Political Corruption and Social Trust: An Experimental Approach
Few experimental studies have investigated important factors for people’s perceptions of the trustworthiness of others. Building on theories that point at the importance of trustworthy government institutions, an experiment was conducted to examine factors of importance for people’s propensity to relate trust in authorities to trust in others. A group of 64 undergraduate students responded to a number of scenarios in which they observed another person’s efforts to try to receive immediate assistance from an authority. Descriptions of the other person’s encounter with the authority varied within groups in terms of whether or not a bribe was used in order to receive immediate assistance, whether the other person or the authority was the initiator, and outcome in terms of whether immediate assistance was approved or declined. Type of authority was a between-groups factor. Subsequent to each scenario, participants’ levels of various aspects of vertical and horizontal trust were measured. As hypothesized, the results showed strong effects of bribe, initiator, and outcome on all dependent measures. Bribe, initiator, and approved assistance decreased both vertical and horizontal trust. The results give support for the idea that trust in an authority influences the perceptions of the trustworthiness of others in general.
Link to web site