The Mind’s Eye on Personal Profiles: A Cognitive Perspective on Profile Elements that Inform Initial Trustworthiness Assessments and Social Awareness in Virtual Project Teams
Collaboration in virtual project teams heavily relies on interpersonal trust, for which perceived professional trustworthiness is an important determinant. In face to face teams colleagues form a first impression of each others trustworthiness based on signs and signals that are ‘naturally’ available. However, virtual project team members do not have the same opportunities to assess trustworthiness. This study provides insight in the information elements that virtual project team members value to assess professional trustworthiness in the initial phase of collaboration. The trustworthiness formed initially is highly influential on interpersonal trust formed during latter collaboration. We expect trustors in virtual teams to especially value information elements (= small containers for personal data stimulating the availability of specific information) that provide them with relevant cues of trust warranting properties of a trustee. We identified a list with fifteen information elements that were highly valued across trustors ( n = 226) to inform their trustworthiness assessments. We then analyzed explanations for preferences with the help of a theory-grounded coding scheme for perceived trustworthiness. Results show that respondents value those particular information elements that provide them with multiple cues (signaling multiple trust warranting properties) to assess the trustworthiness of a trustee. Information elements that provide unique cues (signaling for a specific trust warranting property) could not be identified. Insight in these information preferences can inform the design of artefacts, such as personal profile templates, to support acquaintanceships and social awareness especially in the initial phase of a virtual project team.