Jerusalem, Feb 26 (IANS) Next time when you book a room via Airbnb, look closely at the photos your would-be host has uploaded. According to the researchers, women are deemed more trustworthy than men, older hosts over younger ones, smiling faces over neutral expressions and attractive hosts over unattractive ones on Airbnb.

A high-resolution, multi-person shot of an elderly female host who is smiling is more likely to attract Airbnb guests than will photos of young hosts, men or poor-quality shots where the host’s face is obstructed, the authors wrote.

Professors Eyal Ert and Aliza Fleischer at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Environmental Economics and Management set out to answer questions like which Airbnb host looks trustworthy.

According to a paper published in the journal Psychology & Marketing, they analysed 320 Airbnb listings in Stockholm, Sweden and gleaned two main criteria that determine “visual trustworthiness”.

“Visual trustworthiness is king in the Airbnb arena. Hosts who are perceived as trustworthy enjoy higher prices and more frequent rentals than do hosts with less-trustworthy photos,” added Fleischer.

Among the two criteria, one is the host’s characteristics (gender, facial expression) and the second is the quality of the image itself (blurry or clear).

“The study quantified the qualities that define the sort of attractiveness that online shoppers identify with trustworthiness,” explained Ert.

For image characteristics, they found that high-quality photographs did better than blurry ones, and photos that showed the host interacting with other people (a multi-person photo) did better than solo shots of the host.

The thinking is that if a host is seen interacting with friends then it may signal their ability to maintain relationships, akin to a stamp of approval for reliability.

“Visual trustworthiness is king in the Airbnb arena. Hosts who are perceived as trustworthy enjoy higher prices and more frequent rentals than do hosts with less-trustworthy photos,” added Fleischer.

While most smile in their photos (68 per cent), the researchers would have expected to see more photographs of women, at least in those cases where the property is owned by people of both genders.

Given the primacy of profile pictures in online commerce, it is interesting to note that Airbnb hosts are often unaware of these insights, the authors wrote.

–IANS

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