The Effect of Availability, Message Attributes, and Relational Variables on Predicting Mobile Responsiveness


Responsiveness -- the time it takes for a message recipient to respond to a message -- has long been of interest to scholars in the fields of computer-mediated communication and human-computer interaction. It has been hypothesized that responsiveness is used to signal emotional information, and many empirical studies have demonstrated that violating expectations about responsiveness is associated with negative evaluations. The increasing use of mobile devices for messaging complicates our understanding of how people decide when to respond to a message. While early work focused on desktop computers and the workplace, the rise of mobile messaging means people can be reached anywhere, at any time, and likely from many different types of contacts they communicate with using their device. As a result, the decision of responding immediately or delaying response is affected by many previously unconsidered factors. To understand how much these different factors affect mobile responsiveness, 92 Android phone owners from around the United States were recruited to participate in this project. Both log data and questionnaire data were collected using a custom built Android app that participants ran on their phones for 7 days. 1,635 session initiation SMS messages were analyzed using a series of multilevel regression models. Results indicate that a user's subjective rating of their availability at the time a message was received is strongly associated with responsiveness. Message attributes, such as how important a message is to the person who received it, have modest effects on responsiveness. Certain types of messages were also associated with much longer delays in responsiveness. Relational variables, such as how close the message recipient is to the message sender, were not found to have large effects on responsiveness.

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