Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Paper - Trust as a Social Reality

1. Lewis JD, Weigert A. Trust as a Social Reality. Social Forces. 1985;63(4):967. Available at:

Paper on the topic of trust from a sociological viewpoint. Makes the point that trust is only possible between two people (or things) and therefore is not a characteristic of an individual. Trust goes beyond what is known and can be rationally concluded. It is a way to simplify the complexity of society, by removing possible outcomes to our actions that could not be removed by using solely rational means (and equally, distrust does the same thing with different outcomes).

If we knew everything about each other, trust would be unnecessary.  The trust in a relationship can change as the relationship continues.

The writers split trust into three dimensions: 'cognitive trust' (basing the choice to trust on 'good reasons'), 'emotional trust' (trusting someone is an emotional bond between participants) and 'behavioural trust' (the way we act when we trust). All three components feed into each other: i.e. if someone behaves as though they trust us, we are more likely to cognitively decide to trust them, and 'trust-implying actions' can help to feed the emotional part of the trust relationship.

Having split the concept of trust into three, trust is then split into types with one of these components dominant. They give examples of 'cognitive trust' being in nuclear arms reduction negotiation, or 'emotional trust' between lovers. The point is also made that most situations make trust a mix - e.g. emotional trust with no level of cognitive trust is blind faith, and the converse would be cold-blooded prediction.

The paper continues to discuss 'system trust', and how trust changes can be seen to have started the litigious  society. There is some discussion of whether the prisoner's dilemma game can really demonstrate trust, which is quite interesting.

I think it is worth following up on some of the bigger references in this paper: Luhmann, N "Trust and Power", and Bok, S "Lying" I reckon.

No comments:

Post a Comment