Chances are, if you could, you would choose the latter option.
Or . . . at least that’s what researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business concluded during a recent study of 170 students.
In short, it seems that the more impersonal the method of communication people use, the easier it is to be less than truthful.
The study divided students into two groups: “brokers” versus “buyers” of stock.
To encourage participation, the researchers offered cash incentives to those who played brokers based on how much they sold, and to those playing buyers based on the end value of any “stocks” they purchased. Then, the researchers thickened the plot by giving the brokers inside information that the stock they were selling would soon lose half of its value. The buyers would remain completely unaware of this until after the fact.
The student brokers and buyers conducted stock transactions in four ways—face-to-face, via video, by audio and through text messaging.
Once the role play concluded, the buyers were informed about the deception and asked whether they felt deceived by their brokers.
Taking these responses and comparing them with the method of communication used for each transaction, the researchers discovered that those who communicated with brokers through texting by far felt the most deceived, while those who carried out transactions by video reported feeling the least amount of deception. In fact, the text-only group was 95 percent more likely to report feeling deceived than buyers who received their information via video chat, 31 percent more likely than those who communicated face-to-face, and 18 percent more likely than those who used audio only to communicate.
Why did video brokers come across as more honest than even those who conducted business face-to-face?
Possibly these students felt the most scrutinized, and therefore were less likely to use dishonest sales tactics than the brokers using other communication methods, a phenomenon known as “the spotlight effect.”
This certainly provides some proof to those who believe online video marketing sales messages can come across as more trustworthy to prospective buyers than, say, tweets or email messages.
And in more general terms, the study also underscores how using different forms of communication can be both manipulated and perceived. With more and more people communicating via email, phone texting, Skype and through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, both businesses and consumers would be wise to consider not only the content of the messages, but how this content is perceived, as well.
“With this in mind, people shopping online using websites like eBay should consider asking sellers to talk over Skype to ensure they are getting information in the most trustworthy way possible,” concluded Sauder Assoc. Prof. Ronald Cenfetelli, a co-author on the paper.