Table of Contents

Handbook of Research Methods on Trust

Handbook of Research Methods on Trust

Second Edition

Handbooks of Research Methods in Management series

Edited by Fergus Lyon, Guido Möllering and Mark N.K. Saunders

With the growing interest in trust in the social sciences, this second edition of the Handbook of Research Methods on Trust provides a fully updated and extended account of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods for empirical research. While many researchers have already drawn inspiration and insight from the previous edition, the dynamic development of trust research calls for further and deeper engagement with methodological issues, particular methods, practical research experience, and current challenges and innovations as offered by this new edition.

Chapter 25: Measuring implicit trust and automatic attitude activation

Calvin Burns and Stacey M. Conchie

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, research methods in business and management


When researchers measure trust, they often use direct (explicit) measures such as questionnaire surveys. This chapter considers the use of indirect (implicit) measures of trust, which rely on reaction times. These measures are less susceptible to the effects of response biases and are more likely to be indicative of spontaneous behaviours. Although the concept of trust appears in a variety of senses in the social sciences, it is widely regarded as ‘a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behaviour of another’ (Rousseau et al., 1998: 395). Many authors have shown that certain attitudes and perceptions about an individual can lead to trust in that individual (for a review of the factors of trustworthiness, see Mayer et al., 1995). Trust can then result from the activation of a trust-related attitude for the individual to be trusted. This chapter shall review some of the literature on automatic attitude activation and argue that the use of indirect or implicit measures can yield new insights into the nature of trust, specifically implicit trust. Trust is an important variable to consider, especially in research in organisational contexts. Most questionnaire studies about organisational culture/climate include items about trust. In studies such as this, participants explicitly consider and state their attitude about trust towards an individual (for example, I trust my supervisor). However, survey instruments may lead to overestimates of trust because they can give rise to response biases such as self-presentation and social desirability.

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