Instagram Users’ Para-Social Interactions with Virtual Influencers: The Mediating Role of Human-Likeness, Perceived Similarity, and Wishful Identification
With technological developments, virtual influencers have been created and are experienced by social media users and practitioners. As it is a relatively new topic, existing research on users’ para-social responses toward virtual influencers is currently insufficient. Therefore, this study conducted an online experiment (N = 211), comparing Instagram users’ para-social interactions with virtual or human influencers. After participants were exposed to images of human and virtual influencers, they were asked to complete the questionnaires. The results showed a significant difference between the users’ para-social responses to the two groups. Additionally, four relevant mediator variables were examined. “Mental human-likeness” and “wishful identification” were found to have significant negative mediating effect on the relationship between influencer type and users’ para-social interactions. The results have important implications for media psychology and contribute to studies on virtual influencers.
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