A Two-Process View of Trust and Distrust Building in Recommendation Agents: A Process-Tracing Study

Lay Summary 

Trust and distrust are fundamental concepts in information technology (IT) design. We define trust (distrust) as confident positive (negative) expectations regarding another’s conduct while a trust (distrust)-building process is a customer’s favourable (unfavourable) interpretation of his or her interactions with an information system. In the context of web-based product recommendation agents (RA) -- a type of personalization technology – a customer must first trust an RA before acting on its advice. Prior research on this topic is limited by not only being largely theoretical, but assuming that if a design builds trust it automatically reduces distrust. This research explores the view that trust-building and distrust-building processes are systematically different. It also looks at the patterns of trust-building and distrust-building processes, as well as the effects of a personalized RA.

A sample of 49 university students was asked to use two commercial RAs to shop for notebook computers while verbalizing their ongoing thought processes. This information was then transcribed and independently analyzed by two judges. Results showed that the trust-building and distrust-building processes are separate and significantly different; major trust processes including Competence Attribution, Information Sharing Evaluation, Verification and Expectation Evaluation while distrust was largely affected by “Awareness of Unknown” Interpretation, Competence Attribution and Expectation Evaluation processes. Additionally, the more personalized RA was viewed by the subjects to be more trustworthy than a less personalized RA.

As the understanding of trust-building and distrust-building processes increases, more effective recommendation agents can be designed for online customers. Our empirical evidence suggests that trust-building processes differ from distrust-building processes. Therefore, in order to create more trustworthy RA’s, designers must take both trust and distrust processes into account and not focus on trust alone.

Publishing: Benbasat, I and Komiak, Y. X., 2008. “A Two Process View of Trust and Distrust Building in Recommendation Agents: A Process-Tracing Study.” Journal of the Association for Information Systems 12: 727-747

Faculty of Business Administration
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Information Technology
Industry Sectors 
Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services
Economic Zones 
Zone 19 - Northeast Avalon
Rural Secretariat Regions 
Avalon Peninsula
Start date 
1 Jan 2008