Instagram Users’ Para-Social Interactions with Virtual Influencers: The Mediating Role of Human-Likeness, Perceived Similarity, and Wishful Identification

  • Dian Jin University Putra Malaysia
  • Wan Anita Wan Abas
  • Syafila Kamarudin

Abstract

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.

References

Arsenyan, J., & Mirowska, A. (2021). Almost human? A comparative case study on the social media presence of virtual influencers. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 155, 102694. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2021.102694
Baklanov, N. (2021). The Top Virtual Instagram Influencers in 2021. https://hypeauditor.com/blog/the-top-instagram-virtual-influencers-in-2021/
Bartneck, C., Kulić, D., Croft, E., & Zoghbi, S. (2009). Measurement instruments for the anthropomorphism, animacy, likeability, perceived intelligence, and perceived safety of robots. International Journal of Social Robotics, 1(1), 71-81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-008-0001-3
Bond, B. J. (2016). Following your “friend”: Social media and the strength of adolescents’ parasocial relationships with media personae. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19(11), 656-660. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2016.0355
Breves, P., Liebers, N., Motschenbacher, B., & Reus, L. (2021). Reducing resistance: The impact of nonfollowers’ and followers’ parasocial relationships with social media influencers on persuasive resistance and advertising effectiveness. Human Communication Research, 47(4), 418-443. https://doi.org/10.1093/hcr/hqab006
Broadbent, E., Kumar, V., Li, X., Sollers, J., Stafford, R. Q., MacDonald, B. A., & Wegner, D. M. (2013). Robots with display screens: A robot with a more humanlike face display is perceived to have more mind and a better personality. PLoS ONE, 8(8), e72589. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0072589
Callison-Burch, C. (2009). Fast, cheap, and creative: Evaluating translation quality using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. In Proceedings of the 2009 conference on empirical methods in natural language processing (pp. 286-295)
Choi, S. M., & Rifon, N. J. (2012). It is a match: The impact of congruence between celebrity image and consumer ideal self on endorsement effectiveness. Psychology & Marketing, 29(9), 639-650. https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.20550
Dibble, J. L., Hartmann, T., & Rosaen, S. F. (2016). Parasocial interaction and parasocial relationship: Conceptual clarification and a critical assessment of measures. Human Communication Research, 42(1), 21-44. https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12063
Edwards, C., Edwards, A., Stoll, B., Lin, X., & Massey, N. (2019). Evaluations of an artificial intelligence instructor’s voice: Social identity theory in human-robot interactions. Computers in Human Behavior, 90, 357-362.
Feilitzen, C. V., & Linné, O. (1975). Identifying with television characters. Journal of Communication, 25(4), 51-55. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1975.tb00638.x
Ferrari, F., Paladino, M. P., & Jetten, J. (2016). Blurring human-machine distinctions: Anthropomorphic appearance in social robots as a threat to human distinctiveness. International Journal of Social Robotics, 8(2), 287-302. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-016-0338-y
Fox, J., Ahn, S. J. G., Janssen, J. H., Yeykelis, L., Segovia, K. Y., & Bailenson, J. N. (2015). Avatars versus agents: A meta-analysis quantifying the effect of agency on social influence. Human-Computer Interaction, 30(5), 401-432. https://doi.org/10.1080/07370024.2014.921494
Gierl, H., & Praxmarer, S. (2001). Die wahrgenommene Dynamik des Kommunikators und Einstellungen der Rezipienten. Marketing ZFP, 23(4), 236-252.
Giles, D. C. (2002). Parasocial interaction: A review of the literature and a model for future research. Media Psychology, 4(3), 279-305. https://doi.org/10.1207/S1532785XMEP0403_04
Haslam, N., Kashima, Y., Loughnan, S., Shi, J., & Suitner, C. (2008). Subhuman, inhuman, and superhuman: Contrasting humans with nonhumans in three cultures. Social Cognition, 26(2), 248-258. https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.2008.26.2.248
Ho, C. C., & MacDorman, K. F. (2017). Measuring the uncanny valley effect: Refinements to indices for perceived humanness, attractiveness, and eeriness. International Journal of Social Robotics, 9(1), 129-139. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-016-0380-9
Hoffner, C. (1996). Children’s wishful identification and parasocial interaction with favorite television characters. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 40(3), 389-402. https://doi.org/10.1080/08838159609364360
Hoffner, C., & Buchanan, M. (2005). Young adults’ wishful identification with television characters: The role of perceived similarity and character attributes. Media Psychology, 7(4), 325-351. https://doi.org/10.1207/S1532785XMEP0704_2
Horton, D., & Richard Wohl, R. (1956). Mass communication and para-social interaction: Observations on intimacy at a distance. Psychiatry, 19(3), 215-229.
HypeAuditor. (2022). State of Influencer Marketing 2022. https://hypeauditor.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/US-State-of-Influencer-Marketing-2022.pdf
Khamis, S., Ang, L., & Welling, R. (2017). Self-branding,‘micro-celebrity’ and the rise of social media influencers. Celebrity studies, 8(2), 191-208.
Kim, J., & Song, H. (2016). Celebrity’s self-disclosure on Twitter and parasocial relationships: A mediating role of social presence. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 570-577. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.083
Kowert, R., & Daniel, E. (2021). The one-and-a-half sided parasocial relationship: The curious case of live streaming. Computers in Human Behavior Reports, 4, 100150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chbr.2021.100150
Labrecque, L. I. (2014). Fostering consumer-brand relationships in social media environments: The role of parasocial interaction. Journal of interactive marketing, 28(2), 134-148.
Lim, J. S., Choe, M. J., Zhang, J., & Noh, G. Y. (2020). The role of wishful identification, emotional engagement, and parasocial relationships in repeated viewing of live-streaming games: A social cognitive theory perspective. Computers in Human Behavior, 108, 106327. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2020.106327
Lou, C. (2022). Social media influencers and followers: Theorization of a trans-parasocial relation and explication of its implications for influencer advertising. Journal of Advertising, 51(1), 4-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/00913367.2021.1880345
Luo, M., Hsu, T. W., Park, J. S., & Hancock, J. T. (2020). Emotional amplification during live-streaming: Evidence from comments during and after news events. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 4(CSCW1), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1145/3392853
Mediakix. (2017). Instagram influencer marketing is a 1 billion dollar industry. http://mediakix.com/2017/03/instagram-influencer-marketing-industry-size-how-big/#gs.QAEVJdQ
Mori, M., MacDorman, K. F., & Kageki, N. (2012). The uncanny valley [from the field]. IEEE Robotics & automation magazine, 19(2), 98-100.
Moustakas, E., Lamba, N., Mahmoud, D., & Ranganathan, C. (2020). Blurring lines between fiction and reality: Perspectives of experts on marketing effectiveness of virtual influencers. In 2020 International Conference on Cyber Security and Protection of Digital Services (Cyber Security) (pp. 1-6)
Nass, C., & Moon, Y. (2000). Machines and mindlessness: Social responses to computers. Journal of social issues, 56(1), 81-103.
Paolacci, G., Chandler, J., & Ipeirotis, P. G. (2010). Running experiments on Amazon Mechanical Turk. Judgment and Decision making, 5(5), 411-419.
Park, G., Nan, D., Park, E., Kim, K. J., Han, J., & Del Pobil, A. P. (2021). Computers as social actors? Examining how users perceive and interact with virtual influencers on social media. In Proceedings of the 2021 15th International Conference on Ubiquitous Information Management and Communication (IMCOM) (pp. 1-6)
Robinson, B. (2020). Towards an ontology and ethics of virtual influencers. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 24, 2807. https://doi.org/10.3127/AJIS.V24I0.2807
Schouten, A. P., Janssen, L., & Verspaget, M. (2020). Celebrity vs. influencer endorsements in advertising: the role of identification, credibility, and product-endorser fit. International Journal of Advertising, 39(2), 258-281. https://doi.org/10.1080/02650487.2019.1634898
Schramm, H., & Hartmann, T. (2008). The PSI-process scales. A new measure to assess the intensity and breadth of parasocial processes. Communications, 33(4), 385-401. https://doi.org/10.1515/comm.2008.025
Shechtman, N., & Horowitz, L. M. (2003). Media inequality in conversation: How people behave differently when interacting with computers and people. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 2881-288)
Sheldon, Z., Romanowski, M., & Shafer, D. M. (2021). Parasocial interactions and digital characters: The changing landscape of cinema and viewer/character relationships. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 29(1), 15-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/15456870.2019.1702550
Shin, J., & Lee, S. (2020). Intimacy between actual users and virtual agents: Interaction through “likes” and “comments”. In Proceedings of the 2020 14th International Conference on Ubiquitous Information Management and Communication (IMCOM) (pp. 1-4)
Stein, J.-P., Linda Breves, P., & Anders, N. (2022). Parasocial interactions with real and virtual influencers: The role of perceived similarity and human-likeness. New Media & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221102900
Stein, J. P., Appel, M., Jost, A., & Ohler, P. (2020). Matter over mind? How the acceptance of digital entities depends on their appearance, mental prowess, and the interaction between both. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 142, 102463. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2020.102463
Stein, J. P., & Ohler, P. (2017). Venturing into the uncanny valley of mind—The influence of mind attribution on the acceptance of human-like characters in a virtual reality setting. Cognition, 160, 43-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2016.12.010
Terttunen, A. (2017). The influence of Instagram on consumers’ travel planning and destination choice.
Tian, Q., & Hoffner, C. A. (2010). Parasocial interaction with liked, neutral, and disliked characters on a popular TV series. Mass Communication and Society, 13(3), 250-269. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205430903296051
Tukachinsky, R., & Stever, G. (2019). Theorizing development of parasocial engagement. Communication Theory, 29(3), 209-230. https://doi.org/10.1093/ct/qty032
Turner, J. R. (1993). Interpersonal and psychological predictors of parasocial interaction with different television performers. Communication Quarterly, 41(4), 443-453. https://doi.org/10.1080/01463379309369904
Van Looy, J., Courtois, C., De Vocht, M., & De Marez, L. (2012). Player identification in online games: Validation of a scale for measuring identification in MMOGs. Media Psychology, 15(2), 197-221. https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2012.674917
Waytz, A., Gray, K., Epley, N., & Wegner, D. M. (2010). Causes and consequences of mind perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(8), 383-388. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2010.05.006
Wulf, T., Schneider, F. M., & Queck, J. (2021). Exploring viewers’ experiences of parasocial interactions with videogame streamers on Twitch. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 24(10), 648-653. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2020.0546
Xu, Z., Islam, T., Liang, X., Akhtar, N., & Shahzad, M. (2021). ‘I’m like you, and I like what you like’ sustainable food purchase influenced by vloggers: A moderated serial-mediation model. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 63, 102737. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2021.102737
Yam, K. C., Bigman, Y. E., Tang, P. M., Ilies, R., Cremer, D. D., Soh, H., & Gray, K. (2021). Robots at work: People prefer—and forgive—service robots with perceived feelings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(10), 1557-1572. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000834
Yin, J., Wang, S., Guo, W., & Shao, M. (2021). More than appearance: The uncanny valley effect changes with a robot’s mental capacity. Current Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02298-y
Published
2023-06-01
How to Cite
JIN, Dian; ABAS, Wan Anita Wan; KAMARUDIN, Syafila. Instagram Users’ Para-Social Interactions with Virtual Influencers: The Mediating Role of Human-Likeness, Perceived Similarity, and Wishful Identification. International Journal of Business and Technology Management, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 2, p. 114-126, june 2023. ISSN 2682-7646. Available at: <https://myjms.mohe.gov.my/index.php/ijbtm/article/view/22195>. Date accessed: 21 apr. 2024.
Section
Articles