The effects of website design on initial trust and distrust formation : the three-factor framework in an online shopping context

網站設計對消費者初始信任和猜疑的影響之研究 : 網絡購物背景下的三因素模型

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Xiaojuan Carol OU

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Awarding Institution
Award date3 Oct 2006


Consumer trust in virtual environment has been extensively investigated in the past decade. However, little attention has been paid to its counterpart, distrust. The lack of investigation is largely due to the habitual assumption that distrust is at the opposite end of trust on the same conceptual spectrum. Consequently, evidence of high trust has been regarded to mean low distrust, and antecedents and outcomes of trust have been treated as being identical with those of distrust. Recently, however, challenges to this assumption have been emerging. Some scholars suggest that distrust is a qualitatively different construct from trust. In particular, the absence of distrust does not mean the presence of trust; likewise, low trust does not equal high distrust. In addition, distrust may have a more serious negative impact on consumers’ consumption decisions than what can be attributed to a simple degrading of trust. If distrust is distinct and has a significant effect, research that ignores distrust might have yielded a biased estimation of consumer behavior due to an important missing variable. Yet scholarly knowledge about how distrust is formed and how its consequences differ from those of trust is scarce. Extant literature has focused on the effect of website design on trust building, but no research to date has modeled the impact of website design on formation of distrust and its effect on consumers’ buying decision. This might have also biased the estimation of the role of website design in consumer behavior. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to solve the ambiguity about trust and distrust. Drawing upon Fishbein and Ajzen’s theory of reasoned action, Herzberg et al.’s two-factor theory, and Oliver’s three-factor framework, I propose a new three-factor theoretical framework to explain the separate and simultaneous trust and distrust relationships by evaluating the effects of website design in an online shopping context. In the three-factor framework developed in this study, distrust is modelled as a response to the lack of hygiene perception (i.e., the extent to which a consumer perceives that essential function-related website attributes are provided to perform an online transaction). On the other hand, trust is primarily predicted by motivating perception (i.e., the extent to which a consumer perceives that value- added website attributes are provided to motivate surfing and buying), but receives only minor impact from hygiene perception. These hygiene and motivating perceptions are determined by three important categories of website design, namely hygiene factors, bivalent factors and motivators. Further, as a negative-valent sentiment, distrust overwhelms the effect of trust as a positive-valent sentiment in shaping a consumer’s buying intention. The proposed three-factor framework of trust and distrust is verified by a field study with 324 valid responses. The empirical results provide strong support for the three-factor framework. The findings of this study indicate that trust and distrust are two separate concepts due to their distinct cognitions, different antecedents, and consequent outcomes. The theoretical implication of this study can be extended to other pairs of bivariate phenomena, such as online satisfaction and dissatisfaction, system success and system failure, technology acceptance and technology rejection, and so forth. This study further provides practical implication by offering specific design guidelines to interface engineering.

    Research areas

  • Design, Web sites, Consumer confidence, Electronic commerce