Paperless and soulless. E-signatures diminish the signer’s presence and decrease acceptance

Paperless and soulless. E-signatures diminish the signer’s presence and decrease acceptance

E-signatures are one of the fastest growing global practices because of their convenience. Much less is known, however, about whether people perceive e-signatures to be symbolically equivalent to traditional hand signatures. Results of four studies demonstrate that although functionally the same, e-signatures evoked markedly different psychological reactions than hand signatures. Namely, e-signatures evoked a weaker sense of the signer’s presence and involvement. This weaker sense of social presence, in turn, induced negativity: People were more likely to discount the validity of an e-signed application than that of an identical application signed by hand. They also anticipated that e-signed contracts would lead to greater likelihood of contract breaches. This negativity toward e-signatures persisted across five different types of e-signatures, regardless of an individual’s level of comfort with technology. Taken together, the studies reveal deeply rooted psychological reactions to a practice that is now prevalent worldwide.