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Measuring people's trust

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Summary.

We measure trust and trustworthiness in British society with a newly designed experiment using real monetary rewards and a sample of the British population. The study also asks the typical survey question that aims to measure trust, showing that it does not predict ‘trust’ as measured in the experiment. Overall, about 40% of people were willing to trust a stranger in our experiment, and their trust was rewarded half of the time. Analysis of variation in the trust behaviour in our survey suggests that trusting is more likely if people are older, their financial situation is either ‘comfortable’ or ‘difficult’ compared with ‘doing alright’ or ‘just getting by’, they are a homeowner or they are divorced, separated or never married compared with those who are married or cohabiting. Trustworthiness also is more likely among subjects who are divorced or separated relative to those who are married or cohabiting, and less likely among subjects who perceive their financial situation as ‘just getting by’ or ‘difficult’. We also analyse the effect of attitudes towards risks on trust.
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Keywords: Experiment; Risk; Trust; Trust game; Trustworthiness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Essex, Colchester, UK 2: Nuffield College, Oxford, UK 3: University of Essex, Colchester, UK, and Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Berlin, Germany

Publication date: 2009-10-01

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