Textual Primacy Online: Impression Formation Based on Textual and Visual Cues in Facebook Profiles

Ayellet Pelled, Tanya Zilberstein, Alona Tsirulnikov, Eran Pick, Yael Patkin, Nurit Tal-Or

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The existing literature presents ambivalent evidence regarding the significance of visual cues, as opposed to textual cues, in the process of impression formation. While visual information may have a strong effect due to its vividness and immediate absorption, textual information might be more powerful due to its solid, unambiguous nature. This debate is particularly relevant in the context of online social networks, whose users share textual and visual elements. To explore our main research question, “Which elements of one’s Facebook profile have a more significant influence on impression formation of extroversion—pictures or texts?” we conducted two complementary online experiments, manipulating visual and textual cues inside and outside the context of Facebook. We then attempted to identify the relevant underlying mechanisms in impression formation. Our findings indicate that textual cues play a more dominant role online, whether via Facebook or not, supporting assertions of a new-media literacy that is text based. Additionally, we found the participants’ level of need for cognition influenced the effect such that individuals with a high need for cognition placed more emphasis on textual cues. The number of “likes” was also a significant predictor of perceptions of the individuals’ social orientation, especially when the other cues were ambiguous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-687
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • CMC
  • impression formation
  • online identity
  • online literacy
  • online social networks
  • textual primacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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