Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Research shows that enforcing cooperation using contracts or tangible sanctions can backfire, undermining people’s intrinsic motivation to cooperate: when the enforcement is removed, people are less trusting or trustworthy than when there is no enforcement to begin with.The author examines whether reputation systems have similar consequences for generalized trust and trustworthiness. Using a web-based experiment simulating online market transactions (studies 1 and 2), he shows that reputation systems can reinforce generalized trust and trustworthiness, unlike contractual enforcement or relational enforcement based on repeated interactions. In a survey experiment (study 3), he finds that recalling their eBay feedback scores made participants more trusting and trustworthy.These results are predicated on the diffuse nature of reputational enforcement to reinforce perceptions of trust and trustworthiness. These results have implications for understanding how different forms of governance affect generalized trust and trustworthiness.