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Trust as belief or behavior?

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Despite its proposed importance for economic performance, there seems to be little agreement on what trust really is. In economics, trust is generally viewed as a belief regarding the action that is to be expected from others. This contrasts with the view that trust is a way of acting. In his influential book on the nature of explanation in the social sciences, Jon Elster argues that trusting is to act with few precautions. I argue that it is possible to reconcile these seemingly conflicting views about trust. I develop a simple model of trust where both beliefs and precautions play an important role – and where Elster’s understanding of trust can be viewed as a special case.
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Keywords: D01; D23; Incomplete information; Z13; behavioral risk; precautions; trust; trustworthiness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Business and Management, University College of Southeast Norway, Borre, Norway

Publication date: October 2, 2017

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