Third Person Effect and Internet Privacy Risks
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The current study tests the third-person effect (TPE) in the context of Internet privacy. TPE refers to the phenomenon that people tend to perceive greater media effects on others than on themselves. The behavioral component of TPE holds that the self-others perceptual gap is positively associated with support for restricting harmful media messages. Using a sample (N=613) from Amazon Mturk, the current research documented firm support for the perceptual and behavioral components of TPE in the context of Internet privacy. Moreover, social distance, perceived Internet privacy knowledge, negative online privacy experiences, and Internet use were found to be significant predictors of the TPE perceptions of Internet privacy risks. There are four novel contributions of the current study. First, this study systematically tests TPE in a new context―Internet privacy. Second, this study examines five antecedents of TPE perceptions, of which perceived Internet privacy knowledge, negative online privacy experiences, and Internet use are novel to TPE studies. Unlike prior studies which assume social distance and desirability of media content, the current study provides direct empirical tests of these two antecedents. Third, prior research primarily examines support for censorship of harmful media messages, a context in which individuals do not have control over policy enforcement. In the case of Internet privacy, people can decide whether to adopt privacy protective measures or not. The current study addresses two types of behavioral intentions to reduce privacy risks: (1) the willingness to adopt online privacy protection measures; and (2) recommend such measures to others. Fourth, unlike prior studies using fear based theories to investigate Internet privacy issues, the current tests Internet privacy from a novel perspective—TPE theory.
Chen, Hongliang (2017). Third Person Effect and Internet Privacy Risks. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from