Building Trust Online: The Realities of Telepresence for Mediators Engaged in Online Dispute Resolution

The ability to engender trust is a critical skill for mediators, especially when conducting online dispute resolution. The purpose of this empirical research is to examine the extent to which parties can trust a mediator when communicating in a video- collaborated environment known as telepresence. Will parties who have never met a mediator prior to the mediation and who communicate solely using telepresence, find the mediator to be trustworthy and trust the mediator to the same extent as those parties who communicate face-to-face with the mediator? Will factors such as age, gender, and educational level significantly affect an individual’s ability to trust a mediator? Does an individual’s familiarity with, and use of, a video-collaborated environment such as Skype, FaceTime or a similar platform affect an individual’s ability to trust a mediator? What is the impact of an individual’s predisposition to trust? We analyzed data from a small-scale experimental study (N=59), and in this research project conclude that there is no statistically significant difference in the extent to which participants trust a mediator in all contexts and factors. The same result applies to trustworthiness except for one exception regarding the effect of a pre-disposition to trust.