Slow download speeds capture interest of Internet surfers

October 30, 2002

As cable companies and Internet access providers compete for customers by offering broadband service, cable modems and digital subscriber lines (DSLs) as faster access to the Web, slower download speeds sometimes prompt greater user response than faster download speeds, a study says.

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar, associate professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State, and Carson Wagner, assistant professor of advertising at the University of Texas, publish their findings in the current issue of the journal, Media Psychology.

With the growth of Internet-based communication, for everything from electronic commerce to news, researchers have theorized about the impact of download speed -- the time required for the images and information that comprise a full page on the Web to display on a computer screen. The study shows that download speeds induce behavioral and physiological changes for audience members who access information on the Web. The results also show slower download speeds increase arousal in some instances.

Through three separate experiments, the researchers measured the impact of download speed by monitoring skin conductance levels (SCLs) of participants exposed to slow- or fast-loading versions of the same Web site. In the first study, results showed an erotic image that downloaded slowly heightened the arousal level of audience members more than the same image when downloaded at a faster speed.

"That's a somewhat counter-intuitive result," Sundar said. "That outcome and the concept of download speed in general represent one of the important theoretical contributions of the study. Download speed is alien to users of traditional media such as television. On the Internet, it provides an almost ever-present consideration.

"We believe many practical uses exist through a better understanding of download speed and its impact," he added. "For example, given that arousal is positively related to memory, sites that generate greater physiological excitation are likely to be more memorable. Also, slow downloading can be effectively harnessed by interface designers and Web site developers to improve audience involvement in their sites."

Skin conductance levels, a psychophysiological measure of the degree to which sweat glands get activated by calculating the level of electrical conductance through the skin, provide a common tool for communications researchers because the levels allow researchers to estimate people's arousal responses. SCLs measure only the intensity, not the nature or kind, of emotion and the increased levels noted in the experiments could be a result of either anticipation or frustration as a result of download speed. Still, while researchers could not differentiate between those emotions, they did show download speed affected how audience members related to the content that was transferred from the Web to their computers.

In each of the experimental designs, audience members exposed to slow-downloading pages and then given the opportunity to freely browse the Web were more active in their investigations. They tried more hyperlinks and visited more sites than audience members who viewed pages with faster initial download speeds. In the past, such behavioral and physiological impacts were understood only as a result of the content of communication, not the manner in which the information was delivered.
-end-


Penn State

Related Internet Articles from Brightsurf:

Towards an unhackable quantum internet
Harvard and MIT researchers have found a way to correct for signal loss with a prototype quantum node that can catch, store and entangle bits of quantum information.

Swimming toward an 'internet of health'?
In recent years, the seemingly inevitable 'internet of things' has attracted considerable attention: the idea that in the future, everything in the physical world -- machines, objects, people -- will be connected to the internet.

Everything will connect to the internet someday, and this biobattery could help
In the future, small paper and plastic devices will be able to connect to the internet for a short duration, providing information on everything from healthcare to consumer products, before they are thrown away.

Your body is your internet -- and now it can't be hacked
Purdue University engineers have tightened security on the 'internet of body.' Now, the network you didn't know you had is only accessible by you and your devices, thanks to technology that keeps communication signals within the body itself.

What's next for smart homes: An 'Internet of Ears?'
A pair of electrical engineering and computer science professors in Cleveland, Ohio, have been experimenting with a new suite of smart-home sensors.

Child-proofing the Internet of Things
As many other current, and potentially future, devices can connect to the Internet researchers are keen to learn more about how so called IoT devices could affect the privacy and security of young people.

Quantum internet goes hybrid
ICFO researchers report the first demonstration of an elementary link of a hybrid quantum information network, using a cold atomic cloud and a doped crystal as quantum nodes as well as single telecom photons as information carriers.

Connecting up the quantum internet
Major leap for practical building blocks of a quantum internet: Published in Nature Physics, new research from an Australian team demonstrates how to dramatically improve the storage time of a telecom-compatible quantum memory, a vital component of a global quantum network.

Internet searches for suicide after '13 Reasons Why'
Internet searches about suicide were higher than expected after the release of the Netflix series '13 Reasons Why' about the suicide of a fictional teen that graphically shows the suicide in its finale, according to a new research letter published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Weaponizing the internet for terrorism
Writing in the International Journal of Collaborative Intelligence, researchers from Nigeria suggest that botnets and cyber attacks could interfere with infrastructure, healthcare, transportation, and power supply to as devastating an effect as the detonation of explosives of the firing of guns.

Read More: Internet News and Internet Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.