For decades, surveys have been used to measure the level of trust people have in other people generally as well as in various institutions, organizations, or groups and to show changes in trust over time (see, for example, Barber, 1983; Putnam, 1995; Glaeser et al., 2000; Uslaner, 2002; Delhey and Newton, 2005). However, because of the nature of the questions asked, the survey results mostly cannot explain the levels and changes observed. The focus tends to be descriptively on ‘how much’ (or even just, ‘how many’) people trust – and hardly on ‘how’ people work on trust continuously. This is deeply problematic especially when survey reports call implicitly for means to produce or restore higher levels of trust, meaning that they call for solutions to a problem they cannot really pin down. At the least, this would require a simultaneous measurement of (changes in) the antecedents of (changes in) trust. More rigorously, people’s trust should be conceptualized and operationalized as a continuous process of forming and reforming the attitudes that static surveys have measured so far and, crucially, as part of larger social processes.
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