Whom Do You Distrust and How Much Does it Cost? An Experiment on the Measurement of Trust

Document Type


Publication Date





We advance the measurement of trust in economics in two ways. First, we highlight the importance of clearly identifying the target of trust, particularly for obtaining concordance between attitudinal and behavioral measures of trust. Second, we introduce a novel behavioral measure of (dis)trust, based on individualsʼ willingness to pay to avoid being vulnerable to the target of trust. We conduct an experiment in which we vary the target of trust among passersby at several locations around a city, measuring both behavioral distrust and trust attitudes towards these varying targets. We find that subjects discriminate based on perceived characteristics of different targets in determining whether to trust, in a manner consistent with trust elicited using attitudinal measures and with actual trustworthiness. Risk aversion and altruism do not correlate highly with our measure of distrust.

Required Publisher's Statement

Original version is available from the publisher at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899825611001102

This item is not available in The Cupola.