Theory of Interactive Media Effects

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Alternate Name(s)


Main Dependent Construct(s)/Factor(s)

Perception, Knowledge, Attitudes, Behaviors

Main Independent Construct(s)/Factor(s)

Affordances, cues, actions

Concise Description of Theory

The Theory of Interactive Media Effects (TIME) argues that the features of medium of communication, in addition to the source and content of messages, affects engagement and interaction of individuals involved in the communication (Sundar, Jia, Waddell, & Huang, 2015). Since the communication technologies have evolved to heightened levels overtime and continue to do so, it is imperative that their nature and role in communication is studied. TIME explains effect of communication technologies on humans’ in terms of affordances (Sundar et al., 2015). In the domain of human-computer interaction, affordances are seen as perceived properties of the system that could drive users to operate the system in different ways (Sundar et al., 2015). TIME accounts for two routes of affordances: the action route and the cue route. The action route apart from acting as just a means to communicate, also have psychological impacts on users’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours (Sundar et al., 2015). Whereas, the cue route relates to the mere presence of interface cues and their effect on users’ perception. The theory incorporates four models to explain the propositions which relate predictors, mediating variables, and outcomes. The models used are Interactivity Effects Model, Agency Model, Motivational Technology Model, and the MAIN (Modality-Agency-Interactivity-Navigability) Model. The MAIN model explains the effects due cue route and the rest three explain the action route of TIME. TIME was published in the year 2015, in The Handbook of the Psychology of Communication Technology.

Diagram/Schematic of Theory

Originating Author(s)

S. Shyam Sundar, Haiyan Jia, T. Franklin Waddell, Yan Huang

Seminal Articles

Sundar, S. S., Jia, H., Waddell, T. F., & Huang, Y. (2015). Toward a Theory of Interactive Media Effects (TIME). The Handbook of the Psychology of Communication Technology, 47–86.

Originating Area

Communication Research

Level of Analysis


IS Articles that use the theory

Ruoxu Wang & S. Shyam Sundar (2018) How does Parallax Scrolling Influence User Experience? A Test of TIME (Theory of Interactive Media Effects), International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 34:6, 533-543, DOI: 10.1080/10447318.2017.1373457

Bo Zhang, S. Shyam Sundar, Proactive vs. reactive personalization: Can customization of privacy enhance user experience?. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Volume 128, 2019, Pages 86-99, ISSN 1071-5819,

Sundar, S. S. (2020). Rise of Machine Agency: A Framework for Studying the Psychology of Human – AI Interaction ( HAII ). 25(July 2019), 74–88.

Links from this theory to other theories

Self-Determination Theory, Theory of Affordances

External Links

Angel Hsing-Chi Hwang, Jeeyun Oh, Interacting with background music engages E-Customers more: The impact of interactive music on consumer perception and behavioral intention, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Volume 54, 2020, 101928, ISSN 0969-6989,

“Digital advertising: theory and research (3rd edition)”, Shelly Rodgers and Esther Thorson: ISBN 978-1-315-62325-2, Routledge, New York and London, 2017. DOI- 10.1007/s40558-017-0094-3

Lee, H., Xu, Y. and Porterfield, A. (2020), "Consumers' adoption of AR-based virtual fitting rooms: from the perspective of theory of interactive media effects", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.


Diksha Singh, Doctoral Student at Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India

Date last updated


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