Status, identity, and ability in the formation of trust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sources of trust—or actor A’s belief about actor B’s trustworthiness with respect to particular matter Y—are myriad, ranging from the biological to the political. Despite the great amount of research that has investigated decision making as a function of another’s ascribed and achieved characteristics, we still know little about whether and to what extent these characteristics impact A’s trust in B regarding matter Y. In this article, I draw on classic sociological traditions—status characteristics theory and social identity theory—to formulate hypotheses that link ascribed and achieved characteristics to trust. Four survey experiments administered to Mechanical Turk workers (N = 1388 and N = 1419) and to public university undergraduate students (N = 995 and N = 956) showed that diffuse status characteristics (age, race, and gender) and social identities (co-age, co-race, and co-gender) produced weak to null effects depending on the population, hypothetical scenario, and nominal social category under study, while specific status characteristics (actual competence) consistently produced modest effects. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-448
Number of pages41
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Achieved characteristics
  • ascribed characteristics
  • social identity theory
  • status characteristics theory
  • survey experiment
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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