More Extreme on the Phone: Smartphone Use Leads to Extreme Opinion Expression

Project: Research

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Smartphones have become one of the most prevalent digital devices that consumers use to share their opinions. Consumers may use their phones, instead of PCs, to rate the restaurant they recently visited at mobile app and tweet their feelings towardrecent Covid-19 related regulations. Companies and policymakers can encourage consumers to use their phones for opinion expressions such as satisfaction surveys, customer service chats, and polls by using a QR code or mobile app. Along with this “mobile shift” trend in consumer opinion expression, one critical question for companies and policymakers is whether smartphones are merely a new platform, or they might change how and what consumers express and share. This research aims to understand the effects of smartphone use on opinion expression, particularly, in their degree of extremity. I propose that smartphone use, as compared with PC use, leads people to express more extreme and polarized opinions. I further theorize that this occurs because smartphone use increases users’ focus on their private self. There are three main goals that this research aims to achieve. First, this project aims to establish the causal relationship between smartphone use and opinion extremity. Second, I plan to examine the underlying mechanisms for why smartphone use increases the extremity in opinion expression. I propose that this psychological process can explain why smartphone use leads to extreme opinion expression. Third, I plan to examine important downstream consequences of extreme opinion expression from the self and observer’s perspective. For the self, after expressing extreme opinions, people are more likely to behave consistent with their expressed attitudes and opinions, and for others, as more extreme opinions have stronger influences on others to form an impression and to make a choice. I plan to examine whether the impacts of smartphone use on extreme opinion expression can show such subsequentconsequences. This project has several theoretical and practical implications. This project extends the extent of the understanding of the causal effect of smartphone use on consumer opinion expression and has implications for the literature studying opinion polarization and attitudeextremity by showing an important contextual factor, the medium of opinion expression, matters. More importantly, this research can help marketers and policymakers effectively employ different strategies to “nudge” people to use different smartphones. For the positive events, encouraging people to use smartphones might lead to extremely positive ratings, responses, and reactions, however, for the negative events, it may backfire.   


Project number9048251
Grant typeECS
Effective start/end date1/08/22 → …