How Linguistic Features of Seller Profiles in the Sharing Economy Predict Trustworthiness

Authors Maarten ter Huurne, Jonas Moons, Amber Ronteltap, Rense Corten
Published in OSF Preprint
Publication date 2017
Research groups Communication in Digital Transition
Type Article


The sharing economy holds promise for the way we consume, work, and interact. However, consuming in the sharing economy is not without risk, as institutional trust measures (e.g. contracts, regulations, guarantees) are often absent. Trust between sellers and buyers is therefore crucial to complete transactions successfully. From a buyer ́s perspective, a seller ́s profile is an important source of information for judging trustworthiness, because it contains multiple trust cues such as a reputation score, a profile picture, and a textual self-description. The effect of a seller’s self-description on perceived trustworthiness is still poorly understood. We examine how the linguistic features of a seller’s self-description predict perceived trustworthiness. To determine the perceived trustworthiness of 259 profiles, 189 real buyers on a Dutch sharing platform rated their trustworthiness. The results show that profiles were perceived as more trustworthy if they contained more words (which could be an indicator of uncertainty reduction), more words related to cooking (indicator of expertise), and more words related to positive emotions (indicator of enthusiasm). Also, a profile’s perceived trustworthiness score correlated positively with the seller’s actual sales performance. These findings indicate that a seller’s self-description is a relevant signal to buyers, eventhough it is cheap talk (i.e. easy to produce). The results can guide sellers on how to self-present themselves on sharing platforms and inform platform owners on how to design their platform so that it enhances trust between platform users.

On this publication contributed

Language English
Published in OSF Preprint
Key words sharing economy, trust, perceived trustworthiness, LIWC, linguistic features, C2C

Maarten ter Huurne

Maarten ter Huurne

Maarten ter Huurne

  • Researcher
  • Research group: Sustainable Communities