The role of para-social relationship in live streaming virtual gift purchase: a two-stage SEM-neural network analysis

Fangfang Hou, Boying Li, Zhengzhi Guan, Alain Chong, Chee Wei Phang

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Despite the burgeoning popularity of virtual gifting in live streaming, research lacks an in-depth understanding of the drivers behind this behavior. Using para-social relationship (PSR), this study aims to capture viewers’ lively social feelings toward the streamer as the key factor leading to the purchase behavior of virtual gifts. It also aims to establish a theoretical link between PSR and viewers’ holistic experience in live streaming as captured by cognitive absorption and aims to investigates the role of technological features (i.e. viewer–streamer and viewer–viewer interactivity, streamer-level and viewer-level deep profiling and design aesthetics) in shaping viewers’ experience. Design/methodology/approach: Based on 433 survey responses, this study employs a combination of structural equation modeling and neural networks to offer valuable insights into the relationships between the technological environment, viewer experience and viewer behavior. Findings: Our results highlight the salience of PSR in promoting the purchase of virtual gifts through cognitive absorption and the importance of the technological environment in eliciting the viewer experience. This study sheds light on the development of PSR in a technological environment and its relationship with cognitive absorption. Originality/value: By applying PSR to conceptualize viewers’ perceived connection with the streamer, this study extends the research on purchase behavior in the non-shopping context by providing an enlightened understanding of virtual gift purchase behavior in live streaming. Moreover, by theoretically linking PSR with cognitive absorption, virtual gift purchase and technological features of live streaming, it enriches the theory of PSR and bridges the gap between the design practice of supporting the IT infrastructure of live streaming and research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternet Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Cognitive absorption
  • Live streaming
  • Para-Social relationship
  • Technological features
  • Virtual gift purchase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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