The influence of personality traits and basic psychological needs on emotional engagement: An exploration in WeChat discussion


  • Bing Xu The university of auckland
  • Jason M. Stephens The University of Auckland
  • Kerry Lee The University of Auckland



Big Five, Basic psychological needs, emotional engagement, online discussion


Online discussion is often adopted to facilitate students’ interaction and communication in higher education. Student engagement, which is a prerequisite of the expected outcomes in online discussion, has been conceptualized as a multi-component construct with behavioural, cognitive and emotional aspects. Compared to the first two aspects, emotional engagement has received the least empirical investigation. Nonetheless, previous research has proposed emotional engagement is related to student’s motivation and personality traits. This study adopted an exploratory approach investigating the associations between students’ basic psychological needs (BPNS, i.e., autonomy, competence and relatedness), personality traits (i.e., the Big Five) and emotional engagement during WeChat-based discussions. Participants included 94 Chinese university students who voluntarily completed an anonymous online survey measuring the aforementioned factors. As hypothesized, results indicated extroversion, agreeableness, openness and BPNS were positively related to emotional engagement in online discussion. Further mediation analyses indicated BPNS had mediation effects on the relationship between traits and engagement. This is a sign for researchers and practitioners that BPNS might be more important for improving emotional engagement in online discussion settings. The practical suggestions for teachers, research limitations and future work are also offered.