Trust in initial encounters : a motivational, cognitive theory
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In this dissertation I develop a theoretical model on the effects of risk on the formation of trust in the initial stages of a relationship. Risk is proposed to influence trust in two ways: First, risk exerts a direct influence on trust. Risk may decrease trust, increase trust, or increase trust under specific conditions. Second, risk may affect the level of trust indirectly by influencing the effect of social stimuli on the formation of trust. In this second indirect effect of risk, risk is first proposed to influence the content of trust, or what trust is about as represented in the importance a trustor attaches to benevolence or ability. Moreover and related to the effect of risk on the form of trust, risk is further proposed to affect what people seek to know or the informational goals people adopt, and the interpretive schemas people use while processing social stimuli. In describing the indirect effect of risk on the formation of trust, I differentiate between rolebased and personal trust. Role-based trust emphasizes ability and reliability and is vested in people’s structural expectations toward social and professional roles. Personal trust emphasizes benevolence and is vested in a trustor’s appraisal of the personal traits and motivations of a trustee. High risk, I argue will activate personal trust, and cause people to interpret information in light of a person schema whereas low risk is proposed to activate rolebased trust and should cause people to interpret information in light of a role schema. Unlike conventional models of trust formation and development, which see trust as being based on declarative knowledge; the present model argue that trust in the initial stages of a relationship will be based on people’s experience with information processing and their experiences of fluency in information processing and relevance. Social stimuli that are structurally congruent with active interpretive schemas as well as relevant to active informational goals will increase trust whereas incongruent and irrelevant information should reduce trust.