Trust and Adaptive Rationality: Towards a Causal Explanation of Conditional and Unconditional Trust

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Booth 69
Oral Presentation
Stephan Alexander ROMPF , University of Cologne, 50923 Cologne, Germany
This paper provides a theoretical framework to reductively explain conditional and unconditional trust; it also presents an experimental test of the corresponding integrative model and its predictions. Trust research has neglected the importance of (1) an actor´s context-dependent definition of the situation and (2) individual-level adaptive rationality. The diversity and fragmentation of trust research is rooted in an implicit duality between rational and non-rational approaches. This antagonism has permeated trust research across disciplines, both with respect to phenomenological description and causal explanation. But human cognition is guided by a flexible and dynamic degree of information processing: trust is as “multi-faceted” as there are cognitive routes that take us to the choice of a trusting act. The degree of rationality involved in interpretation and choice is a fundamental aspect of trust. However, adaptive rationality has not been treated as an independent and orthogonal dimension of the typological space of trust. By allowing for both automatic and rational modes of information processing, the model demonstrates the impact of a flexible and dynamic degree of rationality in interpretation and choice on trust. It describes a finite set of parameters that guide the selection of the processing mode and provides a causal link between an actor´s definition of the situation, individual-level adaptive rationality, and the behavioral outcome of trust. I predict a closed set of admissible interaction patterns in an experimental context using a measure of chronic norm accessibility (interpersonal trust scale) and two situational parameters. In a 2x2 factorial design, I vary the ­context and initial endowments in a standard investment game. The data show that negative incentive effects on trust in high-cost situations (5€ vs. 50€ real initial endowments) can be mediated by high norm accessibility or a positive social context. Decision-times analyses reveal a consistent pattern of interactions.