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IACM 2023

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Smartphone Use Decreases Trustworthiness of Strangers

Trust is crucial for social, economic, and political relationships. Without trust, it is hard to form the underlying social connections that spur the creation of functioning organizations and markets. Evidence shows the importance of trust in distinct areas, from the day-to-day forming of personal relations to the stability of democracies. In this paper, we ask how new technologies that compete for our attention affect the formation of trust between strangers. To that end, we study how smartphone use affects interactions with, and subsequent trust in, strangers. In our experiment, we had participants wait in groups of six for approximately 20 minutes, manipulating their phone access between treatments, and allowing them to interact as they wished. We then randomly paired participants within each group to play a trust game and answer a brief survey. We find that limiting phone access resulted in higher levels of trustworthiness.

Sandy Campbell
University of California Berkeley
United States

Uri Gneezy
University of California San Diego
United States


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