What is Trust? A Multidisciplinary Review, Critique, and Synthesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite decades of interdisciplinary research on trust, the literature remains fragmented and balkanized with little consensus regarding its origins. This review documents how this came to be and attempts to offer a solution. Specifically, it evaluates issues of conceptualization found in the trust literature. I recommend that we move away from varieties of trust – multidimensional conceptualizations of trust – and toward a single trust concept built around four essential properties: actor A's beliefs, actor B's trustworthiness, the matter(s) at hand, and unknown outcomes. I finish the article by proposing a synthetic structural-cognitive theoretical framework for investigating the causes and consequences of trust in everyday life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)972-986
Number of pages15
JournalSociology Compass
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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