This paper highlights the under-emphasised connection between theoretical conceptualisations and empirical operationalisations in the field of trust research. The paper proposes a matching of specific surveys measures with conceptualisations in order to work towards a more theoretically-informed empirical study of interpersonal trust. The work examines five widely-used survey measures of trust, and considers whether they are likely to operationalise conceptualisations of trust that are broadly more ‘strategic’ or more ‘moralistic’ in nature. It is argued that these trust questions, which are frequently used interchangeably, are likely to differ substantially from each other in terms of their conceptual underpinnings. This expectation is tested by examining the association between interpersonal trust and gender across seven UK social surveys. Findings indicate that the trust questions indeed have different associations with gender, providing support for the idea that some questions map more closely onto ‘strategic’ conceptualisations of trust, whilst others map more closely onto ‘moralistic’ conceptualisations. Implications of these findings are explored in the context of the search for construct validity in trust research.
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This principle is attributed to Saint Matthew with reference to Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath”.
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Bulloch, S.L. Seeking Construct Validity in Interpersonal Trust Research: A Proposal on Linking Theory and Survey Measures. Soc Indic Res 113, 1289–1310 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0139-0