Cognitive Rules and Online Privacy

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Chowdhury, Wahida




Most studies of privacy assume that people are concerned about their online privacy, but few studies investigate why. The purpose of my dissertation was to explicate these cognitive rules.

In Experiment 1, Fifty-four undergraduate students and 12 middle-aged adults rated their willingness to consent to the collection of 12 different kinds of personal information by five different kinds of organizations. Participants also wrote their reasons for consenting/not consenting to share personal information with each kind of organization. Results showed that the willingness to consent varied with the kinds of personal information requested, and the organization requesting the personal information. Reasons for consenting more often reflected self-interest and reasons for not consenting more often reflected moral reasons. Willingness-to-consent ratings were also correlated with personality variables. For example, the more participants rated themselves as anxious the less willing they were to consent to share personal information.

Experiment 2 explored possible double standards of willingness to consent judgments. The same participants as those in Experiment 1 rated whether or not other people should consent to the collection of the same kinds of personal information by the same kinds of organizations. Results showed that participants mostly made similar judgments about self and others’ privacy, but sometimes exhibited double standards. For example, participants who rated themselves as reserved rated that others should be less willing than themselves to consent to reveal personal information.

Experiment 3 examined if how willing people were to share personal information influenced judges' impressions of them. A different sample of 51 undergraduate students was asked to form impressions of 12 anonymous participants from Experiment 1 (the targets), selected for their variations in willingness to consent to share personal information. Participants recorded their impressions of these 12 targets on scales related to trust, trustworthiness, honesty, friendliness, and likelihood of hiding information. The targets received less favorable impressions the less willing they were to share personal information. Conceptual and practical implications of the results are discussed.


Psychology - Social
Information Science




Carleton University

Thesis Degree Name: 

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Cognitive Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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