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  1. In this essay, we argue that the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution calls for a reexamination of trust patterns within and across organizations. We identify fundamental changes in terms of (1) what form organizational trust takes, (2) how it is produced, and (3) who needs to be trusted. First, and most broadly, trust is likely to become more impersonal and systemic. Trust between actors is increasingly substituted by trust in a system based on digital technology. Second, in terms of trust production modes, characteristic- and institution-based trust production will gain in importance. Third, despite the move toward system trust, there will nonetheless be a need to trust certain individuals; however, these trustees are no longer the counterparts to the interaction but rather third parties in charge of the technological systems and data. Thus, the focal targets of interpersonal trust are changing.

    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 22, 2023
  2. 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
  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.
  4. Collaborations that require information sharing and mutual trust between companies, suppliers, and clients can be tough, particularly in the remote era. But blockchain’s distributed ledger — and its use of smart contracts — can simplify the process, creating a common, reliable record of transactions and avoiding costly disputes. In doing so, blockchain changes how deals are made: Partner selection is made simpler, as establishing trust is less important; agreement formation is more important, because protocols are hard to alter once put in place; and execution is made easier, because outcomes can be automated. Blockchain isn’t a magic bullet — it works much better in some situations than others — but it can fundamentally change how collaborations work.