Conference Paper BHPS-2007 Conference: the 2007 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 5 July -7 July 2007, Colchester, UK
People's trust: evidence from an experiment with ordinary people -abstract-
Trust is an important lubricant for social and economic transactions. It is related to concepts of 'social capital'. The aims of the study are (i) to measure trust and trustworthiness in a sample of the British population and (ii) to investigate which individual attributes may affect them. It pursues these aims experimentally, through a new design of the so-called 'trust game', administered to a small sample of the population, the members of which were formerly in the BHPS. It will measure trust and trustworthiness in interactions between anonymous individuals.
This will be the first study of its kind for Britain, and one of only a few in the world based on samples from the general population, as opposed to university students. It is valuable as part of the broader field of studies currently challenging the theoretical foundations of micro-economic theory. It also provides behavioural measures, based on experimental evidence, of both trust and trustworthiness. The latter is particularly important, for while there may be some limited value in asking attitudinal questions about trust--of the kind 'do you think most people are trustworthy?' --surveys are useless when one aims to measure trustworthiness. The research makes it possible to overcome the shortcomings of both surveys and experiments using students.