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The Privacy Paradox: Why People Who Complain About Privacy Also Overshare

2014 January 23
by Richard N. Landers

ResearchBlogging.orgIn an upcoming issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Taddicken[1] explores a phenomenon called the privacy paradox, a term that describes how social media users report that they are concerned about their privacy but do very little to actively protect it. In this study, 2739 German Internet users were surveyed to help identify why people overshare despite such concerns. In her study, roughly 30% of social media users reported sharing personal photos without any access restrictions, and roughly 17% reported sharing their thoughts, experiences, thoughts, feelings, concerns and fears to the wide open Internet.

Two personality traits were found to drive sharing: a person’s desire to talk about themselves regardless of situation, followed by the degree to which people found social media to be relevant to their personal social lives.  So as it turns out, many people do want it both ways: they want to enrich their social lives by talking about themselves online to anyone who will listen, but they don’t want this information to be read by just anyone.  Apparently their desire to be social is simply stronger than their desire to protect their privacy.  The important implication here is that it implies simply teaching people about privacy and how to safeguard their information isn’t going to work; the desire to share with others is too strong.

Privacy concerns did affect sharing, but only indirectly.  Greater privacy concerns were weakly associated with lower willingness to self-disclose, and willingness to self-disclose was strongly positively associated with actual sharing.  Greater privacy concerns were also weakly associated with smaller number of joined social media platforms, and the number of social media platforms joined was moderately associated with less self-disclosure.  So this brings what appears to me to be a new paradox: people more concerned about privacy join fewer sites, but those that join fewer sites tend to share more on those sites.

Figure 2 from Taddicken (2014)

The research also identified a difference between two types of personal information: factual (last name, birth date, professional, and postal address) and “sensitive” (photos, experiences, thoughts, feelings, concerns and fears). Roughly 90% of respondents provided first names and email addresses on social media, so given the lack of variation, these were not included in further analyses. Other factual information was shared at least once on social media by 54.6% of respondents, although only 10% did so without restricting who could see it.

Sensitive information was a little more complicated. In general, fewer individuals share sensitive information than basic factual information (first names and email addresses), but more individuals share sensitive information than private factual information. So the specific nature of sharing was a little complicated:

  • Roughly 80% of respondents had shared their last name, birth date and profession at least once on social media.  Of those sharing at least once, about 63% restricted access to it.
  • Roughly 50% of respondents had shared their postal address, and among those sharing at least once, about 90% restricted access to it.
  • Roughly 60% of respondents had shared photos, experiences, and thoughts at least once.  Of those sharing such things, about 60% restricted access to it.
  • Roughly 40% of respondents had shared their feelings, concerns and fears at least once.  Of those sharing such things, about 70% restricted access to it.

Overall, this study provides an interesting look into some personality drivers of self-disclosure on the Internet.  It is not, however, an exhaustive model.  The model presented here would fit just as well in several other configurations, which would alter the path coefficients obtained – for example, joining lots of websites might make users less concerned about privacy, which might in turn drive self-disclosure.  Further research will need to explore these components experimentally to get to the heart of causation in this matter.

  1. Taddicken, M. (2014). The ‘privacy paradox’ in the social web: The impact of privacy concerns, individual characteristics, and the perceived social relevance on different forms of self-disclosure Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19, 248-273 : 10.1111/jcc4.12052 []

Gamification, Social Media, Mobile, and MTurk SIOP 2014 TNTLab Research

2014 January 16
by Richard N. Landers

This May, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is headed to Honolulu!  My Technology iN Training Laboratory (TNTLab) has a ton of technology research to share – 9 distinct events!  If you’re interested in assessment on social media, assessment on mobile devices, gamification for learning, or the use of Mechanical Turk for research, we’ve got a lot for you!

On the mobile assessment front, I’m participating in a fantastic symposium on mobile devices led by Tracy Kantrowitz and TNTLab doctoral student Craig Reddock on mobile talent assessment.  We’ll be presenting the result of a random control trial assigning online participants to complete an assessment either on a mobile device or on a personal computer.

Turning to MTurk, TNTLab doctoral students Katelyn Cavanaugh and Rachel Callen have taken a second look at their Master’s thesis data to compare the performance of learners recruited via MTurk on the same training task, the first examination to our knowledge of MTurk’s appropriateness for training research.  I’ll also be talking a little about MTurk on the Beyond the Subject Pool panel organized by Sandra Fisher and Karin Orvis, alongside a variety of other creative sampling techniques, like Facebook sampling and Internet scraping.

As for the gamification of learning, we’ve got a bunch – Rachel, Katelyn, brand new TNTLab member Bo Armstrong, and former TNTLab member (and now Assistant Professor) Kristina Bauer will be presenting several posters on how gamification affects learning alongside likely pitfalls in this new area.

We’re also tackling social media in a no-holds-barred symposium (there is no better kind) led by Gordon Schmidt and me where we’ve got a great collection of papers exploring how social media can be used in the selection of new employees.

Finally, Katelyn and Kristina will be presenting posters on some more traditional employee training topics based upon their Master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, respectively.

If you’ve got an interest in the role of technology in selection and training, I hope to see you there!

Talent assessment using mobile devicesSymposiumTheatre 310
Thurs 9:30 AM
Comparison of MTurk Workers and undergraduates in online training studySymposiumRoom 323C
Thurs 11AM
Beyond the subject pool:
Creative sampling methods in I/O research
PanelRoom 306B
Thurs 2PM
Social media, a new predictor class:
Remaining questions for selection
SymposiumRoom 314
Fri 11AM
Social media in selection:
Validity, applicant reactions, and legality
SymposiumRoom 314
Fri 11AM
Incremental validity of social media ratings to predict job performanceSymposiumRoom 314
Fri 11AM
Individual differences and the usage of learner controlPosterBallroom C
Sat 8:30AM
The examination of different predictors of transfer use versus effectivenessPosterBallroom C
Sat 8:30AM
The application of goal-setting theory to gamification
PosterBallroom C
Sat 9:30AM
Gamification in psychology:
A review of theory and potential pitfalls
PosterBallroom C
Sat 9:30AM
Biodata item generation:
Using cloning to generate multiple tests
SymposiumRoom 304B
Sat 12PM

Grad School: How Do I Write a Personal Statement?

2014 January 9
by Richard N. Landers

Grad School Series: Applying to Graduate School in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Starting Sophomore Year: Should I get a Ph.D. or Master’s? | How to Get Research Experience
Starting Junior Year: Preparing for the GRE | Getting Recommendations
Starting Senior Year: Where to Apply | Traditional vs. Online Degrees | Personal Statements
Interviews/Visits: Preparing for Interviews | Going to Interviews
In Graduate School: What to Expect First Year

So you want to go to graduate school in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology? Lots of decisions, not much direction. I bet I can help!

While my undergraduate students are lucky to be at a school with I/O psychologists, many students interested in I/O psychology aren’t at schools with people they can talk to. I/O psychology is still fairly uncommon in the grand scheme of psychologists; there are around 7,000 members of SIOP, the dominant professional organization of I/O, compared to the 150,000 in the American Psychological Association. As a result, many schools simply don’t have faculty with expertise in this area, leading many promising graduate students to apply elsewhere. That’s great from the perspective of I/O psychologists – lots of jobs – but not so great for grad-students-to-be or the field as a whole.

As a faculty member at ODU with a small army of undergraduate research assistants, I often find myself answering the same questions over and over again about graduate school. So why not share this advice with everyone?

This week, I’d like to cover one of only two parts of a graduate school application that you have direct control over: your personal statement.  This sometimes called a “statement of research interests” or “entrance essay” or similar.  The core problem is always the same though: you need to write a page or two about yourself.  So what do you write?

Before you get started, you need to plan.  You shouldn’t just dive into a personal statement, because it says several things about you, and you want to make sure those messages are on target.  Here’s what it says, and here’s what to do about it:

  1. This is the best quality of formal writing that you are currently capable of.  
    • The situation: Graduate school involves a lot of writing.  A lot.  You will be writing proposals, you’ll be writing term papers, you’ll be writing theses, you’ll be writing journal submissions, and on and on.  Despite this, most graduate programs don’t explicitly teach you how to write – instead, they assume you learned it in college. As your potential mentors read your application, they’ll in part be thinking, “just how much work is it going to take for this person to become a decent science writer?”
    • The solution: Treat your personal statement like a formal paper. Remember everything you’ve learned previously about how to write. You should have an introductory paragraph, several paragraphs of specific content (each with an appropriate topic sentence that explains the purpose of the remainder of that paragraph) and a conclusionary paragraph. You should ensure there are absolutely no spelling or grammatical errors. You should ask someone that doesn’t know you very well – and preferably someone who is a good writer – to read it over and tell you what they think.  Often, your college or university will have a career services unit that will help you with this if your academic advisor won’t (or can’t) help.
  2. This explains why you are applying to graduate school (in I/O psychology).
    • The situation:  A lot of people apply to graduate school for terrible reasons. The most common terrible reason is, “I finished college and didn’t know what else to do.” This is pretty obvious in an unfocused personal statement, because it’s hard for you to explain exactly why you are going to graduate school. You need a good reason, and you need to explain it well. The reason this is important is because people without good reasons burn out. Grad school is hard.  I like to refer to it as “trial by fire.” If you don’t come in with long term goals that you are fully committed to, you aren’t likely to finish – and that means advisors aren’t going to want to spend their time training you only for you to leave after a year.
    • The solution:  You really need to sit down and think about why you’re going to graduate school. This is different for every person, so there’s no single right answer here. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of being a professor. Maybe you’ve worked in human resources before and want to make it better. Maybe you just want to make a difference in the lives of employees and see applied I/O work as the best way to do that. All of these are fine answers – but your personal statement needs to explain your answer and how you came to it.
  3. This explains why you are applying to this particular graduate program.  
    • The situation: It’s fine if you want to apply broadly – in fact, I recommend it. But that doesn’t mean you can get away without doing in-depth research on each school you are applying to.  Faculty want to know why you applied to their program.  A single, untargeted, generic personal statement sent to a dozen different programs is one of the worst things you can do with your personal statement.
    • The solution: Remember that applying to graduate school is very unlike applying to college: you’re not applying to take classes, you’re applying to work with a particular faculty member (or perhaps a few faculty members).  If you have particular, targeted research interests, you need to say what they are, which faculty members you want to work with, and why.  If you don’t have particular, targeted research interests, that’s fine too, so you should say that – but you still need to explain why you applied to this particular program. Did you talk to graduate students already in the program? Were you recommended to apply by your advisor due to the quality of the program? Something else? No matter what, you should have a different personal statement for every school you apply to. Don’t ever say you’re targeting a school because it is convenient to you (e.g. near family, lets you keep your job, etc.). If something like that is your only reason, you shouldn’t apply there.
  4. This explains how you’ve prepared for graduate school.  
    • The situation: Something you’re likely hear a lot in I/O graduate school is “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” One thing that faculty want to know is how – specifically – you have prepared yourself for graduate school. This also speaks a bit to #2 above.
    • The solution: If you’ve been following my blog’s advice since your sophomore year or earlier, you should have a lot of information to talk about here. You need to discuss what you learned in each research lab you’ve worked in and how this experience prepared you for graduate school. If you worked on particular projects that inspired you in your research interests, describe a specific anecdote or two (e.g. a particular research challenge you faced) and how you solved it and learned from it.

There are a few common problems with personal statements:

  1. Your statement is not your life story. While your 8th-grade teacher may have had an amazing influence over you that eventually led you to I/O psychology, it’s not very relevant to your application. Traumatic experiences (e.g. the death of a family member) are the same way.  Although your great-grandfather’s death may have inspired you to do something with your life, it doesn’t really have much to do with your I/O career path.  For each paragraph (and thus every sentence), you should ask: does it help the person reading this statement accomplish one of the four objectives listed above? If not, get rid of it.
  2. Your statement is not an opportunity to get creative.  Remember point #1 above. This is a formal paper. It is the closest thing to scientific writing of yours that the selection committee is likely to see. Creative narratives, clever use of spacing, etc. make you memorable, but not in a way you want to be memorable. You want to be memorable for your qualifications. Don’t start your statement with a quote or cliche; for example, I cringe every time I see, “Life is a marathon” at the start of someone’s statement.
  3. Your statement should be about what you think and what you know, not what you did. When you apply to graduate school, you’ll also turn in a curriculum vitae (the academic equivalent of a resume). This should say which labs you worked for and when. It should also cover which classes you took. Don’t waste space in a personal statement reiterating this information; assume that the people reading your application have already seen your vita and build from there.
  4. Your statement is not exhaustive. Even if you have a ton of information that you want to share, and even if the program doesn’t provide a specific page limit, you should keep your personal statement under 2 pages.  Maybe 3 if what you’re including is exceptionally compelling. Writing your personal statement should be an exercise in brevity – sharing as much critical information as possible in as small a space as you are able.

There’s no single “right way” to write a personal statement, but these guidelines will give you a good start to make a compelling argument for your acceptance.

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