- Handbooks of Research Methods in Management series
Edited by Fergus Lyon, Guido Möllering and Mark N.K. Saunders
Chapter 25: Measuring implicit trust and automatic attitude activation
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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