Trust in everyday life

Weiss, A, Michels, C, Burgmer, P, Mussweiler, T M, Ockenfels, A and Hofmann, W (2021) Trust in everyday life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 121 (1). pp. 95-114. ISSN 0022-3514 OPEN ACCESS


Although trust plays a pivotal role in many aspects of life, very little is known about the manifestation of trust and distrust in everyday life. In this work, we integrated several prior approaches to trust and investigated the prevalence and key determinants of trust (vs. distrust) in people’s natural environments, using preregistered experience-sampling methodology. Across more than 4,500 social interactions from a heterogeneous sample of 427 participants, results showed high average levels of trust, but also considerable variability in trust across contexts. This variability was attributable to aspects of trustee perception, social distance, as well as three key dimensions of situational interdependence: conflict of interests, information (un)certainty, and power imbalance. At the dispositional level, average everyday trust was shaped by general trust, moral identity, and zero-sum beliefs. The social scope of most trust-related traits, however, was moderated by social distance: Whereas moral identity buffered against distrusting distant targets, high general distrust and low social value orientation amplified trust differences between close vs. distant others. Furthermore, a laboratory-based trust game predicted everyday trust only with regard to more distant but not close interaction partners. Finally, everyday trust was linked to self-disclosure and to cooperation, particularly in situations of high conflict between interaction partners’ interests. We conclude that trust can be conceptualized as a relational hub that interconnects the social perception of the trustee, the relational closeness between trustor and trustee, key structural features of situational interdependence, and behavioral response options such as self-disclosure.

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Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
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© 2020 American Psychological Association. This article may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available at:

This research was funded through a German Research Foundation (DFG) research Grant MU 1500/7-2 awarded to Thomas Mussweiler, research Grant 741409 from the European Research Council awarded to Axel Ockenfels, a German Research Foundation (DFG) research Grant HO 4175/5-1 awarded to Wilhelm Hofmann, and a research Grant EXC 2126/1– 390838866 from the German Research Foundation (DFG) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy co-awarded to Wilhelm Hofmann and Axel Ockenfels.

Funder Name: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, European Research Council, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2020 10:08
Date of first compliant deposit: 27 Jun 2020
Subjects: Social roles
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2024 01:49

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