Full Program »
The Psychology of “Ghosting”: Perception Gaps In The Causes and Consequences of Not Responding
Much of communication in the modern age is not face-to-face but rather asynchronous (separated in time, e.g., emails, voice messages, and social media). Although asynchronous communication may feel convenient, it can make it easy for one person to just stop responding to the other person – a phenomenon colloquially known as “ghosting.” The current paper explores the psychology of ghosting, examining how people respond when they are ghosting others (or being ghosted) – and how they think the other person feels. We conducted two experiments using recall paradigms in which participants were assigned to recall a time when they ghosted someone (sender) or were ghosted (receiver). Almost every participant could think of such a time, and the types of situations they recalled ranged from discussing work schedules with colleagues to planning trips with family to rejecting romantic advances. Results from these experiments suggest that receivers may misunderstand why senders ghost them as well as how senders feel after ghosting. Specifically, in both Experiments 1 and 2, receivers underestimated how badly senders felt about not responding. However, receivers also overestimated how much senders benignly forgot to respond (as opposed to intentionally deciding not to respond) in Experiments 1 and 2. Experiment 2 examined predictions about emotions in more detail, finding that receivers specifically underestimated how sad and guilty senders feel as a result of ghosting them. Finally, Experiment 2 investigated potential moderators such as the relationship context. Senders experienced anger and sadness more strongly when they ghosted a friend (vs. a colleague) and felt guilty regardless of context, compared to receivers who in fact felt less angry when being ghosted by a friend (vs. a colleague). Overall, these results suggest systematic perception gaps in the causes and consequences of ghosting.