Trust Studies

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.

Differences attract

CouchSurfing is a social space that connects people who are different

Whom 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.

Community network

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.

Research Team

Karen S. Cook is the Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology and the Founding Director of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences at Stanford.

Rense Corten focuses on models for social interaction and cooperation. Rense earned a doctorate in sociology from Utrecht University, where he is currently an associate professor.

Diana Dakhlallah earned her PhD in sociology from Stanford University. She is currently an assistant professor of organizational behavior at McGill University.

Elira Karaja is currently a senior sustainability specialist for the United Nations.

Paolo Parigi's 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 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.

2015 Press Release

Read more details on the findings of the study in this press release.