Group Contributors:

Jan Mazzulla, Sultan Rana, Maryellen Elliott, Amy Wright, Gavin Robertson.

Social Information Processing Theory


Social Information Processing Theory aims to clarify the nature of online relationships, and compares these relationships with those formed from face to face interactions. This theory suggests that the same relational dimensions are attainable through online interactions, however, online interpersonal relationships may need more time for development when compared to face-to-face relationships.


Relational Communication, Social Information Processing, CMC, FtF, Online Relationships


Walther teaches and conducts research at Michigan State University. His focus is how people use communication cues both verbal and non verbal to transmit and construct their impressions and relationships, especially when mediated by technology. He studies the social dynamics of new communication technologies particularly those that provide a dearth of non-verbal cues (Facebook, email) in a wide variety of settings. He is a leading scholar in the United States working in Computer Mediated Communication and behaviour.

Theory Overview:

Joseph Walther’s Social Information Processing Theory describes the relationships that people create when they interact online using Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). The theory suggests that both formats face-to-face (FtF) and online communication (CMC) can yield the same quality of relationships, however, online relationships require more time to develop the same relational dimensions and qualities as face-to-face relationships. With online relationships, people have effectively used emoticons and other available cues to replace non-verbal cues that are evident in face-to-face interactions. Other areas addressed include a comparison between synchronous and asynchronous Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), attraction to computer mediated social support, and factors affecting the field of CMC.


Walther, J.B., & Burgoon, J.K. (1992). Relational communication in computer mediated interaction. Human Communication Research, 19, 50-88.
Walther, J.B, (1994) Interpersonal Effects in Computer Mediated Interaction: A Meta-Analysis of Social and Antisocial Communication in Communication Research 21:460-487
Walther, J. B., & Boyd, S. (2002). Attraction to computer-mediated social support. In C. A. Lin & D. Atkin (Eds.), Communication technology and society: Audience adoption and uses (pp. 153-188).
Watt, J., Walther, J., & Nowak, K. (2002). Asynchronous videoconferencing: A hybrid communication prototype. Presented at HICSS. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.