Purdue University
Krannert School of Management


Abstract: Would Trust by any other name smell as sweet? Reflections on the meanings and uses of trust across disciplines and context

The word trust is used in the literature to refer to many different constructs, and most scholars in this field will readily acknowledge that the lack of a common definition greatly inhibits the integration of knowledge on trust.  The definitions vary across disciplines and context and also within the same body of literature.  Trust is variously defined as willingness to be vulnerable, positive expectations, confidence, reliability, legitimacy, competence, authority, compliance and faith.  In this paper we illustrate how the choice of a definition has important implications for theoretical development and measurement of the construct.  We will explore the common uses of trust in various disciplines (e.g. Operations, Accounting, and Information science) and across different contexts (e.g. online or virtual trust, politics, medicine and sports). We review the research in each of these areas from the perspective of the definition of trust as “willingness to be vulnerable” and show how other processes related to trust are better descriptors of the construct than trust.

Biographical Sketch:

David Schoorman is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management and Associate Dean for Executive Education Programs at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University.  His current research interests include trust and stewardship in organizations, decision-making, leadership, and motivation.  His research has examined the role of interpersonal trust between leaders and subordinates, and inter-organizational trust between firms and partners, and the impact of trust on individual and organizational outcomes.  In 2006, Professor Schoorman was honored with an award by the Academy of Management Review for his article on trust that was published in 1995. This article was recognized as the  “Most influential article published in AMR in the decade of the 1990”s”.  In 2007, he received the “Distinguished Educator” award from the Academy of Management.  Professor Schoorman is currently a co-Principal Investigator on a 3-year research grant from the Department of Defense to study trust across national cultures. A goal of this research is to document how trust develops in different cultures.

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