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Overcoming cognitive and motivational barriers for networking: contact recommendation systems in professional settings

Junior Research groupSocial Media
FundingLeibniz-WissenschaftsCampus "Cognitive Interfaces"
Project description

Professional social network sites like Xing are becoming increasingly popular. Especially for so-called knowledge workers, a diverse social network can provide access to non-redundant information and thus promote creativity and inventiveness. However, many users prefer to connect with people they already know. The project dealt with the question of which factors have a positive or negative effect on professional networking behavior and how these can be encouraged or circumvented.

In the project, a questionnaire study was first conducted to investigate factors influencing online and offline networking. It was found that cognitive factors, or more precisely, the knowledge of the benefits of networking, play a role. Compared to offline networking, online networking has the advantage that the anxiety towards unknown people has less impact. In a series of experiments, it was then investigated how users can be triggered to form more diverse networks. It was found that it already helps when more diverse people are recommended as potential contacts or when instead of the amount of similarities, the amount of complementary skills is emphasized. Displaying explanations of why a person with a different professional background or other skills might be useful also increases the likelihood that a contact request is sent to a less similar person. From the results of the studies, recommendations were derived both for the design of the recommendation systems of business networks and the users of such networks.


Jun.-Prof. Dr. Enkelejda Kasneci (Department of Computer Science, University of Tübingen)


Baumann, L., & Utz, S. (2021). Professional networking: Exploring differences between offline and online networking. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 15(1), Article 2. Open Access

Baumann, L., & Utz, S. (2019). How to encourage people to build diverse business networks? Proceedings of the 2019 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM). (pp. 474-479). New York : ACM.


Prof. Dr. Sonja Utz Prof. Dr. Sonja Utz
Tel.: +49 7071 979-308

Project team

Lea Baumann