Nonverbal Content and Trust: An Experiment on Digital Communication
62 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2020 Last revised: 7 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 7, 2021
We experimentally study the effect of the mode of digital communication on the emergence of swift trust in a principal-agent relationship. We consider three modes of communication that differ in the capacity to transmit nonverbal content: plain text, audio, and video. Communication is pre-play, one-way, and unrestricted, but its verbal content is homogenized across treatments. Overall, both audio and video messages have a positive (and similar) effect on trust as compared to plain text; however, the magnitude of these effects depends on the verbal content of agent's message (promise to act trustworthily vs. no such promise). In all conditions, we observe a positive effect of the agent's promise on the principal's trust. We also report that trust in female principals is sensitive to the availability of nonverbal cues about interaction partners.
Keywords: Digital communication, Trust, Hidden action, Nonverbal content, Principal-agent relationship, Promises
JEL Classification: C72, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation