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Handbook of Trust Research

Edited by Reinhard Bachmann and Akbar Zaheer

The Handbook of Trust Research presents a timely and comprehensive account of the most important work undertaken in this lively and emerging field over the past ten to fifteen years. Presenting a broad range of approaches to issues on trust, the Handbook features 22 articles from a variety of disciplines on the study of trust in both organizational and societal contexts. With contributions from some of the most eminent names in the field of trust research, this international collaboration is an imaginative and informative reference tool to aid research in this engaging area for years to come.
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Chapter 13: On the Complexity of Organizational Trust: A Multi-Level Co-Evolutionary Perspective and Guidelines for Future Research

Steven C. Currall and Andrew C. Inkpen


Steven C. Currall and Andrew C. Inkpen During the past decade, scholars have made significant progress in the study of trust in organizational settings. For instance, significant theoretical advances have been achieved (e.g. Rousseau et al., 1998), as have empirical developments such as those published in special trust issues of Organization Science (McEvily et al., 2003) and Organization Studies (Bachmann et al., 2001). Despite this progress, however, ‘trust remains an undertheorized, under-researched, and, therefore, poorly understood phenomenon’ (Child, 2001: 274). The aim of this chapter is to spur research that moves beyond current theoretical and empirical approaches by using a multi-level and co-evolutionary framework for studying trust. We believe that trust researchers should devote greater attention to the complexity of trust and particularly its evolutionary nature. Our chapter is an attempt to explore the complexities of how trust evolves over time and how it is impacted by organizational context. This idea is consistent with the view of others such as Koza and Lewin (1998), who have argued that trust should not be viewed as a static construct. Also, we have argued elsewhere (Inkpen and Currall, 2004) that a co-evolutionary approach is useful for studying trust. We expand on those themes in this chapter. Our thesis is this: it is possible to grasp the complexity of trust at one level (e.g. the interpersonal level) by examining trust at another level (e.g. the intergroup or interorganizational level). As we will discuss in more detail later, Hackman (2003) recently argued that...

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