Edited by Fergus Lyon, Guido Möllering and Mark N.K. Saunders
Chapter 22: Embedded trust: the analytical approach in vignettes, laboratory experiments and surveys
The analytical approach studies trust as the result of individual decisions by interdependent actors. This chapter develops hypotheses on how social conditions (embeddedness) affect trust relations and offers an overview of empirical research on such hypotheses with a focus on the advantages of a multi-method approach employing complementary research designs (vignette studies, laboratory experiments, surveys) for repeatedly testing the same set of hypotheses. In recent years, research programmes on trust have been extremely numerous and diverse in terms of both theoretical and methodological approaches as well as empirical applications. In this chapter, we focus on one research stream, which we refer to as the ‘analytical approach’ (Hedström, 2005; Hedström and Bearman, 2009) and discuss complementary empirical strategies consistent with this approach. In the framework of analytical sociology, what qualifies as a sociological explanation is a focus on collective phenomena that result, often as unintended consequences, from the actions and interactions of individual actors who constitute the elementary units of the social system in which the collective phenomenon emerges. The analytical approach implies that trust is not studied as a property of social systems, but as the result of individual decisions made by interdependent actors. For example, most economic transactions imply a trust problem between sellers and buyers. Online transactions are an illustration: when purchasing online, the buyer has to trust that the seller will ship the good.
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