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Anonymous and Pseudo-Anonymous Behaviors Online: Are Full Identities Truly Better?

  • Author / Creator
    Smirnov, Kristen
  • In discussions of identity in online environments, the current momentum in both academic literature and industry practices pushes toward full identity revelation. Along with market-driven justifications, there is also a stated belief that revealing one's identity will lead to better behavior toward others, and in general. This has a long history of support in computing, psychology, and economics literature, but these investigations have examined full identities relative to completely anonymous behaviors. To do so ignores a third option: that of a persistent pseudonym which gains investment and reputation over time. This dissertation examines the difference between real identities and pseudonyms (versus anonymous behavior) in two series of studies centered upon the production of product reviews. In them, I expect to find a short period of investment into pseudonymous identities after which they perform at quality levels equal to those people using their real names, as they now feel accountable to this secondary identity. Real-world product review data from Amazon.com was collected and two laboratory studies were run. It was found that in situations of voluntary identity disclosure, the investment period was much longer than anticipated. However, during mandatory identity disclosure, real name users suffered strong performance penalties that were generally avoided by those reviewers using a pseudonym. Potential explanations are offered and future research questions are identified.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2013-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R33R0Q477
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Faculty of Business
  • Specialization
    • Marketing
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Pracejus, John (Business)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Messinger, Paul (Business)
    • Moore, Sarah (Business)
    • King, Sharla (Educational Psychology)
    • Häubl, Gerald (Business)