PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF CULTURE ON AESTHETIC MOTIVATION FOR COSMETIC CUSTOMIZATION OF MOBILE PHONES

Open Access
Author:
Lee, Seoyeon
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Degree:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 04, 2011
Committee Members:
  • S. Shyam Sundar, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • Media Psychology
  • Customization
  • Culture
  • Mobile Phone
Abstract:
Mobile phones are among the most popular and widespread personal technologies in the world. They are widely seen as extensions of the self, with users customizing them by way of accessories, such as charms, cases, purses and stickers, and features, such as ringtones and wallpapers, in an effort to give their phones a personal look. Such attempts at cosmetic customization are somewhat more prominent in Asian countries, and signal a distinctly aesthetic, rather than utilitarian, motivation. This thesis examines the degree to which four aspects of cultural psychology—social identity, other-directedness, value of self-expression and self-promotion—predict aesthetic motivations for engaging in mobile phone customization. Furthermore, it explores psychological outcomes, such as emotional attachment to the mobile phone, deriving from such cosmetic customization for aesthetic purposes. College students (N = 551) from two cultures (e.g., individualistic: United States vs. collectivistic: South Korea) participated in an online survey. The results show that culture is directly related to other-directedness, which is in turn related to higher aesthetic motivations for cosmetically customizing mobile phones. They also suggest that cosmetic customization is driven by a desire to use the phone as a vehicle of self-expression rather than as a tool for self-promotion. Findings also show that the more users engage in cosmetic customization for aesthetic purposes, the more they are attached to their mobile phones—a relationship that is mediated by the degree to which they perceive phones as reflecting the self. Theoretical and practical implications of these finding are discussed, followed by study limitations and directions for future research.