Attitudes toward personalized content: An experimental investigation of the psychological effects of customized web portals
Student researcher

Sriram Kalyanaraman (PhD)
This paper is based on the author's dissertation.

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar


Consistent advances in technology have paralleled the ability of mass media to deliver customized messages to audiences. The evolution of media--from print to electronic--has witnessed increased, and more effective, dissemination of individualized messages. The advent of the World Wide Web, however, has truly revolutionized the media's ability to deliver customized content. The uniqueness of the Web medium lies in its capacity to customize content according to individual specifications. That is, unlike any other medium, the Web, by the use of such elements as interactivity, can identify and target single users. It is conceivable, then, that users who are exposed to highly customized Websites may perceive such Websites in a positive light. That is, they may be psychologically affected by customized messages, and show more positive attitudes toward a Website offering customized information. This dissertation examines the effects of customization in one of the most popular of e-venues: the portal. Specifically, it examines the relationship between the level of customization (low, medium, high) in Web portals and attitude toward the portal. It identifies several possible outcomes of customization and hypothesizes that greater levels of customization lead to increased perceptions of relevance, involvement, interactivity, community, and novelty, which in turn lead to a more positive attitude toward the portal. It details the methods and results of a pilot study (N = 30) designed to examine the research question. It identifies several methodological weaknesses of the pilot study and proposes a refined experimental design ( N = 60) to better understand the relationship between customization and attitude toward the portal. The results indicate that customization is a psychologically significant variable because higher levels of customization result in more positive attitudes toward the portal, and this relationship is mediated by users' perceptions of relevance, involvement, interactivity, and novelty. In addition, customization also has behavioral effects because it affects users' Web browsing activity. Theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University