ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

We studied the emergence of trust in a social dilemma game in four different communication situations: face-to-face, video, audio, and text chat. Three-person groups did 30 rounds of a social dilemma game and we measured trust by the extent to which they cooperated vs. competed. The face-to-face groups quickly achieved cooperative behavior, while the text chat groups continued to compete throughout. The video groups achieved the same levels of trust as the face-to-face groups, although perhaps a bit more slowly. The audio group was intermediate. These results show that trust can emerge through mediated communication.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Being there versus seeing there: Trust via video
Nathan Bos, Darren Gergle, Judith S. Olson, Gary M. Olson
Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work (CREW)
School of Information, University of Michigan
701 Tappan Suite E2420
Ann Arbor, MI USA 48019
+1 734-647-7730
{serp, dgergle, jsolson, gmo}@umich.edu
ABSTRACT
We studied the emergence of trust in a social dilemma
game in four different communication situations: face-to-
face, video, audio, and text chat. Three-person groups did
30 rounds of a social dilemma game and we measured
trust by the extent to which they cooperated vs. competed.
The face-to-face groups quickly achieved cooperative
behavior, while the text chat groups continued to compete
throughout. The video groups achieved the same levels of
trust as the face-to-face groups, although perhaps a bit
more slowly. The audio group was intermediate. These
results show that trust can emerge through mediated
communication.
Keywords
Trust, social dilemmas, communication, media
INTRODUCTION
There is increasing interest in the nature of trust over the
Internet. The organizational consultant Charles Handy [1]
has received widespread attention for his strong claim that
“trust takes touch.” Does it? A study by Rocco [2] showed
how powerful even brief direct contact can be. She found
that groups meeting over email could not develop enough
trust to reach the optimal outcome in a social dilemma,
whereas groups meeting face-to-face did so easily and
quickly. However, in a third condition, groups that
interacted via e-mail developed trust if they had a brief
face-to-face meeting prior to the experiment.
Our research sought to extend Rocco’s results. We asked
whether other forms of computer-mediated-communication
(CMC) might lead to the formation of trust. In particular,
we looked at groups doing a social dilemma task who
interacted over video, over phone conferencing, and via a
text chat. All these media are more interactive than e-mail,
but less “rich” than face-to-face interactions.
We expected that video might be sufficiently rich to allow
trust to emerge in a social dilemma game. Audio only was
less clear, since it clearly offers fewer cues than video.
Chat
seemed as if it would be close to e-mail, though it is a bit
more interactive than the latter. So our range of conditions
offers a way to assess the character of communication
needed for trust to emerge in this setting.
METHOD
Forty-five three-person groups played a game called
Daytrader, where they periodically communicated with
other players via one of four media: face-to-face,
videoconference, phone conference, or in an Internet
chatroom.
The Daytrader game is in the general class of games called
social dilemmas. Well-known social dilemmas include the
Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Problem of the Commons.
Social dilemmas are defined as situations where the best
interest of the group as a whole conflicts with the best
interest of each individual, so that if each looks out only
for oneself, all lose. In a multi-round social dilemma, the
maximum group benefit accrues only when the group
develops a level of trust, and each individual agrees to act
cooperatively.
In the Daytrader game, players are given 30 tokens each
round of the game and must decide whether to invest as an
individual or risk investing with the group. The individual
investment yields a guaranteed doubling of the payoff
every round. In the group investment all three players’
contributions are lumped together, multiplied by 3, and
then distributed back evenly. So an individual can receive
triple from the group when everyone contributes, but also
risks losing when other players hold back. There was also
a bonus of 90 tokens is given every five rounds to
whichever player made the most money in the previous
five rounds. This bonus has the effect of giving a windfall
profit to players who contribute less than other group
members. (When players invest identical amounts for
five rounds, i.e. cooperate, the bonus is split.) Groups play
30 rounds of this game in total, with discussions held
every five rounds via one of four media channels.
Subjects for this experiment were mostly students or others
affiliated with the University. All were unacquainted
before the study, and never interacted with each other
except via their particular experimental condition. Subjects
were paid according to how well they did in the game,
with each ‘token’ worth 1 cent, and each participant
guaranteed to make at least $15.
RESULTS
We used the total payoff earned by a group to measure the
degree of cooperation – the higher the total group payoff
the more the cooperation. By implication this measures
trust.
FTF Video Audio Text Chat
Communication Condition
5500
6000
6500
7000
7500
Mean Group Payoff
_
_
_
_
Figure 1. Average total group payoffs in four conditions
ANOVA showed a significant difference among the four
conditions (F(3,41) = 6.54, P < .002). The means and
deviations for the four conditions were: FTF n=9, mean=
7599, s.d.=211; Video n=14, mean=7531, s.d.=305; Audio
n=13, mean=7262, s.d.=520; Chat n=9, mean=6859,
s.d.=645. The four conditions produced results ordered as
we predicted, with face-to-face the most cooperative and
quick to build trust, followed by video, audio, and text chat
conditions. A post-hoc comparison using Bonferroni’s test
(regarded as a conservative test) found significant
differences in f-t-f vs. chat and video vs. chat.
Figure 2. Round by round group contribution averages
across four conditions
Figure 2 shows the trial-by-trail performance of the
groups. The top line (FTF) indicates that trust in the face-
to-face condition forms quickly, and continues throughout.
Video also converges at the maximum, but takes somewhat
longer, and the audio (phone) condition takes longer still,
with more variation throughout. The text chat average
does not converge on the maximum at any point, (although
some individual chat groups did cooperate fully by the
end).
Another noteworthy feature of figure 2 are the vertical
dropoffs occurring on a 5 round cycle, with a final dropoff
at the end. The dropoffs are the results of defections
within the game, typically where one player violates an
agreement and the other players rapidly retaliate. The tops
of the spikes are the rounds immediately after discussions,
when cooperation has been re-established. The dropoff at
the end, which is visible in all four conditions, is the result
of last-round defections at the end of the game. A t-test
comparing rounds 29 and 30 showed a large significant
difference (P<.000) between the group investments in
these rounds.
Post-questionnaires on group trust confirm the differences
between the conditions. A 10-item scale measuring the
trustworthiness of the group members (alpha = .96)
including items such as “the other players in the game
could be trusted” was significantly different between
conditions (F(3, 142) = 8.16, P<.000).
DISCUSSION
Videoconferencing may be as good as face-to-face for
building trust. In this experiment video was
indistinguishable from face-to-face, and both were
significantly better than text chat. Although we cannot yet
statistically separate the phone condition, it appears that
phone is somewhere in between text chat and video for
trust building.
It does appear that trust forms more slowly in mediated
conditions. Figure 2 shows that it took video and audio
some time to ‘catch up’ with the face-to-face groups.
Groups using mediated communications seem more likely
to form partial agreements (e.g. “lets all contribute 15,
then 20…”) rather than fully cooperate from the
beginning.
The defections on trial 30 suggest that the kind of trust
that was formed in all of these conditions may be
vulnerable to opportunistic behavior, even when face-to-
face. Late-round defections are a well-known phenomena
in social dilemmas. Our data may allow more insight into
when these are likely to occur, and how communication
affects it. Additional analysis will examine both slow trust
and defection events.
In sum, we have demonstrated that trust can emerge in
mediated conditions. These results are a major extension
of the work reported by Rocco [2], with application for
many forms of distributed collaboration. But our data
suggest that this kind of trust may be fragile. Additional
experimental studies can help clarify this. Field studies
will also be useful to examine whether these mediated
interactions can lead to enduring trust in real
organizations.
Acknowledgements
This work was supported by National Science Foundation
grant IIS 9977923 to the Olsons.
References
[1] Handy, C. (1995) Trust and the virtual organization.
Harvard Business Review. 73(3), 40-50.
Round Number
302826242220181614121086
Mean Group Payoff
280
260
240
220
200
180
160
140
120
FTF
Video
Audio
Text Chat
[2] Rocco, E. Trust breaks down in electronic contexts but
can be repaired by some initial face-to-face contact, Conference proceedings on human factors in computing
systems, 1998, pp496-502.
... Scholars from different disciplines may lack a shared foundation around key issues, literature, methodologies, and research practices-creating opportunities both for miscommunication and growth in scientific settings and demanding extended periods to forge common understandings and a shared language (Cummings and Kiesler, 2005). Other studies identify communication issues that emerge (Bos et al., 2001;Olson and Olson, 2003) and networked research groups' preferences for face-to-face meetings over digitally mediated communication (Bos et al., 2008). Challenges also stem from the institutional structures that house networked research. ...
... In the end, experiencing trade-offs and challenges in the context of collaborative research is not unusual (Bos et al., 2001;Olson and Olson, 2003), yet it highlights the complexity of the dual goals at the heart of a research collaboration that is simultaneously training large numbers of undergraduate researchers and advancing significant scientific research objectives. ...
Article
Biology research is becoming increasingly dependent on large-scale, "big data," networked research initiatives. At the same time, there has been a corresponding effort to expand undergraduate participation in research to benefit student learning and persistence in science. This essay examines the confluence of this trend through eight years of a collaboration within a successful biology research network that explicitly incorporates undergraduates into large-scale scientific research. We draw upon interviews with faculty in this network to consider the interplay of scientific and pedagogical objectives at the heart of this undergraduate-focused network research project. We identify ways that this network has expanded and diversified access to scientific knowledge production for faculty and students and examine a goal conflict that emerged around the dual objectives of mentoring emerging scientists while producing high-quality scientific data for the larger biology community. Based on lessons learned within this network, we provide three recommendations that can support institutions and faculty engaging in networked research projects with undergraduates: (1) establish rigorous protocols to ensure data and database quality, (2) protect personnel time to coordinate network and scientific processes, and (3) select appropriate partners and establish explicit expectations for specific collaborations.
... Compared to a traditional approach, synchronous media sharing promoted equal levels of perceived self-disclosure and trust, greater levels of warranting and relatedness, and formation of trust not susceptible to individual differences in agreeableness. Rather than considering video chat as a potentially inferior place to meet [12,13], we show that this synchronous digital context can be leveraged to build new interactive experiences that effectively support people in getting to know each other. ...
... Most of the time, masks thus serve as a means to protect others in the case of an infection 16 . On the other hand, face masks cover large parts of the face, making face recognition difficult [17][18][19] and hiding expressions that are important to evaluate trustworthiness and establish trust 20,21 . Moreover, masks have become a controversial and politically charged topic 22,23 . ...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the widespread use of face masks to combat COVID-19, little is known about their social and behavioral consequences. To understand the impact of face masks on interpersonal trust, we designed a novel experiment to assess the causal impact of face mask use on whether individuals follow economically relevant advice from a stranger. From a survey of more than 2000 US citizens, conducted during July and August 2020, we find that almost 5% fewer individuals trust advice when it is given by someone wearing a mask than when it is given by someone not wearing a mask. While, surprisingly, health-related risks do not seem to alter the way masks affect trust, the effects of masks are particularly large among individuals whose households face economic risks due to COVID-19 and those with below-average normative beliefs about mask wearing. Our results highlight the non-health-related meaning that face masks have developed during COVID-19 and suggest that mask use undermines trust in others among a substantial share of the US population.
... Physical presence: Presence research examines the effect of presence or sense of presence on different variables (Bos et al., 2001). Research in this area is becoming increasingly significant as many interactions in our lives are now mediated by online spheres in which people are not physically present. ...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose The study examines the impact of presence, synchronicity of exposure and other variables on allocative decisions reached following a participatory budgeting event. Design/methodology/approach The study analyzes the distributive decisions reached following a participatory budgeting event, which took place in an academic institution, and students were asked to determine the distribution of a portion of the student union budget. Some students viewed the event live (physically or remotely), while others watched it in delay. Findings The main variable affecting allocative decisions was whether decision-makers were exposed to the event physically or remotely. There was a significant and large difference between allocation decisions of participants who were physically present at the event and those who were exposed to it remotely. Practical implications The discussion elaborates on the implications of the findings for the importance of presence and media selection in public engagement events. Originality/value Public engagement events are becoming widespread, with the Internet being a major tool in their administration. This study demonstrates that using the Internet to make such events accessible to the non-physically present can create significant changes in decisions reached by participants.
... Most of the time, masks thus serve as a means to protect others in the case of an infection [16]. On the other hand, face masks cover large parts of the face, making face recognition difficult [17][18][19] and hiding expressions that are important to evaluate trustworthiness and establish trust [20,21]. Moreover, masks have become a controversial and politically charged topic [22,23]. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Despite the widespread use of face masks to combat COVID-19, little is known about their social and behavioral consequences. To understand the impact of face masks on interpersonal trust, we designed a novel experiment to assess the causal impact of face mask use on whether individuals follow economically relevant advice from a stranger. From a survey of more than 2,000 US citizens conducted during July and August 2020, we find that almost 5 percent fewer individuals trust advice when it is given by someone wearing a mask than when it is given by someone not wearing a mask. While, surprisingly, health-related risks do not seem to alter the way masks affect trust, the effects of masks are particularly large among individuals whose households face economic risks due to COVID-19 and those with below-average normative beliefs about mask wearing. Our results highlight the non-health-related meaning that face masks have developed during COVID-19 and suggest that mask use undermines trust in others among a substantial share of the US population.
... The synchronous meeting (using rich technology) can help develop a shared understanding of the team's processes, goals, and individual team members' areas of expertise. Moreover, as research indicates, meeting synchronously can assist in establishing trust among team members (Bos et al., 2001). On top of the initial synchronous meeting, instructors can implement additional small changes by encouraging teams to hold synchronous meetings at other important junctures in their projects (e.g., half-way point, revision stage). ...
... found in [16]). Yet, trust is not easily established by textual communication [23,32]. Therefore, this lack of trust should not be treated as an issue which can be addressed by knowledge transfer and will not be regarded in the remainder of this work. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Nowadays, most users need more passwords than they can handle. Consequently, users have developed a multitude of strategies to cope with this situation. Some of these coping strategies are based on misconceptions about password security. In such cases, the users are unaware of their insecure password practices. Addressing the misconceptions is vital in order to decrease insecure coping strategies. We conducted a systematic literature review with the goal to provide an overview of the misconceptions about password security. Our literature review revealed that misconceptions exist in basically all aspects of password security. Furthermore, we developed interventions to address these misconceptions. Then, we evaluated the interventions' effectiveness in decreasing the misconceptions at three small and medium sized enterprises (SME). Our results show that the interventions decrease the overall prevalence of misconceptions significantly in the participating employees.
Article
Full-text available
As communication technology capabilities have improved and the globalization of the workforce has resulted in distributed teams, organizations have been shifting towards virtual teams and virtual meetings over the last decade. This trend has been accelerated with current work-from-home orders due to COVID-19. Even though virtual collaboration has, in the past, been the focus of multiple studies, there are some surprising gaps in our knowledge. For instance, there are few empirical studies examining the impact of virtual devices and tools on creative problem-solving. While there is a substantial body of research on electronic brainstorming and the use of virtual tools for idea generation, less is known about earlier processes such as problem construction or later processes such as idea evaluation and idea selection. Furthermore, as a dynamic process, creativity and innovation is heavily influenced by the people engaged in the process and their collaborative environment, yet there is a gap in the literature regarding the type of virtual tools used in the process (i.e., audio + video vs. audio alone, or the use of file-sharing technologies). In this paper, we will review the current literature on virtual teams, virtual meetings, and creativity. We will then explore theoretical frameworks such as media richness theory that can help us understand how virtuality and virtual tools may influence team creativity across the dynamic range of the creative problem-solving process. Finally, given the limited research in the domain of virtual team creativity we provide questions to help guide future research. Research questions will help identify those areas where virtual teams may be beneficial for creativity and areas where virtual teams may be likely to perform less effectively on creative tasks.
Chapter
This paper explores how management practices shape the way dispersed communities of practice (CoPs) function. The analysis is a case study of a dispersed community engaged in conducting and managing collaborative research. The analysis uses data from a social network survey and semi-structured interviews to capture the management practices in the community and demonstrate how they are linked to the patterns of information flows and communication.This analysis is a test case for the broader issue of how distributed communities function. It shows that even highly distributed CoPs may have a dual life: they exist both online and offline, in both face-to-face meetings and email exchanges of their participants. The study examines a dispersed community engaged in conducting and managing collaborative research. The analysis uses data from a social network survey and interviews to examine its managerial practices, information exchanges and communication practices.
Article
To understand the social and legal issues posed by suicide-related communications over the Internet (messages of threatened suicide and advocated suicide), this article examines a selection of cases involving different types of online baiting and harassment that illustrate different legal and technological issues. The anonymity afforded by computer-mediated communication allows bullies to harass vulnerable individuals and leak (disclose) their personal information. Computer mediation of communication potentially diffuses responsibility; imposes a temporal asynchrony between signified intent and audience response; and reduces the empathy that might motivate observers or witnesses to intervene and render assistance, factors that make online baiting a serious social, legal and technological problem. Potential actions (both legal and technological) for addressing this problem are outlined.