related information, and 3) how the need to belong affects people’s cognitive skills in solving problem online. Our research confirmed the roles that the need to belong is significantly associated with how people to come online for social interactions. Our study provided evidence that a deprived sense of belonging disabled people’s ability to sense social cues online and initiate new social connections. With a manipulated sense of belonging, participants obtained a less rich impression of the member formation in a social group and retained less socially relevant information and remembered fewer socially significant details. A jeopardized sense of belonging also had significant impact on people’s problem-solving ability in scanning and processing information in common online search tasks. While the impact for easy problem solving tasks is minimal, participants who have lower sense of belonging were not able to effectively solve the problem. In addition to contributing to the fundamental understanding of need to belong, this research is also the first to empirically confirm the validity and reliability of stimulated retrospective think aloud (RTA). Our study supported the validity of stimulated RTA in that people’s recounting of what went on in their task performance describes the same sequence of objects in the same order as what they attended to during the original task performance. The results of this research provide researchers of online social networking sites with insights about what matters to people in terms of promoting need to belong. The findings also benefit the designers of online social networking sites by providing them with a different way of looking at the impact of their site - fulfilling people’s fundamental need to belong.