It's not you, it's them: Social influences on trust propensity and trust dynamics

Michael Baer, Fadel K. Matta, Ji Koung Kim, David Welsh, Niharika Garud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


Scholars agree that trust primarily has two bases: trustworthiness-the extent to which a trustee is competent, honest, and has goodwill toward the trustor-and trust propensity-a stable trait reflecting the trustor's generalized belief that others can be trusted. Due to this trait characterization, the literature has largely reached a consensus that trust propensity is only an important base of trust in the earliest stage of a relationship-before information on trustworthiness has been gathered. Additionally, the trait conceptualization of trust propensity inhibits it from being modeled as an explanatory mechanism. Drawing on accessibility theory, a theory of trait activation, we argue that trust propensity has state-like characteristics that are "activated" by the daily treatment an employee receives from coworkers. Our model highlights that the social context-predominantly ignored in prior trust research because of its lack of relevance to dyadic perceptions of trustworthiness-can have a substantial impact on dyadic trust. Across two multisource experience sampling methodology studies, we provide evidence that state trust propensity transmits the effects of citizenship and deviance received to trust in a focal coworker, whether that focal coworker is a source of that treatment or not. We also address how general levels of workplace unfairness-a between-person construct-influence these dynamics. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these within-person dynamics for fostering trust within organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPersonnel Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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