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Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2013 Apr;16(4):254-9. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0328. Epub 2013 Feb 26.

Blaming the victim: the effects of extraversion and information disclosure on guilt attributions in cyberbullying.

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Department of Communication, University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany.


Cyberbullying victims' success in coping with bullying largely depends on schoolmates and other bystanders' social support. However, factors influencing the degree of social support have as yet not been investigated. In this article, the concept of victim blaming is applied to cyberbullying incidents. It is assumed that a cyberbullying victim receives less social support when the victim's behavior is perceived as very overt. It is further assumed that this effect's underlying process is the partial attribution of responsibility for the incident to the victim and not to the bully. The hypotheses are tested with a 2×2 online experiment. In this experiment, varying online self-presentations of a fictitious female cyberbullying victim were presented to 586 Germans aged 16-22. The victim's public Facebook profile was manipulated in terms of the victim's extraversion and the amount of personal information disclosed. The results support the hypotheses. Participants attributed more responsibility for the bullying incident to the victim when the victim was presented as extraverted and very open in revealing personal information. This diminished social support for the victim. The effect was partially mediated by the victim's perceived attractiveness. The study implies that concepts from victimization research can enhance our understanding of cyberbullying incidents. Among other factors, the victim's specific personal characteristics deserve more consideration--not only with regard to the incident itself but also regarding subsequent social dynamics and coping mechanisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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