Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 23 Number 1 2006 pp. 183-210

How Hypertext Links Influence Consumer Perceptions to Build and Degrade Trust Online

Stewart, Katherine J

ABSTRACT: This paper suggests and empirically supports the propositions that a link between two organizations' Web sites will have simultaneous effects on trust in both the link sender and the link recipient, and that these effects result from interactions among the reputation of the link recipient, trust in the link sender, and the perceived relationship of the linked organizations. The study finds that the perceived relationship caused by a link leads to positive effects for the less reputable of the linked organizations, but negative effects for the more reputable organization. These effects are exaggerated or attenuated depending on the reputation of the organization that sends the link. The effect of presenting the link as an advertisement or a link to a partner was also examined, but no effect was uncovered, raising the question of how organizations may effectively differentiate links on their Web sites.

Key words and phrases: entitativity, hypertext links, reputation, trust, trust transfer