Walther, J. B., & Bunz, U. (2005).  The rules of virtual groups: Trust, liking, and performance in computer-mediated communication.  Journal of Communication, 55, 828-846.


Research on virtual groups reflects concerns about the development of trust and liking, and the performance of partners who do not see each other or work proximally. Previous studies have explored behaviors leading to subjectively-experienced trust and/or liking, or trusting behaviors associated with group output, but have not linked behaviors, subjective affect, and output quality. Deriving principles from social information processing theory of computer-mediated communication, this research identified and tested six communication rules for virtual groups. Employing a quasi-experimental procedure to maximize the variance in rule following behavior, some distributed groups in a cross-university course were assigned to follow rules as part of their grades on group assignments conducted using computer-mediated communication from which messages were collected and later coded. Through self-reported measures of rule-following and affect, results reveal correlations between each rule with trust and liking. Less consistent are the relationships between rule-following, specific observed behaviors, and actual performance quality. Interpretations suggest that a powerful set of collaboration rules has been identified or that the mere following of any rules and norms reduces uncertainty and enhances trust in distributed work teams.

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