Generalized Trust, Cultural Diversity and Institutions
Project Objectives

The GENERAL OBJECTIVE of the project is to provide a comprehensive view of the determinants and causal mechanisms of generalized trust.

Therefore, we will pursue the following SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES:

O1. To refine the measurement of generalized trust to be more valid and reliable.
The project will attain this objective by using a blend of explicit and implicit operationalizations. Survey questions are explicit measures of attitudes. Survey-based studies of generalized trust normally use as their measurement instrument the trust question, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can?t be too careful in dealing with people?” (ex. GSS, WVS, ESS). This approach to measurement has been found to have several validity problems, since it leaves a number of crucial interpretations to the respondents (Soroka et al. 2007, Delhey and Newton, 2005).
Implicit measures refer to a “heterogeneous set of methods and procedures that are differentiated from explicit measures by having at least one of: (1) reduced controllability, (2) lack of intention, (3) reduced
awareness of the origins, meaning, or occurrence of a response, or (4) high efficiency of processing.” (Bargh, 1994; Nosek 2006) The project will use an innovative approach that consists of combining survey battery of questions with results of two different types of experiments (Cook and Cooper 2003).

O2. To evaluate stability over time and across diverse settings of generalized trust.
Generalized trust seems to be remarkably stable over time in a large array of studies (e.g. Uslaner 2002). However, most of these assessments come from a series of cross-sectional studies. The few longitudinal studies on trust show a more complex, and sometimes contradictory picture. In a previous study based on two panel surveys we found that trust is not as stable at the individual level as cross-sectional studies imply, as well as lower effect of age than expected (Badescu and Sum 2011).
The proposed project will utilize a design which allows us to evaluate the dynamics of trust under controlled settings, which will result in uniquely structured data sets for our purposes.

O3. To assess the effects of social and cultural diversity on generalized trust.
Our study speaks to the current debate about the impact of diversity on social cohesion and the wider consequences this may have for society. Exposure to diversity is predicted by both theoretical and empirical work to influence generalized trust; yet diverges with regard to the direction of change. Yet, the field is divided regarding the effects of diversity with some seeing positive gains in trust (Pettigrew and Tropp 2006), others a loss in trust (Bobo and Tuan 2006; Taylor 1998), and still others predicting a general withdrawal from social life as a response to diversity (Putnam 2007). Changes in the level of income inequality in a society, exposes individuals to a particular form of diversity which affects levels of generalized trust (Bjørnskov 2007; Knack and Zak 2002; Uslaner 2002; Zak and Knack 2001) although this finding may not hold in East-European cases (Uslaner and Badescu 2004).
Our research design allows us to contribute meaningfully to the debate since we will evaluate the effects of several types of diversity: (1) inside peer group (university colleagues, friends, prison inmates), (2) at the locality and regional level, (3) the result of migration and travel abroad experiences.

O4. To assess the effects of institutions on generalized trust.
Some scholars emphasize the importance of institutions in creating or destroying generalized trust (Farrell & Knight 2003, Levi 1998, Rothstein 2000). According to Levi (1996, 47–48), if an actor has reason to expect that another actor is not likely to betray the trust invested in him because this betrayal would be detected and sanctioned by the appropriate institutions in society, there is a rational basis for trusting the other actor. Once more, empirical evidence appears mixed with some finding only institutions playing a minimal role (Mishler & Rose 2001; Letki & Evans 2005) and others presenting more robust findings (Delhey & Newton 2005).
The proposed project will allow us to evaluate several types of the effects of institutions: national institutions, local institutions, such as university and prison, and, in the case of ex-migrants, institutions
to which they were exposed while they worked abroad. Thus, we treat institutions as a potential mitigating factor in understanding the level of generalized trust in society.

Additionally, we aim

O5. To facilitate the integration of national research programs that are relevant for social capital, education, labor migration and penitentiary system.

O6. To contribute to the development of international partnerships for the study of the relationships between generalized trust, social and cultural diversity, and honesty.

O7. To disseminate the results that both our teams of researchers and our international partner networks will produce, through the organization of conferences, the publishing of collective volumes and contributions in renowned social science journals, and through the posting of the raw data that we will gather on the website of the project (
O8. To increase the network members? potential in successfully applying for common research projects, including the frame program FP7.

O9. To involve students from the Research Design and Data Analysis Master Program, doctoral and post-doctoral students at Babes-Bolyai University throughout the research process.

A Longitudinal and Experimental Study