Username

Your choice in usernames could impact how people perceive your online persona. In particular, some usernames seem to be inherently more trustworthy than others, even when additional information about the person behind the username is available.

That’s according to a study published last month in Frontiers in Psychology, which explored how eBay sellers’ username choices changed their perceived trustworthiness.

If there’s one rule to picking a trustworthy username, it’s this, according to the researchers: make it short and easy.

The study found that eBay sellers tended to be perceived as more trustworthy when they had usernames that were shorter and that were easier to pronounce. This was true even when people had access to information about sellers’ reputations.

In fact, even when people were explicitly told not to take sellers’ usernames into account in estimating trustworthiness, they still ended up rating sellers with short and easily pronounceable usernames as more trustworthy. In other words, the effect is not just fairly strong but seems to take place below the level of conscious control.

The study found that keeping things easy to read was a good rule of thumb not just for usernames but for sellers’ eBay product descriptions. When the product descriptions were easier to read, people once again rated sellers as more trustworthy. They also tended to like the product being sold better.

These results suggest that presenting things in a way that’s short, sweet and easy to process could help establish trust. Making communication easy and not burdening people with unnecessarily complex information may be a way of facilitating trust.

This seems to be true when it comes to choosing a username, and the experiment with product descriptions suggests it may be true in other situations as well. At the very least, this research is a good indication that if you ever take to selling things on eBay, it’s a good idea to choose a simple username and to keep your product descriptions concise!

Image: Flickr/Peter Forret