Smiles, Babies, and Status Symbols: The Persuasive Effects of Image Choices in Small-Entrepreneur Crowdfunding Requests

Kenton Bruce Anderson, Gregory D. Saxton


This article examines the persuasive effects of images in the context of online peer-to-peer microfinance. The theoretical framework—based in self-presentation and impression management—relates micro-entrepreneurs’ loan-request image choices to lending decisions and lenders’ perceptions of the borrower’s trustworthiness and need. We explore effects of three specific visuals: (1) genuine enjoyment (Duchenne) smiles; (2) material status symbols; and (3) babies, children, and husbands. Using loan-request image data from 323 women micro-entrepreneurs on the website, results suggest smiling behavior is not associated with funding speed. However, loan-request images that include a baby are associated with significantly quicker funding, and those that include a man or an indication of relative material well-being are associated with delays in the average funding speed.


crowdfunding, computer-mediated communication, Duchenne smile, impression management, microfinance, new media, nonprofit organizations, peer-to-peer lending, prosocial behavior, self-presentation, social lending, visual communication

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