Solicitation by e-mail and solicitor’s status: A field study of social influence on the web

Personal information is scarce in computer-mediated communication. So when information about the sender is attached with his or her e-mail, this could induce a powerful effect toward the receptor. Two experiments were carried out where males and females were solicited by e-mail to respond to a survey on their foods habits. In the first experiment, students were solicited whereas, in the second experiment, people taken at random in various e-mails lists were solicited. The questionnaire was an HTML form attached with the e-mail. The signature of the solicitor was presented as of a high status (a scientist) or of a mid status (an undergraduate student). Results show that, in both experiments, subjects agreed more favorably to the request when the solicitor was of high status. The importance of social information on computer-mediated communication is used to explain such results.