Social actor attribution to mobile phones: the case of tourists


This study examines social actor attribution to mobile phones in general settings and travel context. Informed by attribution theory and computing technology continuum of perspective model, the hypothesized relationships between social characteristics of mobile phones, users’ core self-evaluation, and social actor attribution to mobile phones were tested to determine the locus of causality of people’s social responses to mobile technology. Further, the influence of mobile phones use for travel-related purposes was investigated to examine the situation attribution explaining the perceived social roles of mobile phones in travel. The results demonstrate that perceived positive and negative social characters of mobile phones as well as self-efficacy, locus of control and self-esteem of users significantly influence social actor attribution to mobile phones. In a travel setting, the significant influence of situational factor on the social roles of mobile technology emphasizes the importance of anthropomorphism in the designing of mobile technology for travel. As a managerial implication, features of mobile technology should suggest the roles of mobile devices as personal travel companions and/or assistants to increase the persuasive power of mobile phones for tourists.

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Correspondence to Iis P. Tussyadiah.

Appendix: Measurement items

Appendix: Measurement items

Positive social characters of mobile phones (PC)—self-developed

PC1—My cell phone is empathetic.

PC2—My cell phone is friendly.

PC3—My cell phone is kind.

PC4—My cell phone is persuasive.

PC5—My cell phone is polite.

PC6—My cell phone is sensitive.

PC7—My cell phone is trusting.

Negative social characters of mobile phones (NC)—self-developed

NC1—My cell phone is arrogant.

NC2—My cell phone is frigid.

NC3—My cell phone is grumpy.

NC4—My cell phone is judgmental.

NC5—My cell phone is manipulative.

NC6—My cell phone is mean.

NC7—My cell phone is rude.

Neuroticism (NE)—Eysenck and Eysenck (1968)

NE1—I often feel lonely.

NE2—My feelings are easily hurt.

NE3—My mood often goes up and down.

NE4—I am often troubled by feelings of guilt.

NE5—I am an irritable person.

NE6—I often feel ‘fed up’.

NE7—I am often tense of high strung.

NE8—Sometimes I feel miserable for no reason.

Mobile technology self-efficacy (MTSE)—Adapted from Johnson et al. (2008)

MT1—I believe I have the ability to make a brand new cell phone work.

MT2—I believe I have the ability to describe how a cell phone works.

MT3—I believe I have the ability to install new apps on a cell phone.

MT4—I believe I have the ability to identify and correct common operational problems on a cell phone.

MT5—I believe I have the ability to remove information from a cell phone that I no longer need.

MT6—I believe I have the ability to use a cell phone to search and display information in a desired manner.

MT7—I believe I have the ability to use a cell phone for its fullest capacity.

Locus of control (LC)—Levenson (1973)

LC1—It’s chiefly a matter of fate whether or not I have a few friends or many friends.

LC2—It’s not always wise for me to plan too far ahead because many things turn out to be a matter of good or bad fortune.

LC3—Even if I were a good leader, I would not be made a leader unless I play up to those in positions of power.

LC4—Often there is no chance of protecting my personal interest from bad luck happening.

LC5—I feel like what happens in my life is mostly determined by powerful people.

LC6—My life is chiefly controlled by powerful others.

LC7—Whether or not I get to be a leader depends on whether or not I’m lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Self-esteem (SE)—Rosenberg (1965), positive statements

SE1—On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.

SE2—I am able to do things as well as most people.

SE3—I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

SE4—I feel that I am a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.

Mobile technology continuum of perspective (MTCP)—adapted from Johnson et al. (2008)

Perceived Intelligence of Mobile Phones (PI)

PI1—Cell phones are capable of telling people to navigate around an unfamiliar city.

PI2—Cell phones are capable of effectively guiding and educating people.

PI3—Cell phones are capable of facilitating a simultaneous discussion among many people.

PI4—Cell phones are capable of remembering things.

PI5—Cell phones are capable of telling us the answers when we have questions.

Perceived socialness of mobile phones (PS)

PS1—Cell phones are capable of learning from their experiences.

PS2—Cell phones are capable of holding intelligent conversations.

PS3—Cell phones are capable of caring for people.

Perceived control of mobile phones (PC)

PC1—Cell phones are capable of infringing on personal rights and freedom.

PC2—Cell phones are capable of invading privacy.

Mobile phone use for travel (MU)—adapted from Tussyadiah and Zach (2012)

MU1—Using mobile maps for navigation and way-finding.

MU2—Using mobile apps to search for information regarding attractions, restaurants, etc.

MU3—Using mobile guides or destination apps to learn more about the place.

MU4—Using mobile social media to find and share recommendation.

MU5—Recording travel experiences by taking pictures, videos, etc.

Social roles of mobile phones in travel (SR)—self-developed

SR1—When I travel, I see my cell phone as my friend. It accompanies me to experience places.

SR2—When I travel, I see my cell phone as my personal guide. It guides me to experience places.

SR3—When I travel, I see my cell phone as my personal assistant. It assists me to experience places.

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Tussyadiah, I.P. Social actor attribution to mobile phones: the case of tourists. Inf Technol Tourism 14, 21–47 (2014).

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  • Mobile technology
  • CASA
  • Attribution theory
  • Continuum of perspectives
  • Persuasive technology
  • Travel