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Building Trust Online: The Realities of Telepresence for Mediators Engaged in Online Dispute Resolution, 

Originally published in Stetson Law Review, Vol 49, No. 1, 2019

Exon and Lee found that trust in an experienced mediator is the same whether a mediation participant interacts with that mediator via video or face-to-face. In their experiment, a single experienced mediator conducted 31 simulated mediations with one party in the room with him and the other interacting via telepresence. Telepresence is sophisticated video conferencing, in which sensitive microphones and special cameras that pan and zoom are used to help participants follow the flow of the conversation. 

During the experiment, the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire before the mediation began that measured their level of interpersonal trust. They then completed a second questionnaire after mediation that asked them about their interactions with the mediator and their perceptions of him in order to determine how much they trusted him and found him to be trustworthy. In all, 59 participants provided usable data. 

Nauss Exon and Lee found that although the participants’ questionnaire responses before mediation indicated they were on average more likely to distrust others than trust them, all participants agreed mildly or strongly that they could trust the mediator and that the mediator was trustworthy. Further, they found no difference in the level of response (mild or strong) between those who were in the same room as the mediator and those who participated via telepresence, with one exception. They found that those who had a lower predisposition to trust were more likely to see the mediator as trustworthy.

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Soomi Lee

Soomi Lee is an Assistant Professor in Public Administration at the University of La Verne. She teaches quantitative research methods and public economics. Her research interests include public finance and political economy. She received her Ph.D in Economics and Political Science from the Claremont Graduate University in 2011. MORE >

                        author

Susan Nauss Exon

Susan Nauss Exon is a Professor of Law at the University of La Verne College of Law, 320 East D Street, Ontario, CA, USA, where she teaches mediation, negotiation, civil procedure and related topics. She also mediates and arbitrates on several panels, including the California Arbitration and Mediation Services (CAMS).  MORE >

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