What can CouchSurfing teach us about trust?
CouchSurfing is an international hospitality network where participants can either host people at their home or stay in others' homes for free. Because of the high degree of trust that is displayed in these interactions, the CouchSurfing community is an ideal place to study a network that heavily relies on trust and trustworthiness.
About the project
We analyzed the available data on American CouchSurfing members from the founding of the organization in 2003 until fall of 2009. There were 4 key findings.
CouchSurfing is a social space that connects people who are different
Who to trust?
Users make decisions on who to trust based on several factors: women are more cautious in their interactions but are seen as more trustworthy, positive previous experiences with CouchSurfing make people more likely to use it in the future, and hosts scrutinize the web profiles of potential guests more than the reverse.
Host or guest?
Hosts are not frequently guests at others' homes and guests do not frequently choose to host others.
Originally the people who chose to participate in CouchSurfing came from pre-existing friend groups; however, as the organization grew, new friendships and networks formed from within the community of CouchSurfers.
Karen S. Cook is the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology and Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. She is Director of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences at Stanford.
Rense Corten focuses on models for social interaction and cooperation. Rense studied sociology and philosophy at Utrecht University and earned a doctorate in sociology from Utrecht University in June 2009. Presently, he is a postdoctoral researcher at the ICS at Utrecht University.
Diana Dakhlallah, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, Stanford University
Elira Karaja, Economist Postdoctoral Fellow, INET and UC Berkeley (Visiting Scholar)
Paolo Parigi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology. His research is in the field of social human behavior and falls into two categories—historical sociology and political sociology. He uses quantitative methods to conduct his research.
Bogdan State is a graduate student in the department of Sociology. Bogdan completed an ethnographic study of CouchSurfers in four different countries. Bogdan is also pursuing a quantitative model of interpersonal trust, which he hopes to test using CouchSurfing data.