Research

My research is on the crossroads of psychology, communication and marketing. I’m interested in how people use the Internet as consumers, as citizens, as husbands and wives, and as online addicts. I am curious about how their Internet use affects their well being, their relationships and the quality of their decisions.

Part of my research is on the online interactions of companies and customers. Most consumers nowadays routinely use consumer reviews to inform themselves about the qualities of a product they want to buy. Several studies have shown that consumer choices are affected by reading online reviews and that product sales depend on what is written in online consumer reviews. It should not come as a surprise that many organizations feel the urge to intervene in online consumer review sites, either by promoting positive reviews or by responding directly to negative reviews. Numerous classes are being offered on online reputation management that teach organizations how to respond to consumer that complain online. On the Internet, we can now find many examples of organizations publicly interacting with individual  customers (for example, T-Mobile Webcare, Tele2 Webservice, KPN Webcare).

A second line of research deals with the question how adult close relationships are shaped by partners’ Internet use, and especially by their compulsive Internet use. According to a recent report from the PEW Internet and American Life Project (Kennedy, Smith, Wells, & Wellmann, 2008), married-with-children households have the highest use of new technologies of all groups surveyed: Two thirds have broadband Internet, 93% have a computer (58% have two or more computers). Surprisingly, only a few empirical studies examine the effects of Internet use on the quality of intimate relationships (most studies choose to focus on how the Internet affects adolescents’ lives).

Working closely together with dr. Catrin Finkenauer, we use data from her VU Panel on Marriage & Well-being to see how the relationships of almost 200 newly wed Dutch couples develop over time, and how this is affected by their Internet use (or: how this affects their Internet use).

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