Making Connections: Complementary Influences on Communication Media Choices, Attitudes, and Use
Theorizing about communication media attitudes and behaviors has drawn upon multiple theories (e.g., media richness, social influence). But these theories have often been pitted against each other rather than considered as complementary in more comprehensive studies. Furthermore, previous research has tended to focus more on newer communication media such as electronic mail rather than more traditional media. Finally, communication media research has studied attitudes toward media, use of media, and only occasionally media choice. Yet, all three dependent variables are important. This comprehensive survey hypothesized and tested multiple influences (based on multiple theories) in a study of media attitudes and behaviors. The media included electronic mail, fax, letters, and face-to-face meetings. The outcomes included media choice (an individual’s decision to use a medium in a particular communication incident), media use (an individual’s general pattern of use over time), and media attitudes (an individual’s general subjective evaluation of media). Results suggested that a number of factors differentiated among media choices, including medium symbolism, message equivocality, distance between message partners, perceived media richness, number of message recipients, and perceived message recipients’ attitudes. General attitudes toward the different media were influenced most consistently by perceived medium richness. New media attitudes were also influenced by person/technology interaction factors. General medium use was influenced by different factors for the different media. The results generally supported a comprehensive theoretical approach to understanding media attitudes and behaviors. All of the theories have some merit in explaining media attitudes and behaviors. But different factors, derived from different theories, were more important in accounting for each of the dependent variables’media choices, attitudes, and use. We hope that this investigation will help research in this area move toward the development of more integrative theoretical models.