Trust is at issue when someone makes oneself vulnerable to another who can harm if the trust is misplaced. The recipient of trust is either trustworthy or not, and much of the literature revolves around the evaluation of the trustworthiness of the trusted by the trustor. Trust can exist among those who know each other intimately (personal trust) and among strangers (interpersonal, social, or generalized trust). Trust can have as its object other people or institutions and organizations. In conceptualizing trust to undertake empirical research, two crucial distinctions exist: cognitive vs non-cognitive trust and personalized vs generalized trust. The more instrumental and cognitive theorists tend to treat trust as an estimate of the trustworthiness of those with whom one has relationships as individuals or within social networks. In contrast are those who claim trust is dispositional or moralistic. While each tradition treats the work trust does as an empirical question, their conceptualizations are sufficiently distinct so that both their presumptions of the role that trust plays in society and their findings are often incompatible. This leads to debate about the sources of trust and whether trust is essential for good government, economic growth, and harmony. Trust and trustworthiness are distinct but so implicated with each other that it is generally necessary to consider the second in contemplating the first. Indeed, much of the literature revolves around how to establish and assess the trustworthiness of persons, organizations, and institutions.
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