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  1. Are competent actors still trusted when they promote themselves? The answer to this question could have far-reaching implications for understanding trust production in a variety of economic exchange settings in which ability and impression management play vital roles, from succeeding in one’s job to excelling in the sales of goods and services. Much social science research assumes an unconditional positive impact of an actor’s ability on the trust placed in that actor: in other words, competence breeds trust. In this report, however, we challenge this assumption. Across a series of experiments, we manipulated both the ability and the self-promotion of a trustee and measured the level of trust received. Employing both online laboratory studies ( n = 5,606) and a field experiment ( n = 101,520), we find that impression management tactics (i.e., self-promotion and intimidation) can substantially backfire, at least for those with high ability. An explanation for this effect is encapsuled in attribution theory, which argues that capable actors are held to higher standards in terms of how kind and honest they are expected to be. Consistent with our social attribution account, mediation analyses show that competence combined with self-promotion decreases the trustee’s perceived benevolence and integrity and,more »in turn, the level of trust placed in that actor.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 26, 2023
  2. The emergence of trust and solidarity is arguably foundational for economic development and social order. Yet many studies, often survey-based, document large disparities in general trust and social cohesion between countries. Can mutual trust and solidarity arise between people even in areas of low general trust, or do national cultural contexts block such connections? We report an experimental investigation of the dynamic between national environments and local social interactions, specifically those embedded in social exchange. Results of our experiments conducted in the United States and Romania, societies marked by relatively high and low general trust, respectively, show that while national context impacts the level of relational trust formed within dyads, only this emergent relational trust affects dyadic solidarity in both societies. Importantly, burgeoning solidarity has persistent consequences for future exchanges and subsequent solidarity, thus experimentally demonstrating critical linkages between macro- and micro-level precursors to social order.

    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 6, 2023
  3. Trust is key to understanding the dynamics of social relations, to the extent that it is often viewed as the glue that holds society together. We review the mounting sociological literature to help answer what trust is and where it comes from. To this end, we identify two research streams—on particularized trust and generalized trust, respectively—and propose an integrative framework that bridges these lines of research while also enhancing conceptual precision. This framework provides the springboard for identifying several important avenues for future research, including new investigations into the radius of trust, the intermediate form of categorical trust, and the interrelationships between different forms of trust. This article also calls for more scholarship focusing on the consequences (versus antecedents) of trust, addressing more fully the trustee side of the relation, and employing new empirical methods. Such novel approaches will ensure that trust research will continue to provide important insights into the functioning of modern society in the years to come. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Sociology, Volume 47 is July 2021. Please see for revised estimates.