Experimental Economics

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 193-208

First online:

Decomposing trust and trustworthiness

  • Nava AshrafAffiliated withHarvard Business School
  • , Iris BohnetAffiliated withKennedy School of Government, Harvard University Email author 
  • , Nikita PiankovAffiliated withAnalysis Group

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What motivates people to trust and be trustworthy? Is trust solely “calculative,” based on the expectation of trustworthiness, and trustworthiness only reciprocity? Employing a within-subject design, we run investment and dictator game experiments in Russia, South Africa and the United States. Additionally, we measured risk preferences and expectations of return. Expectations of return account for most of the variance in trust, but unconditional kindness also matters. Variance in trustworthiness is mainly accounted for by unconditional kindness, while reciprocity plays a comparatively small role. There exists some heterogeneity in motivation but people behave surprisingly similarly in the three countries studied.


Trust Reciprocity Social preferences Cross-cultural experiments