Tag Archives: credibility

A sociologist’s guide to trust and design

Coye Cheshire at a recent seminar at UC Berkeley’s BID Lab entitled "Trust, Trustworthiness, or Assurance? Considerations for Online Interaction and Technology-Mediated Communication" Pic by Heather Ford licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.

Trust. The word gets bandied about a lot when talking about the Web today. We want people to trust our systems. Companies are supposedly building “trusted computing” and “designing for trust”.

But, as sociologist Coye Cheshire, Professor at the School of Information at UC Berkeley will tell you, trust is a thing that happens between people not things. When we talk about trust in systems, we’re actually often talking about the related concepts of reliability or credibility.

Designing for trustworthiness

Take trustworthiness, for example. Trustworthiness is a characteristic that we infer based on other characteristics. It’s an assessment of a person’s future behaviour and it’s theoretically linked to concepts like perceived competence and motivations. When we think about whom to ask to watch our bags at the airport, for example, we look around and base our decision to trust someone on perceived competence (do they look like they could apprehend someone if someone tried to steal something?) and/or motivation (do they look like they need my bag or the things inside it?)

Although we can’t really design for trust we can design symbols to signal competence or motivation by using things like trust badges or seals that signal what Cheshire calls “trust-warranting” characteristics. We can also expose through design the “symptoms” of trust – by-products of actions that are associated with trust such as high customer satisfaction. But again, by designing trust seals or exposing customer reviews, we’re not actually designing trust into a system. We’re just helping people make decisions about who might behave in their interest in the future.Read More… A sociologist’s guide to trust and design