The Extended Warming Effect of Social Media: Examining Whether the Cognition of Online Audiences Offline Drives Prosocial Behavior in ‘Real Life’

Laura Lavertu, Ben Marder, Antonia Erz, Robert Angell

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Online audiences (e.g. Facebook friends, Instagram followers) shape users' self-presentation online, but little is known about whether or not they impact users' actions in ‘reality’, so offline, when they are not engaged directly with a site interface. To bridge this gap, we provide the first investigation of the ‘extended warming effect’ of social media, a special form of a phenomenon in which saliency (cognition) of online audiences in offline encounters triggers impression management behavior in the pursuit of a more desirable online public image. Across two controlled experiments in the context of charity fundraising, we support the existence of the extended warming effect. We find that as online audiences become more salient, people show greater intentions of engaging in prosocial behavior offline (e.g. enhanced likelihood of making a donation). This effect is mediated by higher public self-awareness and extrinsic motivations. In addition, we find that the extended warming effect is amplified for more intense social media users. Theoretical contributions and practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106389
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Social media
  • Charity
  • Warming effect
  • Self-awareness
  • Impression management
  • Prosocial

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