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Nonverbal content and swift trust: An experiment on digital communication
Nobuyuki Hanaki
Adam Zylberstejn
2021, Economic Inquiry, 59(4), pp.1517-1532
digital communication
hidden action
nonverbal content
principal-agent relationship
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 e ect 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.
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