Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 79–89 | Cite as

The unconscious side of Facebook: Do online social network profiles leak cues to users’ implicit motive dispositions?

  • Michael DufnerEmail author
  • Ruben C. Arslan
  • Jaap J. A. Denissen
Original Paper


In this study we investigated the links between motive dispositions and online social network (OSN) profile content. We assessed the achievement, affiliation and power motives via self- and peer-report. In addition, we used a projective test and two novel, affect based measures (involving affect ratings and EMG recordings) to assess implicit motives in the three content domains. Two observers independently coded motive-specific OSN content. Results showed that self-reports were linked to OSN content for the power domain. Peer-reports and measures of implicit motives were positively linked to OSN content across motive domains. In most cases, measures of implicit motives were still linked to OSN content after adjusting for self- and peer-reports. These results indicate that OSN profiles may leak cues to users’ implicit motives, which neither users themselves nor their peers are aware of. Implications for motive theory, motive assessment, and targeted online advertising will be discussed.


Motive dispositions Implicit motives Online social networks Social media EMG 



This research was supported by Grant DE 1662/2-1 from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) allocated to Jaap J. A. Denissen. We thank Birk Hagemeyer for helpful comments of an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Dufner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ruben C. Arslan
    • 2
  • Jaap J. A. Denissen
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Center for Adaptive RationalityMax Planck Institute for Human DevelopmentBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Tilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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