Handbooks of Research Methods in Management series
Edited by Fergus Lyon, Guido Möllering and Mark N.K. Saunders
Chapter 17: Studying trust relationships using social network analysis
Networks of relationships affect nearly everything that we do at work, at home, and in our communities. Interpersonal trust is a particular kind of relation that involves willingness to rely on another person, to be vulnerable to that person’s actions. It depends on forming and maintaining positive relationships among individuals, and it influences behaviours through those relationships. Trust often accompanies friendship and kinship, two of the core relations in every society. Trust sometimes accompanies working relations such as mentorship, advisory relations, or partnership. In many societies, trust accompanies multi-step relationships, such as friend-of-relative or mentor-of-friend. Whether affect-based trust, cognition-based trust, or a combination of the two, trust is intertwined with the formation and maintenance of positive relationships among individuals. To understand trust, then, we must understand relationships and the networks that they form. As relations develop between individuals, they form dynamic networks of connections (also known as ties), and the networks exercise influence on future relations among members. The nature of these relations and the network configurations that they form affect communication, collaboration, and personal well-being, while reinforcing or degrading prior trust. To understand the broad and resounding sources and effects of trust, we must examine the roles of social networks in shaping attitudes and behaviours. Social network analysis can help you investigate the development and effects of trust and trustworthiness.
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