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Measuring Trust: Which Measure Can Be Trusted?

Avner Ben-Ner () and Freyr Halldorsson ()

Working Papers from Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus)

Abstract: The study examines the relationship of various survey measures of trust and risk taking with trusting behavior in the trust or investment game (Berg, Dickhaut, & McCabe, 1995). We conduct a series of standard trust game experiments from which we derive the standard trust measure – amount sent. We also conduct trust games in which we allow subjects in the role of trustors to make proposals for what they should send and what their counterparts (trustees) should send back, and offer the possibility of asking for costly contracts to support agreements. We use trustors’ request for such contracts as a new operationalization of behavioral trust (not asking for a contract indicates more trusting than asking for one). We compare the two behavioral measures to survey measures of trust and risk preferences. Our results confirm that the amount sent in the trust game is related to common-sense survey measures of trust but not to any measures of risk preferences. In contrast, none of the survey measures predicts asking for a contract. In addition, we investigate the association between risk preferences, gender, personality, cognitive ability and other individual characteristics and trust. We find that male subjects send significantly more than female subjects; risk attitude, the big five personality traits, cognitive ability and other variables show only limited association with the amount sent and asking for a contract. In contrast, survey trust measures are explained well by such variables. JEL classification: C72, C91, D63

Keywords: Trust; Trust game; Measurement (search for similar items in EconPapers)
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