Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 32 Number 2 2015 pp. 239-277

Role of Affect in Self-Disclosure on Social Network Websites: A Test of Two Competing Models

Yu, Jongtae, Hu, Paul Jen-Hwa, and Cheng, Tsang-Hsiang


This study examines how affect influences self-disclosure on social network (SN) websites. We test two competing models that build on direct causation theory and affect heuristic theory, respectively. In a direct effect model, affect steers self-disclosure, independent of cognitive cost–benefit appraisals. The indirect effect model instead suggests that affect influences self-disclosure by adjusting perceptions of benefits and costs. The empirical comparison of the models relies on survey data from more than 500 university students. Overall, affect influences self-disclosure indirectly by adjusting the benefits people perceive. In particular, affect toward self-disclosure and toward SN websites relate positively to self-disclosure motivators; their perceived values appear amplified in the presence of positive affect. We also offer a plausible, alternative explanation of the observed positive relationship between privacy risk and self-disclosure according to an indirect effect model, in which self-disclosure is driven mainly by motivators, whereas the effects of inhibitors depend a posteriori on self-disclosure. These findings call for a reconsideration of any exclusive focus on the direct impacts of affect on technology use, as is common in previous research, and suggest the importance of affective factors for understanding social technology uses and managing customer relationships.

Key words and phrases: affect, dual processing approach, online privacy, online self-disclosure, social network sites