What Aspects of Cyber Cruelty are judged most distressing? An Adaptive Conjoint Study with Two Independent Samples


Cyberbullying is defined as bullying via electronic means including the defining characteristics of repetition over time, intent to harm, and power imbalance. However, this normative top-down definition is discussed controversially. We argue that the term “cyberbullying” and the associated defining criteria might constrict our focus artificially. Therefore, we investigate bottom-up which aspects of cyber cruelty contribute to victims’ distress in an adaptive conjoint design with two independent samples (sample 1: n = 131; sample 2: n = 82). Six potentially relevant factors were investigated, each with multiple attributes: number of incidents, perpetrator status, perpetrator motive, and type, medium, and publicity of cyber incident. Contrary to the definition of cyberbullying, number of incidents, publicity, and type of cyber cruelty emerged as most important factors. These results allow us to further map the cognitive representation of cyber cruelty and are practically relevant for the definition and measurement of cyberbullying.

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