Institutional Trust Across Cultures: Its Definitions, Conceptualizations, and Antecedents Across Eastern and Western European Nations

  • Lindsey M. ColeEmail author
  • Ellen S. Cohn


Trust has been defined in a variety of ways across disciplines. The issue of defining trust becomes even more convoluted when considering linguistic variations, cultural differences, and colloquial definitions. In addition to interdisciplinary variations in trust definitions, languages vary in the vocabulary, meanings, and origins of their words for “trust.” These variations may contribute to the inconsistent and/or contradictory findings previous researchers have identified in predictors of institutional trust. The purpose of this chapter is fourfold: first we examine the philosophical issues surrounding cross-cultural conceptualizations of institutional trust by comparing intra/cross-cultural and interdisciplinary divergence in the definitions and conceptualization of institutional trust. Second, we compare cross-national findings from empirical studies to highlight important factors in institutional trust across different cultures. Third, we compare predictors of diffuse support for the highest national court in the country, as a measure of institutional trust, between Western European and Eastern European countries. In the present analysis, we examined the impact of previously identified factors important in predicting institutional trust, such as the importance of procedural and distributive justice, and the perception of corruption as an important problem, from data collected previously in a cross-national study conducted shortly after the end of communism in Eastern Europe. Finally, we close comments on the state of the field and with suggestions for future directions in cross-national research in institutional trust.


Corruption Culture Democracy Diffuse support Distributive justice Europe Language Legitimacy Procedural justice Trust definitions 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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