The impact of sensorial stimuli on disclosure behavior
Posted: 8 Jan 2021 Last revised: 8 Feb 2022
Date Written: March 12, 2020
Among the many factors that can elicit privacy concerns and affect privacy behavior, some are sensorial: detecting the presence of others through our senses. Human beings may be wired to react to sensorial cues and rely, in part, on them to assess the privacy ramifications of their actions. Individuals may react to sensorial cues indicating the presence of others even when those cues do not carry relevant information about likely consequences of privacy choices – and thus, from a normative perspective, may not be expected to influence privacy concerns and resulting behaviors. In four experiments (N = 829), we examine the effect on privacy-relevant behavior (the disclosure of sensitive personal information) of four sensorial cues signaling the presence of other humans: proximity, visual, auditory, and olfactory, each signaling the presence of another person. Proximity and visual cues (Experiments 1 and 2) produced an inhibitory effect on intimate self-disclosures in an online survey – including when that presence does not and cannot materially affect participants’ risks or benefits associated with disclosure (Experiment 2). Auditory and olfactory cues (Experiments 3 and 4), however, did not. The findings point to a possible influence of sensorial (specifically, visual) cues on privacy behavior. We discuss the implications of the findings in the context of privacy and security decision making in a digital age, where physical cues human beings may have adapted to use for detection of threats may be absent, or even strategically manipulated by antagonistic third parties.
Keywords: Privacy, Self-disclosure, Privacy Calculus, Privacy Paradox, Evolution
JEL Classification: D8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation