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Home arrow Engineering arrow Measuring Electronic Word-of-Mouth Effectiveness: Developing and Applying the eWOM Trust Scale

Trusting Attitudes

A recent review of trust definitions provides evidence that two dimensions of trusting attitudes, namely confidence and affect, are both critical elements of trust (Kim & Tadisina, 2007). While some researchers differentiate trust from confidence (e.g., Mayer et al., 1995), numerous scholars see trust as a kind of confidence and advance the concept in their conceptualizations of trust (Deutsch, 1958; Gefen, 2000; Lewicki & Bunker, 1995; Lewis & Weigert, 1985; Luhmann, 1979). For example, Rempel et al. (1985, p. 96) define trust as the “feelings of confidence and security in the caring response of the other party”. The concept of confidence is often referred to as a mutual confidence that no partner of an exchange relationship will exploit the other’s vulnerabilities (Corritore et al., 2003). Confidence is generally referred to as being an attitudinal dimension of trust (Fazio & Zanna, 1981; Radan, 1985), and its relevance for the construct was revealed by various studies (Jian et al., 2000). Analogously, multiple other researchers have considered similar concepts such as reliance (e.g., Giffin, 1967; Schlenker et al., 1973). Rotter (1967) focuses on the attitude of expectancy in his conceptualization of trust, as he defines trust as “an expectancy held by an individual or group that the word, promise, verbal or written statement of another individual or group can be relied upon” (p. 652). In a similar vein, other scholars have defined trust in terms of expectations (e.g., Barber, 1983; Good 1988; Rotter, 1971; Baier, 1986), confident expectations (e.g., Lewis & Weigert, 1985a), or subjective probability (e.g., Gambetta, 1988), which all seem to capture a similar dimension of trust as confidence does. For example, the concept of reliance describes how confident a person is to depend on others. In parallel, confidence is often referred to as favourable expectations or predictions of a truster that the trustee will exhibit an advantageous behaviour to the truster. Accordingly, Barber (1983, p. 164-165) defines trust as “socially learned and socially confirmed expectations”, which emphasizes the view of trust as a truster’s mental position or attitude towards the trustee. Confidence is a necessity for trust and has been described as both cognitive and affective (Luhmann, 1988; Muir, 1994). Accordingly, the concept of expectation is discussed for being strongly related to predictability as a cognitive component, but also having an affective component which is hopeful, future-oriented thinking (Corritore et al., 2003). The thesis at hand, therefore, disagrees with the conceptual work of Kim and Tasisina (2007), who regard confidence as a cognitive dimension of trust and follows the above reasoning. Hence, it is the paper’s position that confidence is a concept that rather mirrors the true nature of the trust construct and, hence, is inseparably tied to the trust construct.

Elements of affective trust attitudes are another part of trust. Affect-based trust - expressed in feelings/emotions towards the trust object - seems to play a critical role in the majority of other human relationships but also in impersonal e-commerce relationships. However, only a few authors have included it in their conceptualizations of trust (e.g., Johnson-George & Swap, 1983; Lewis & Weigert, 1985a; Rempel et al., 1985). A major contribution has been made by McAllister (1995), who advanced a broad understanding of affect that covers trusting beliefs as well as emotions. In contrast to the concepts that are mainly based on cognitive processes, affect-based trust is based on an “emotional bond” (Lewis & Weigert, 1985a) or on “emotional ties” (McAllister, 1995). In addition, strong emotions such as likeability (i.e., a person’s positive emotional response towards the trust object) also seem to be an ingredient of affect-based trust. For example, Johnson-George and Swap’s (1982) conceptualization of trust includes four liking items along with three other trust items. Accordingly, Swan et al. (1988) emphasize likeability as a critical dimension of trust. More abstractly, Rempel et al. (1985) include faith as a trust factor. The affect-based trust dimension seems to capture the communality among these elements (Kim & Tadisina, 2007).

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