Mind the Emotional Gap: The Impact of Emotional Costs on Student Learning Outcomes

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Emerald Publishing Limited


Purpose This paper makes a significant contribution to the growing field of digital inequality research by developing an operational definition of emotional costs. To examine this understudied aspect of digital inequalities, we build on Van Dijk’s concept of mental access. We define emotional costs as anxiety toward using information and communication technologies instigated by a lack of prior technology experience and limited computer access. Methodology/approach We examined the influence of emotional costs on lower-income students’ technology efficacy, academic efficacy, and computer application proficiency in the context of a computing intervention. Specifically, we examined the relationship between home and school computer usage with self-perceived technology efficacy, computer application proficiency, and academic efficacy. Data from surveys of 972 students were analyzed in order to better understand the importance of technology access on our outcome variables. We also investigated the possible mediation effects of emotional costs on our outcome variables. Findings The results revealed that home computer usage was a determinant of students’ self-perceived technology efficacy while shared school access was not. After conducting mediation tests, the results further indicated that emotional costs mediate the effects of home computer usage on technology efficacy. Originality/value We conclude that emotional costs might help explain why access inequalities lead to skill inequalities in the context of computing interventions and offer a replicable operational definition for future studies.

Chapter of

Communication and Information Technologies Annual

Part of

Studies in Media and Communications


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