Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Antecedents and Distinctions between Online Trust and Distrust: Predicting High- and Low-Risk Internet Behaviors

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Antecedents and Distinctions between Online Trust and Distrust: Predicting High- and Low-Risk Internet Behaviors

Article excerpt


While previous studies have investigated the determinants and consequences of online trust, online distrust has seldom been studied. Assuming that the positive antecedents of online trust are necessarily negative antecedents of online distrust or that positive consequences of online trust are necessarily negatively affected by online distrust is inappropriate. This study examines the different antecedents of online trust and distrust in relation to consumer and website characteristics. Moreover, this study further examines whether online trust and distrust asymmetrically affect behaviors with different risk levels. A model is developed and tested using a survey of 1,153 online consumers. LISREL was employed to test the proposed model. Overall, different consumer and website characteristics influence online trust and distrust, and online trust engenders different behavioral outcomes to online distrust. The authors also discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of the study findings.

Keywords: trust, distrust, prospect theory, low- and high-risk Internet behaviors

1. Introduction

Trust is a vital relationship concept but requires clarification because its definition varies in different disciplines, including psychology, sociology, social psychology, and economics [Lewicki et al. 1998; Luo 2002; McKnight and Chervany 2001]. However, all definitions of trust agree that it is important for fostering successful relationships, reducing uncertainty and risk, and increasing willingness to purchase. This critical role of trust has been the focus of numerous studies in recent decades [e.g., Cho 2006; Doney & Cannon 1997; Grabner-Kräuter & Kaluscha, 2003; Jap & Anderson 2003; Palmatier et al. 2006; Shankar et al. 2002], which primarily emphasize understanding antecedents, consequences, and exchange mechanisms. Several parameters have been proposed with the potential to affect trust, including advice [Urban et al. 2000], community features [Muniz & O'Guinn 2001], absence of errors [Bart et al. 2005], and fairness [Chen & Chou 2012]. Trust also affects other parameters such as consumer satisfaction and loyalty [Lu et al. 2012; Sirdeshmukh et al. 2002] as well as information disclosure [Zimmer et al. 2010].

While the extant literature on trust has revealed how trust can be developed and maintained, it has relatively neglected the topic of distrust. The lack of investigation is largely due to a commonly held assumption that trust and distrust are two sides of the same coin. Consequently, evidence of high trust has typically been regarded as equivalent to low distrust, and the antecedents and outcomes of trust have been regarded as the opposite of those of distrust. In previous academic studies, distrust was implicitly assumed to be the opposite end of the same conceptual spectrum as trust. For example, sociologists describe trust as cooperative conduct and distrust as noncooperative conduct in a complex exchange relationship [Coleman 1990]. Moreover, scholars analyze both trust and distrust as mechanisms for coping with social complexity and consider them functional equivalents, substitutes, or simply antonyms [Lewis & Weigert 1985]. According to this definition, high trust equals low distrust, and low trust equals high distrust.

However, recently scholars have identified distrust as a distinct construct different from trust [Cho 2006; Dimoka 2010; Kramer 1999; Lewicki et al. 1998; Ou & Sia 2010]. Therefore, trust and distrust must be reexamined to determine whether they have different antecedents and whether they have diverse consequences. Besides examining the distinction between trust and distrust, this study presents a comprehensive empirical account of the possible coexistence of trust and distrust.

Although this study defines online trust and distrust in reciprocal terms, it views them as distinct and separate constructs. This study defines online trust as positive expectations regarding beneficial conduct of an e-vendor, characterized as reliance, confidence, and assurance. …

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