Individual differences in susceptibility to online influence: A theoretical review

Emma J. Williams, Amy Beardmore, Adam N Joinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (SciVal)


Scams and other malicious attempts to influence people are continuing to proliferate across the globe, aided by the availability of technology that makes it increasingly easy to create communications that appear to come from legitimate sources. The rise in integrated technologies and the connected nature of social communications means that online scams represent a growing issue across society, with scammers successfully persuading people to click on malicious links, make fraudulent payments, or download malicious attachments. However, current understanding of what makes people particularly susceptible to scams in online contexts, and therefore how we can effectively reduce potential vulnerabilities, is relatively poor. So why are online scams so effective? And what makes people particularly susceptible to them? This paper presents a theoretical review of literature relating to individual differences and contextual factors that may impact susceptibility to such forms of malicious influence in online contexts. A holistic approach is then proposed that provides a theoretical foundation for research in this area, focusing on the interaction between the individual, their current context, and the influence message itself, when considering likely response behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-421
Number of pages10
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date6 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2017


  • influence
  • individual differences
  • cyber security
  • Phishing


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