The Social Psychologists ’ and Organizational Researchers’ Perspective

In the psychological literature, a dedicated research stream can be identified that emphasizes the conceptualization of trust in the context of interpersonal relationships with a specific other person. In contrast to personality psychologists, who view trust as a characteristic of the individual that is a stable psychological trait and independent of contextual and time influence, social psychologists define trust as an expectation about the behaviour of others in social interactions and transactions respectively (Kautonen, 2008). Here, interpersonal trust is regularly conceptualized as an individual’s state of mind which is mainly influenced by situational/contextual factors (the environment). These variables serve to either enhance or inhibit the formation and maintenance of interpersonal trust (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995). They include the characteristics of the trustee, such as his/her personality, competencies and perceived reliability, as well as the truster’s expectations about the outcomes of their relationship. Consequently, the research focus of social psychologists traditionally has been on the identification of these characteristics that make the trusted party trustworthy, as well as on the search for situational or contextual elements that affect the development of trust in interpersonal relationships. More recent approaches investigate the relationship between personality and mental representations of the environment. Such research attempts to conceptualize interpersonal trust regularly surface in two different contexts. Social psychologists have recognized that individuals develop trust (i) in intimate (close) personal relationships as well as (ii) in business or working relationships (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995). In both kinds, trust plays an important but different role.

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