Impression formation on social network sites during university transition

  • James Doodson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Most research investigating impression formation during early stages of a relationship on social network sites adopts unrealistic, ecologically invalid social scenarios. This thesis used an ecologically valid social scenario to improve understanding of impression formation during the early stages of a relationship on social network sites. Three studies investigated how students get to know each other on social network sites in the weeks before starting university.A focus group study, a questionnaire study and an experiment demonstrated that incoming undergraduate students form impressions about groups of people (e.g. a group of housemates) and specific individuals (e.g. a housemate) during university transition. The studies highlighted that it is too simplistic to suggest that impression formation about a group of people is different from impression formation about a specific individual. Instead, the coherence of the social target, the nature of the affiliation with that social target, and the strategies used to get to know that social target on social network sites influence how confident students are in their impressions of each other during university transition. Explanations are proposed that, if substantiated, would require expansion of the Hamilton and Sherman’s and cues-filtered in theories of impression formation.The studies highlighted that impression formation and the influence of those three factors can partially explain the intensity of students’ worries about the academic and social aspects of their future university experience. The findings are practically applied as guidance for university and pastoral support services and further research is proposed to test the tentative explanations.
Date of Award1 Mar 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsUniversity of Bath
SupervisorJeffrey Gavin (Supervisor) & Richard Joiner (Supervisor)


  • impression formation
  • Social network sites
  • university

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