Tobias Dienlin – Research

Research Statement

Research Topics

As most psychologists and communication scholars, I am interested in the behavior of people: How does personality relate to behavior, what makes people happy, how do we change? And how are these processes affected by our media use? Specifically, my research revolves around the following two topics:

Privacy, Personality, & Self-Disclosure

What is the relation between personality and privacy? Why do we disclose personal information on social networking sites? In my dissertation The Psychology of Privacy I have analyzed how people perceive privacy online, what determines their self-disclosure, and what links exist to personality. A major focus of my research is on the privacy paradox and the privacy calculus; whereas the privacy paradox claims that self-disclosure online is somewhat illogical and random, the privacy calculus posits that online behavior can be explained on the basis of peoples expected benefits and perceived costs. Spoiler alert: The results of our studies support the privacy calculus.

Social Media, Communication, & Well-Being

Does communication via social network sites reduce face-to-face communication? Does communicating via instant messengers influence our well-being? Personally, I think these questions are important and belong to the most relevant ones that we can currently analyze. In a study with 460 people from Germany, we found that social network site communication actually increased face-to-face communication, and that instant messenger communication had no effects on well-being. In future projects, I’m planning to collect actual behavioral data in order to further increase the quality of the data.

Methods Used

Of course, there are a multitude of methods one can use to do research. However, there are some aspects I emphasize explicitly.

Open Science

There’s no way getting around this: We as researchers need to improve the quality of our work. Too many studies cannot be replicated.1 There are several ways to address the replicability crisis: preregistration, registered reports, and open science (i.e., open data, open materials, reproducible code, open access). Specifically, it is my aim to publish manuscripts that are completely reproducible. A completely reproducible manuscript is a document that can be created in its entirety and automatically through the execution of code. The code takes the raw data, conducts all analyses and exports the results alongside the written content as a manuscript. Hence, no copy-pasting, no wysiwyg software, less error-proneness, more transparency, more accessibility. Currently, we are submitting the first completely reproducible manuscript. Here’s my profile on the open science framework.

Structural Equation Modelling, Panel Analyses, & Representative Data

Most research questions can be analyzed using regressions, most research questions involve several variables, most variables capture latent constructs. As a result, I’m using structural equation models to analyze data, given that SEMs are regressions based and can implement multiple latent factors. Particularly, I’m focusing on longitudinal panel data in order to better gauge causal processes. Likewise, instead of conducting several studies with small sample, I would rather prefer to conduct a single study with large sample to attain sufficient statistical power. Of course, that’s not always possible, but one can at least try.

For some further thoughts on ideas about good research, have a look at my blog post “5 years into academia – 45 things I’ve learned so far“.

Aims

I have often heard the following advice: “Publish as much as you can”. Personally, I think that this approach is not beneficial. In fact, I think it hampers scientific progress. Instead, I rather want to set the following aim: “Do good research”. Ideally, of course, this would lead to the same result (i.e., publications) – but with the welcome side effect of increased relevance and sustainability. I will try my best!

Footnotes

  1. Here’s a great video with a summary of the replication crisis.