Making sense of trust across cultural contexts

Wright, Alex and Ehnert, Ina (2010). Making sense of trust across cultural contexts. In: Saunders, Mark N. K.; Skinner, Denise; Dietz, Graham; Gillespie, Nicole and Lewicki, Roy J. eds. Organizational Trust: A Cultural Perspective. Cambridge Companions to Management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 107–126.



This chapter presents an argument that one way of better understanding how trust is made sense of across cultures is by framing it as a social construction. By doing this the fluidity and unevenness of trust is recognised, which questions any notion of trust being fixed or static. This leads us to advocate for an understanding of trust in its verb form. Trust as a social construction has been recognised before (e.g. Child & Möllering, 2003; Lewis & Weigert, 1985), but we believe the fuller consequences of this have not been adequately explored. We do this and conceptualize trust as constituted within cultural contexts that are ongoing social constructions. We also discuss how actors construct social phenomena and focus on the role of narrative in this process, leading us to conceptualize trust as a narrative process. We then discuss a possible research agenda to improve our knowledge of trust across cultures and propose four research questions to help achieve this.

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