What in a Photo Makes You Trust a Person Online? A Structural Equation Modeling Approach
17 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2017 Last revised: 2 Sep 2017
Date Written: August 31, 2017
The use of sellers’ personal photos online is ubiquitous in sharing economy platforms such as Airbnb. These photos generate immediate inferences (first impressions) of people’s trustworthiness that affect online transactions. In this paper, we use a structural equation model (SEM) to examine the complex effects of different facial and image characteristics on the perceived trustworthiness of 320 Airbnb hosts based on their photos. We find that basic facial characteristics such as age, gender, and smile directly affect the perceived trustworthiness of hosts. The use of the structural equation model allows us to differentiate between the direct effects of these characteristics on perceived trustworthiness and their indirect effects that operate via attractiveness. We also show that image characteristics such as photo quality and the inclusion of other people, which are not directly related to the person whose trustworthiness is being assessed, play a significant role in trust inference.
Keywords: trust, attractiveness, sharing economy, facial characteristics, image characteristics
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