When does web-based personalization really work? The distinction between actual personalization and perceived personalization

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


Abstract A number of prior studies have suggested that personalization is more efficacious than non-personalization. However, the existing literature is somewhat ambiguous on whether the test of personalization effects should be based on a message sender's actual personalization process or a message recipient's perception of the message. It is argued in this article that an actual personalization process does not automatically yield more favorable effects because people's perceptions of personalized messages tend to be biased. Through three experiments, it is demonstrated that testing personalization effects based on a message sender's actual personalization process can be problematic and produce misleading results. Specifically, a personalized message can be perceived as non-personalized and a non-personalized message can be perceived as personalized. The key finding is that perceived personalization, instead of actual personalization, is the underlying psychological mechanism of message effectiveness. A message will show superior effects when it is perceived to be personalized by a message recipient, regardless of whether it is actually personalized or not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3610
Pages (from-to)25-33
Number of pages9
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Aug 12 2016



  • Actual personalization
  • Perceived personalization
  • Personalization
  • Personalized communication
  • Personalized messages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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