Effects of specialization of media technology at multiple source layers
upon online trust: The role of information processing in determining e-commerce
Yoon Jeon Koh (PhD Student)
This paper is based on the author's dissertation.
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar
Media specialization has provided psychological superiority (e.g., expertise)
in certain content domains at the levels of a television channel as well
as the TV set. Specialization becomes more importance since it has frequently
been applied to media technology (e.g., computer, web site or web agent)
in an online context, in which multiple media technologies are employed
as sources. Thus, this dissertation attempted to (1) explore the effects
of specialization of media technology at multiple source layers (e.g.,
computer, web site, and web agent) on attitudes (e.g., trust) in HCI and
(2) investigate the mechanisms underlying the effects of specialized media
technologies at multiple source layers on trust toward different trustees
(e.g., media technology and product descriptions) and different dimensions
of trust (e.g., cognitive and affective trust), with a focus on the role
played by the nature of information processing (i.e., heuristic vs. systematic
processing). Based on cognitive psychology, social psychology, and HCI
literatures, with an emphasis on their relation to trust in e-commerce,
two studies were conducted with an online shopping task for purchasing
wines and online questionnaires.
Research Question/ Hypotheses:
H1: Individuals will show greater trust toward specialist media technology
compared to generalist media technology.
H2: The level of specialization of media technology at multiple source
layers will be interactively associated with the individual’s trust
in the media technology.
RQ1: What is the relationship between the level of specialization of media
technology at multiple source layers (e.g., computer, web site, web agent)
and the degree of trust in the media technology?
This study employed a 2 (computer: specialist computer vs. generalist
computer) x 2 (web site: specialist web site vs. generalist web site)
x 2 (web agent: specialist web agent vs. generalist web agent) between-subjects
experimental design. During the online shopping task, each participant
was instructed to place an order after purchasing eight bottles of wine.
Trust in each media technology as dependent variable was measured in the
online questionnaire, which was administered immediately after the online
shopping task. The online questionnaire also included institutional and
dispositional trust as covariates.
Results showed that participants attributed greater expertise to the
media source in the specialist conditions compared to generalist conditions.
Results indicated that individuals showed greater trust toward a specialist
media technology (computer, web agent) than a generalist media technology.
However, there was no significant difference in trust toward web site
between specialist web site and generalist web site conditions. The specialization
effect of web agent appears to translate over to greater trust in the
web site. Moreover, interaction effects revealed that trust in each of
the three sources was enhanced under the following conditions: when the
source was specialized and at least one of the other two layers were specialized,
or when the source was a generalist and both the other sources were specialists.
Figure 1. Three-Way Interaction Effects of the Specialization of Computer,
Web Site, and Web Agent on Trust toward Computer
Figure 2. Three-Way Interaction Effect of the Specialization of Computer,
Web Site, and Web Agent on Trust toward Web Site
Figure 3. Three-Way Interaction Effect of the Specialization of Computer,
Web Site, and Web Agent on Trust toward Web Agent
The study conducted here extended media specialization to the context
of HCI, broadened the media-equation literature in terms of mindless social
responses toward specialized media technology and explored the interactive
effects of media technology at multiple source layers on trust in e-commerce.
However, this study did not offer an explanation regarding how specialization
of media technology at multiple source layers in online communication
may influence either heuristic or systematic information processing. Nor
did the study explore the relationships between modes of information processing
and attitude formations (e.g., trust in different trustees and different
dimensions of trust). Thus, a follow-up experiment was designed to explore
how specialization of media technology at multiple source layers influenced
different modes of information processing depending on the level of specialization,
finally leading to different associations with trust in different trustees
and different dimensions of trust.