Qualitative meta-analysis of propensity to trust measurement

Patent, Volker and Searle, Rosalind (2019). Qualitative meta-analysis of propensity to trust measurement. Journal of Trust Research, 9(2) pp. 136–163.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/21515581.2019.1675074


In a rapidly changing and dynamic world, individuals’ propensity to trust is likely to become an increasingly important facet for understanding human behaviour, yet its measurement has mostly been unexplored. We undertake the first systematic qualitative survey of propensity to trust scales using qualitative meta-analysis methodology to review the literature (1966–2018) and identify 26 measures and their applications in 179 studies. Using content analysis, we thematically organise these scales into six thematic areas and discuss the emerging implications. We find that while most of these scales reflect propensity to trust in terms of a positive belief in human nature, other themes include general trust, role expectations, institutional trust, cautiousness and other personality attributes. We reveal significant methodological concerns regarding several scales and argue for more considered selection of scales for use in research. We examine the case for multidimensionality in measures of propensity to trust used within organisational research. Rather than treating a lack of generalisability of findings in existing organisational studies as purely a problem of measurement design, we instead outline an agenda for further conceptual and empirical study.

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