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Freitag, M., Traunmüller, R. (2009). Spheres of trust: An empirical analysis of the foundations of particularised and generalised trust. European Journal of Political Research 48(6), 782–803

While the literature on trust has produced various conceptual models, there is also some confusion concerning different types of trust and their formation. In this article, three contested points are empirically clarified. First, are there really different forms of trust as much of the literature suggests? Second, if so, then how are these different types of trust related to each other? Third, what are the foundations of these different forms of trust? Relying on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, it is concluded that two types of trust can be empirically identified: an intimate trust in people close to the truster, as well as an abstract trust in people in general. Although these types of trust constitute separate dimensions, they are positively related to each other. Furthermore, this article challenges the widely held assumption that experiences are most relevant for particularised trust, while generalised trust is based on psychological predispositions. It is argued instead for a sphere-specific logic of trust formation: It is the radius of experiences and predispositions that matters for the radius of trust. Finally, the analysis goes beyond the existing research by highlighting hitherto unknown conditions under which trust in familiar domains is more or less likely to extend to generalised trust.


Freitag, Markus

Markus Freitag studied political science, economics, and German language and literature at Heidelberg University. After obtaining the degree of Magister Artium in 1995, he joined the University of Bern as a doctoral candidate and scientific assistant and completed his doctoral degree (PhD) in 1999...

Traunmüller, Richard

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES) at the University of Mannheim. This personal homepage is dedicated to my ego, err, I mean work and research. I was born in Linz/Austria but growing up, I called many places home, including Mexico, Germany, Saudi...

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