Trust in People, Organizations, and Government: A Generic Model

Trust in People, Organizations, and Government: A Generic Model

Mahmood Khosrowjerdi (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Oslo, Norway)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJEGR.2016070104
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There have been many efforts to model trust at different levels of society and in a variety of contexts, however much confusion remains regarding the various concepts, types and levels of trust. In order to give trust researchers a common ground for communicating their findings, a generic model of trust that relates conceptually to various levels of social interaction is needed. To this end, and based on a literature review, trust faces and types were extracted from the literature and they were put together to form a general model of trust. This paper presents a three-tiered model of trust. The first tier of the model designates three major levels of trust: Individual (micro), Institutional (meso), and Governmental (macro). The second tier differentiates seven kinds of trust relationships in society: Person-to-Person(s), Person-to-Organization(s), Person-to-System(s), Person-to-Government, Organization-to-Organization(s), Organization(s)-to-Government, and Government-to-Government(s). The third tier describes the related concepts and aspects of trust at each level of society.
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Trust is among the main empowerment accelerators for states (Castells, 2009, p. 16), organizations, and individuals and it is an essential factor for interactions and collaborations in community (Flavián et al., 2006). Trust is also among the main influencing factors on people’s intention to use the e-government services (Carter & Bélanger, 2005). However, the concept of trust is “elusive” and “fleeting” (Haukkala et al., 2015, p. 3), “confusing” (Lewis & Weigert, 1985; Shapiro, 1987) and “vague” (McKnight & Chervany, 2000). Thus, the concept of trust remains “abstract” and “complex,” which makes defining it and its building blocks challenging (Wang & Emurian, 2005, p. 107). Even within specific fields of research, there is not a unique definition of trust. Therefore, the definition of trust is very context-related or “situation-specific” (Frank, 1988; Seckler et al., 2015).

Trust is defined differently in various disciplines. For example, in psychology, trust is defined as the “reliance upon the characteristics of an object, or the occurrence of an event, or the behavior of a person in order to achieve a desired but uncertain objective in a risky situation” (Giffin, 1967, p. 105). While in philosophy, trust is “accepted vulnerability to another's possible but not expected ill will (or lack of good will) toward one” (Baier, 1986, p. 235). Alternatively, in sociology, trust is termed as “a property of collective units” (Lewis & Weigert, 1985, p. 968). For the purposes of this study, we use the noted sociological definition of trust. In this regard, based on the level of social interactions of actors, their trust behavior gradually evolves from “mistrust” to “trusting,” (Magrath & Hardy, 1989, p. 385). This conception of trust is relational, and it is “applicable” to all levels of interactions of actors (people, institutions and systems) in society (Lewis & Weigert, 1985, p. 968).

Within the field of trust research, it is generally agreed that trust is a “multi-dimensional” construct (Chen & Dhillon, 2003; Flavián et al., 2006; Casaló et al., 2007; Casaló & Cisneros, 2008). However, there is not a consensus on the dimensions of trust (Wang & Emurian, 2005). Some researchers believe that trust is composed of three elements: “benevolence,” “honesty,” and “competence” (e.g., Chen & Dhillon, 2003; Casaló et al., 2007; Casaló & Cisneros, 2008; Flavián et al., 2006). Some others point out that specific beliefs of “integrity,” “ability,” and “benevolence” are precedents for general trust (Gefen, 2002). In addition, many researchers have considered the conceptualization of trust. For example, Blomqvist’s research shows that common synonyms of trust are “competence,” “credibility,” “confidence,” “faith,” “hope,” “loyalty,” and “reliance” (Blomqvist, 1997, p. 279) and finally, Hardin defines trust as a “three-part relationships: person A trusts person B to do X” (Hardin, 2004, p.6).

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