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Developing and Maintaining Trust in Work Relationships
by Roy J. Lewicki and Barbara Benedict Bunker

Current Definitions and Research Approaches to Trust

Trust is a concept that has received attention in several different social science literatures-psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, history, and sociobiology (see Gambetta, 1988; Lewicki & Bunker, 1995; Worchel, 1979, for reviews). As can be expected, each literature has approached the problem with its own disciplinary lens and filters. Remarkably, little effort has been made to integrate these different perspectives or articulate the key role that trust plays in critical social processes (e.g., cooperation, coordination, performance).

Worchel (1979) proposes that these different perspectives can be aggregated into at least three different groups (see also Lewicki & Bunker, 1995, for amore detailed exploration of theory within each category): 1 .The views of personality theorists, who have focused on individual personality differences in the readiness to trust and on the specific developmental and social contextual factors that shape this readiness. At this level, trust is conceptualized as a belief, expectancy, or feeling that is deeply rooted in the personality and has its origins in the individual's early psychosocial development (see Worchel, 1979). 2. The views of sociologists and economists, who have focused on trust as an institutional phenomenon. At this level, trust can be conceptualized as both a phenomenon within and between institutions, and as the trust individuals put in those institutions. 3. The views of social psychologists, who have focused on the interpersonal transactions between individuals that create or destroy trust at the interpersonal and group levels. At this level, trust can be defined as the expectation of the other party in a transaction, the risks associated with assuming and acting on such expectations, and the contextual factors that serve to either enhance or inhibit the development and maintenance of that trust.

It is this third approach to trust - the social-psychological perspective, emphasizing the nature of trust in interpersonal transactions-that we wish to emphasize in this chapter. Deutsch (1958) defined trust as an expectation of interpersonal events: An individual may be said to have trust in the occurrence of an event if he expects its occurrence and the expectations lead to behavior which he perceives to have greater negative motivational consequence if the expectation is not confirmed than positive motivational consequence if it is confirmed. (p. 266)

However, trust is more than simple expectations; as social psychologists note, it is expectations set within particular contextual parameters and constraints. For example, Lewis and Weigert (1985) argue that trust is not mere predictability but confidence in the face of risk (a contextual variable that is central to most social-psychological definitions; see also Kahnemann, Knetsch & Thaler, 1986).

Many definitions move beyond expectations to specify the key situational parameters that describe or define situational risk. Deutsch (1960) suggested that a decision to trust is made in situations in which the following situational parameters exist: (a) There is an ambiguous course of action in the future, (b) outcome occurrence depends on the behavior of others, and (e) the strength of the harmful event is greater than the beneficial event. In a subsequent article, Deutsch (1973) refines this decision-making process into a series of hypotheses about the conditions under which trusting choices will be made, noting the positive and negative consequences of the trusting acts. Similarly, Schlenker, Helm, and Tedeschi (1973) defined trust as the "reliance upon information received from another person about uncertain environmental states and their accompanying outcomes in a risky situation" (p. 419). They argued that the situation must contain the following for trust to be demonstrated: (a) a risky situation with regard to whether certain outcomes will be derived in the future; (b) the presence of cues that provide some information as to the probability of various uncertain environmental states occurring, such as the communication of another's intentions; and (c) the resulting behavior of the person demonstrating reliance on this uncertain information (see also Zand,1972).

In this chapter, we will adopt the definition of trust proposed by Boon and Holmes (1991); their definition is relatively simple, straightforward, and contains most of the elements of other definitions. Boon and Holmes define trust as "a state involving confident positive expectations about another's motives with respect to oneself in situations entailing risk" (p. 194). Boon and Holmes's definition of trust is based on three elements that contribute to the level of trust one has for another: the individual's chronic disposition toward trust (see our earlier discussion of personality), situational parameters (some are suggested above), and the history of their relationship. We will now address this relationship dimension of trust.

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