Facebook-to-Facebook: Online Communication and Economic Cooperation

Communication is often critical for economic cooperation and enhancement of trust. Traditionally, direct face-to-face communication has been found to be more effective than any form of indirect, mediated communication. We study whether this is still the case given that many people routinely use texting and online social media to conduct economic transactions. In our laboratory experiment, groups of participants communicate either (i) face-to-face, (ii) through the most popular online social network – Facebook, or (iii) using text messaging, before participating in a public goods or a trust game. While people talk significantly more under traditional face-to-face, discussions through Facebook and text messages prove as effective as face-to-face communication in enhancing cooperation and increasing trust. For all three media, discussions that focus on the game or use more positive emotion words are correlated with enhanced trust. It appears that young American adults are now just as adept at communicating and reducing social distance online as they are in person.

Published version: Anna Lou Abatayo, John Lynham & Katerina Sherstyuk. Facebook-to-Facebook: online communication and economic cooperation. Applied Economics Letters, (2018).

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