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

See all articles by Eyal Ert

Eyal Ert

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dept. of Environmental Economics and Management

Aliza Fleischer

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Agricultural Economics and Management

Date Written: August 31, 2017

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Ert, Eyal and Fleischer, Aliza, What in a Photo Makes You Trust a Person Online? A Structural Equation Modeling Approach (August 31, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2992043 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2992043

Eyal Ert (Contact Author)

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dept. of Environmental Economics and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 12
Rehovot, 76100
Israel

Aliza Fleischer

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Agricultural Economics and Management ( email )

P.O.Box 12
Rehovot 76100
Israel

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