Effects of anonymity, invisibility, and lack of eye-contact on toxic online disinhibition

Noam Lapidot-Lefler, Azy Barak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present research studied the impact of three typical online communication factors on inducing the toxic online disinhibition effect: anonymity, invisibility, and lack of eye-contact. Using an experimental design with 142 participants, we examined the extent to which these factors lead to flaming behaviors, the typical products of online disinhibition. Random pairs of participants were presented with a dilemma for discussion and a common solution through online chat. The effects were measured using participants' self-reports, expert judges' ratings of chat transcripts, and textual analyses of participants' conversations. A 2 × 2 × 2 (anonymity/non-anonymity × visibility/invisibility × eye-contact/lack of eye-contact) MANOVA was employed to analyze the findings. The results suggested that of the three independent variables, lack of eye-contact was the chief contributor to the negative effects of online disinhibition. Consequently, it appears that previous studies might have defined the concept of anonymity too broadly by not addressing other online communication factors, especially lack of eye-contact, that impact disinhibition. The findings are explained in the context of an online sense of unidentifiability, which apparently requires a more refined view of the components that create a personal sense of anonymity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-443
Number of pages10
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Anonymity
  • Disinhibition
  • Eye-contact
  • Invisibility
  • Online communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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