Edited by Fergus Lyon, Guido Möllering and Mark N.K. Saunders
In this chapter, we want to explore approaches, pitfalls and possible lessons in researching trust in entrepreneurial activities. The chapter draws on experiences and empirical data from three research projects in which one or both of the authors have been involved. Key issues discussed concern the operationalization of different concepts of trust and the choice of adequate empirical methods. In recent years there has been a growth of interest in the role of trust in business behaviour, because of its potential influence on reducing transaction costs (for example, Fukuyama, 1995; Höhmann and Welter, 2005; Welter, 2012; Welter and Smallbone, 2006; Williamson, 1993). However, trust is not an ‘objective’ phenomenon that can easily be measured and understood across cultures and countries. Trust, in particular its understanding and interpretation, is also a socially constructed and context-dependent phenomenon (see also Tillmar, Chapter 11 in this volume), which renders its measurement and empirical analysis difficult. Key issues concern the operationalization of different concepts of trust and the choice of adequate empirical methods. As trust has proved difficult to define conceptually, this also has consequences for researching it empirically, especially across countries and cultures. In addition, there is a danger that academics concerned with different aspects of human behaviour may sometimes be guilty of exaggerating the role of trust, which emphasizes the importance of developing robust methodologies to identify and assess it.
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