Valid and Reliable Measures of Generalized Trust: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey and Behavioral Experiment

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Generalized trust has been one of the most frequently examined constructs since researchers first introduced measures of it in the 1940s. Despite its significance, there is a growing consensus that traditional measures of generalized trust are prone to measurement invalidity and nonequivalence, calling into question sociological knowledge about generalized trust. In this article, I advance trust research in sociology by (1) refining two new self-report measures of generalized trust—the Stranger Face Trust scale (SFT) and the Imaginary Stranger Trust scale (IST)—and (2) assessing their empirical performance on a nationally representative probability sample (N = 1,264). I compare the reliability and validity of SFT, IST, and traditional measures of generalized trust across a range of measurement validation tests. Results suggest that SFT provides the most accurate and consistent measure of generalized trust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • confirmatory factor analysis
  • generalized trust
  • measurement validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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