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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: October 2011

3 - Trust, deception, and identity on the internet


The internet is a defining feature of modern life. Individuals increasingly conduct social interactions online or use other forms of mediated communication, such as text messaging. Understanding how this communication medium affects interpersonal interactions and relationships is a key task for psychologists. Specifically, researchers have been interested in the extent to which individuals are willing to trust others that they encounter online, and the degree to which this trust is justified.

Developing trusting relationships is important if connections forged online are to move to deeper levels. Trusting relationships may be more likely to provide social support and other beneficial outcomes. Of course, just as in offline relationships, appropriate calibration of trust levels is also important. If individuals are too trusting in their online interactions, others may take advantage of them. An optimal level of trust is one in which the person is open to gaining deep and fulfilling relationships, but is not gullible enough to be cheated or taken advantage of (Rotter, 1980; Yamagishi, 2001).

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