Trust, Choice Behavior, and Activity Description

Damon F. Tempey (Ph.D., 1974)

Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio

Consideration of the literature on trust and development of a conceptualization of trust led to a definition of trust: When one says A trusts B one means that A feels he can count on B to take his interests into account, even though B could take advantage of his knowledge and/or position to wrong A. This research focused on the relationship between trust, choice behavior, and activity description and formulated a distinction in talking about mistrust between activity choosing and policy following. Six hypotheses were then suggested, primarily focused on this distinction. Seventy-four subjects completed a self-report questionnaire consisting of four parts titled Activity Description, Situations, Interpersonal Relations Inventory, and Background Information. These subjects were then randomly paired and run through a game of Prisoner's Dilemma (PD). Questionnaire and PD data were then cluster analyzed using BC TRY, with t-tests being used to test hypotheses where cluster analysis could not be used. From this analysis, one may conclude that (1) activity choosers tend to behave like normals when they willingly participate in a situation calling for trusting another and like policy followers when forced to (policy followers tend to make consistently low risk choices), (2) mistrustful persons tend to seek out everyday situations with little potential for trusting another, (3) there is a slight tendency for mistrustful persons to have a distinct developmental history characterized by a sense of "not belonging," and (4) policy followers are significantly more mistrustful than activity choosers as well as higher in interpersonal vigilance. [96 pp.]