From the general to the specific: How social trust motivates relational trust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When people form beliefs about the trustworthiness of others with respect to particular matters (i.e., when individuals trust), theory suggests that they rely on preexistent cognitive schemas regarding the general cooperativeness of individuals and organizations (i.e., social trust). In spite of prior work, the impact of social trust on relational trust-or what Russell Hardin (2002) calls trust as a three-part relation where actor A trusts actor B with reference to matter Y-is not well established. Four vignette experiments were administered to Mechanical Turk workers (N = 1388 and N = 1419) and to public university undergraduate students (N = 995 and N = 956) in order to investigate the relationship between social trust and relational trust. Measures of general social trust and particular social trust produced statistically equivalent effects that were positively associated with relational trust. Political trust, however, was statistically unrelated to relational trust. These results support the idea that people rely on schemas and stereotypes concerned with the general cooperativeness and helpfulness of others when forming beliefs about another person's trustworthiness with respect to a particular matter at hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-30
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Science Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Correlated random-effects model
  • General social trust
  • Particular social trust
  • Political trust
  • Relational trust
  • Social trust
  • Web-based vignette experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'From the general to the specific: How social trust motivates relational trust'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this