Addressing the Moral-Emotional and Rational Justifications of Trust Empirically

The paper tries to empirically reveal how social trust, i.e. trust towards unknown others is justified. At first, the argument overviews the evolution of survey methods in trust research, then it addresses the most common survey tools as well as the critical debates about their application. The inquiry starts with the examination of the standard trust variable and the so-called trust-scale, which items are reinterpreted in a way to make them adequate for the analysis of the moral-emotional justifications of trust. This phase is based on data obtained from the European Social Survey. The outcomes show that trust measured by the standard variable is not all grounded in moral-emotional justifications. In light of the proposed theoretical argument, this morally-emotionally unjustified trust cannot be seen as ‘true’ or ‘well-founded’. The second phase extends the focus towards the rational aspects in order to explore the configuration of trust-justifications. Results stem from an originally elaborated pilot questionnaire. The most relevant finding of this section is that those respondents who show high level of morally-emotionally justified trust towards others, they have a balanced configurations of justifications, while those who show similarly high level of trust towards others but their trust is morally-emotionally unjustified, they are tempted to rely more on their rational justifications just as those respondents who have low level of trust towards people in general. At the same time, respondents – irrespective to their trust disposition (i.e. justified high trust, unjustified high trust, or low trust) – agree that based on what expectations related to others’ features, attitudes, and behaviors showing or withdrawing trust in an interaction is right – they are all focused on the morally-emotionally relevant aspects against the rational ones, both in the case of showing or refusing trust. These outcomes support the proposed theoretical argument, insofar as respondents, regardless to their trust disposition, cognitively understand trust the same way, i.e. they are aware of the true sources of trustworthiness although this does not mean that they are able to show trust. The last part of the analysis examines the respondents’ trust radiuses. It stresses – in line with the assumption – that morally-emotionally justified trust correlates with wider social radiuses.

Released: Replika 113, 25–43.