Essay #4 – Psychology 101, Fall 2015
Welcome to the fourth essay question of the fall semester.
As a reminder, please observe the following when writing your assignment: 1) One inch margins all around; 2) double spaced; 3) 12 point Times Roman font; 4) No less than 1.75 pages in length and no more than 2 pages in length; 5) List your name and PID number in the header on the right of the page, 6) adhere to the recommended page limits for each question below, 7) answer all 3 questions below as part of your essay.
It is important that you follow to these guidelines. TA’ will stop reading an essay after two pages (in the event that the essay is longer than two pages). One final suggestion: be sure to identify, in your essay, which question you are responding to (this will make it easier for our Teaching Assistants to grade your essay).
For this essay, we’d like you to respond to an empirical article on Facebook use and personality traits. The article PDF is located in the Assignments tab.
In your own words, provide a summary of the study and their results. Be sure to provide details on: study participants, methods and analyses. In addition, discuss the implications of the findings (i.e., why is it important, what do the findings mean). (Please limit the length of your answer to a maximum of 1 page)
Identify two critiques of the study and propose a modification (or modifications) to address the critiques. (Please limit the length of your answer to a maximum of 1 page)
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CYBERPSYCHOLOGY & BEHAVIOR
Volume 12, Number 3, 2009
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
The Influence of Shyness on the Use of Facebook
in an Undergraduate Sample
Emily S. Orr, M.A., Mia Sisic, B.A., Craig Ross, M.A., Mary G. Simmering, M.A.,
Jaime M. Arseneault, M.A., and R. Robert Orr, Ph.D.
Researchers have suggested that individual differences will help to determine which online communication
tools appeal to and are used by different individuals. With respect to the domain of computer-mediated communication,
shyness is a particular personality trait of interest, as forums provide opportunities for social interactions
that shy individuals might otherwise avoid. The present study investigated the personality trait of
shyness and its relation with certain features of an online communication tool (Facebook). We hypothesized
that shyness would be significantly related to the quantity of time spent on Facebook, the number of contacts
added to one’s Facebook profile, and attitudes toward Facebook. Our findings supported that shyness was significantly
positively correlated with the time spent on Facebook and having favorable attitudes toward the social
networking site. Furthermore, shyness was significantly negatively correlated with the number of Facebook
“Friends.” Limitations of the present study and suggestions for future research are addressed.
The Internet has been a part of our lives for almost two
decades, and online communication (e.g., e-mail, instant
messaging, chat rooms, and social networking sites) continues
to evolve in an attempt to appeal to the general public. One
potential benefit of computer-mediated communication
(CMC) is the possibility of expanding one’s social network.
This particular feature of Internet use may be more appealing
to those who have difficulty engaging in social communication
in the real world, such as those who are shy. Consequently,
the purpose of this investigation was to determine whether
shyness was related to the use of a social networking site.
McKenna and Bargh1 proposed that variables associated
with online communication, such as anonymity, the bridging
of physical distance, perceived control of conversations,
and overcoming the barrier of physical attractiveness, can be
appealing to CMC users. Moreover, they asserted that these
various features, in conjunction with individual and personality
differences, will determine one’s pattern of Internet
use. In this context, McKenna and Bargh suggested that social
researchers would be best advised to focus their efforts
on individual differences (e.g., shyness) that might explain
the use of online communication tools.
Among the variety of online tools now available for communication,
social networking sites are one of the newest,
and they provide a rich source of potential research for social
scientists. Social networking sites (SNSs) are online Web
sites that allow individuals to create personal profiles visible
to others using the site in an attempt to establish or increase
an online social network. Examples of SNSs include
Facebook, MySpace, Lava Life, and Plenty of Fish, all of
which serve the purpose of connecting individuals with
other users of the same site.
Shyness in online forums
Shyness is characterized by anxiety reactions (e.g., tension,
discomfort, aversion of gaze) and an inhibition of normal social
behaviors when in the presence of others.2 This pattern
of inhibition may also be evident in online interactions.
Madell and Muncer3 reviewed the use of Internet communication
tools by shy individuals. In particular, they reviewed
usage patterns of e-mail, chat rooms, and instant
messaging. They found that shyness was negatively correlated
with e-mail usage but unrelated to use of chat rooms
or instant messaging. Madell and Muncer explained the negative
association between shyness and e-mail usage by
proposing that shy individuals did not have sufficient social
Department of Psychology, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
contacts with whom to exchange e-mail. They concluded that
shyness did not encourage greater use of online communication
tools, but also that it did not act as a barrier.
Conversely, Sheeks and Birchmeier4 argued that the desire
to find gratifying social relationships for shy individuals
may result in a greater reliance on online communication
tools. In their investigation of the perceived advantages of
CMC tools for shy individuals, they found that shy individuals
were more likely than nonshy individuals to report satisfying
relationships established online. Similarly, Ward and
Tracey5 found that shy individuals were more likely to establish
online relationships. However, shy participants still
expressed greater difficulty in their online relationships, relative
to nonshy participants.
The results of these studies tend to support the notion that
shyness is not a barrier to online interaction and may facilitate
engagement in online relationships (e.g., online dating8).
Given the anonymity that can be afforded to individuals in
online forums, it is not surprising that shy individuals might
be more willing to engage in online interactions than offline
interactions, given their discomfort in social situations. Thus,
Sheeks and Birchmeier argued that “because of the perceived
control features of CMC, people with social inhibitions (i.e.,
the socially anxious or shy) often turn to the Internet to meet
their social and intimacy needs.”4(p65)
The present study
The purpose of this study was to establish whether shyness
was related to the use of Facebook. Given that shy individuals
typically report having fewer friends than do nonshy
individuals in the offline world,6 we hypothesized that
shy individuals would also have fewer Facebook “Friends.”
Moreover, given the anonymity afforded to individuals in
online interactions, we hypothesized that shyness would be
positively correlated with time spent on Facebook. Furthermore,
we hypothesized that shy individuals would have
more favorable attitudes toward Facebook, as online communication
tools have previously been shown to meet the
social needs of shy individuals.4
One hundred three undergraduate students at a university
in southwestern Ontario enrolled in the present study.
The sample included 16 men and 87 women, and the mean
age was 21.50 years (SD 5.29), with a range of 17 to 52
years. Of this range, 94% of the participants were 27 years
old or younger. Students were compensated with partial
course credit for their participation.
Online questionnaires were used to evaluate participants’
self-reported shyness, use of Facebook (including time spent
on Facebook and the number of Facebook Friends), attitudes
toward Facebook, and the relations among these variables.
Participants were asked to indicate how many minutes they
spent on Facebook on a daily basis using a 6-point Likert
scale ranging from 1, 10 or less, to 6, 3 hours. They were
also asked to indicate how many Facebook Friends they had
on their profile in an open-ended format.
Six items from Ellison et al.7 and an additional item composed
by the authors (“How satisfied are you with Facebook
overall?”) were utilized to investigate attitudes toward
Facebook. The maximum possible score of the 7-item
composite was 35 (indicating very favorable attitudes toward
Facebook). There was a minimum possible score of 0
(indicating very unfavorable attitudes toward Facebook).
Cronbach’s alpha was 0.84 for all the items in the present
Shyness was measured via the Revised Cheek and Buss
Shyness Scale (RCBS-20).8 There are several versions of this
scale, which vary in the number of items contained in the
questionnaire. The version used in the present study consisted
of 20 items rated on a 5-point Likert scale. Scores can
range from a minimum of 20 (very nonshy) to a high of 100
(very shy). This version of the RCBS-20 has demonstrated
good reliability,9,10 and both this scale and alternate forms
of the CBS have been shown to have adequate psychometric
properties.11,12 The RCBS-20 was demonstrated to be reliable
in the present study ( 0.88).
Participants were recruited through the university’s psychology
participation pool. After indicating an interest in the
study, participants were sent an e-mail containing the
study’s URL as well as the necessary login credentials. Although
the survey was hosted on the university’s Web
server, it was not possible to access the study Web site without
these credentials. Participants were also provided with
an individual identification code that allowed them to return
to their survey if they were accidentally disconnected. The
data presented here were part of a larger battery focused on
correlates of CMC use. The total battery took approximately
60 minutes to complete. Participants were recruited over a
2-week timeframe in February 2008.
338 ORR ET AL.
Table 1. Correlation Matrix
Shyness Time Friends Attitudes
Shyness 1.00 0.24* 0.25* 0.28*
Timea 1.00 0.27* 0.60**
Friendsb 1.00 0.12
aTime How many minutes per day do you spend on Facebook? bFriends Approximately how many friends are on your Facebook Friends list? c
Attitudes Composite of attitudes toward Facebook derived from Ellison et al.7 and an additional
item added by the authors.
**p 0.01 (two-tailed); *p 0.05 (two-tailed).
A mean shyness score of 52.55 (SD 14.17) was found
with this sample. There was no significant difference between
men and women with respect to shyness, t(98)
0.241, p 0.05. Age, however, was significantly correlated
with shyness, r(97) 0.334, p 0.01. Given that shyness
demonstrates both situational and temporal stability13 and
that the majority (94%) of the sample was 27 years of age or
younger, age was not controlled for in further analyses.
Our sample had an average of 224 Facebook Friends added
to their profiles (SD 143). With respect to the amount of
time spent on Facebook, a mean score of 2.33 (SD 1.21)
was obtained using the 6-point Likert scale described previously,
indicating that participants reported spending just
over 30 minutes daily on Facebook. Finally, participants
recorded a mean of 22.06 (SD 5.78) on the attitudes toward
A correlation matrix was created to explore the associations
among shyness, time spent on Facebook, number of
Facebook Friends, and attitudes toward Facebook, see
Table 1. As predicted, shyness was significantly positively
correlated with the amount of time spent on Facebook. In
other words, shy individuals reported spending more time
on Facebook, supporting our first hypothesis. Consistent
with our second hypothesis, shyness was significantly negatively
associated with the number of Facebook Friends.
That is, as participants’ self-reported levels of shyness increased,
they reported having fewer Facebook contacts on
In terms of the relation between shyness and attitudes toward
Facebook, correlational analysis revealed that shyness
was significantly positively correlated with attitudes toward
Facebook. Consistent with our final hypothesis, shy individuals
were more likely to have favorable attitudes toward
The results of this study indicate that the dispositional trait
of shyness is significantly related to features of Facebook use
as well as to attitudes held toward this form of CMC. Specifically,
we found that shyness significantly predicted the
number of Friends added to one’s Facebook profile. This suggests
that shy individuals have fewer friends in this online
forum, relative to nonshy individuals. These results are commensurate
with offline trends indicating that shy individuals
have fewer reported friendships.6 Additionally, we found
that shy individuals reported spending more time on Facebook.
Finally, we found that attitudes toward Facebook were
significantly associated with shyness, such that shy individuals
reported having more favorable attitudes toward Facebook
than did nonshy individuals. These findings all served
to support our hypotheses.
Together, these findings suggest that although shy individuals
do not have as many contacts on their Facebook profiles,
they still regard this tool as an appealing method of
communication and spend more time on Facebook than do
nonshy individuals. Such findings might be explained by the
anonymity afforded by online communication, specifically,
the removal of many of the verbal and nonverbal cues associated
with face-to-face interactions. As Ward and Tracey8
suggested, this anonymity may appeal to shy individuals,
and therefore they appreciate the medium despite not using
it to its full potential (i.e., adding more Facebook Friends).
Moreover, as suggested by Sheeks and Birchmeier,4 the characteristics
associated with shyness may result in a reliance
of shy individuals on online communication tools. Therefore,
it is not surprising that our results revealed a significant positive
correlation between time spent on Facebook and shyness.
A particular limitation of the present study is the generalizability
of the sample. While Facebook was originally developed
with the intent of linking individuals on a college
campus,7 it is now open to all individuals, regardless of
whether they have academic affiliation. Therefore, it is possible
that the findings of the present study, using only a
sample of university students, will not generalize to other
Facebook users who do not attend university or college.
Another limitation of the present study was the method
with which time spent on Facebook was assessed. Participants
were limited to a 6-point Likert scale to report the
quantity of time they spent on this site. Had this item been
recorded in an open-ended format, it is possible that a
stronger, more representative correlation would have been
Accordingly, future researchers in this domain would be
well served to investigate the time spent on Facebook
through open-ended questions for continuous variables
such as time. Moreover, it is possible that shyness is significantly
related to different facets of Facebook that are
specific to this online communication tool, such as posting
photos with personal content and messaging others in a
public forum. Therefore, future researchers may choose to
explore these Facebook-specific functions and the association
between these functions and personality traits such as
shyness. Finally, future researchers might also consider
replicating these results with a nonuniversity sample in order
to ascertain whether these findings hold for the entire
The authors have no conflict of interest.
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Address reprint requests to:
Emily S. Orr
Department of Psychology
University of Windsor
173 Chrysler Hall South
401 Sunset Avenue
Canada N9B 3P4
E-mail: [email protected]