Examining the Relationship Between Interpersonal and Institutional Trust in Political and Health Care Contexts


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

While many agree that interpersonal and institutional trust are key ingredients for social order, the differences between the two and how they influence one another remain unclear. We define trust as the willingness to be vulnerable to another party, and focus our discussion on situations where the trustor (trusting party) is an individual member of the public and the trustee (party being trusted) is an institution or one of its members. We review the literature on trust and related concepts that address the potential relationships between interpersonal trust and institutional trust, focusing on two illustrative contexts: the political arena and health care. For each context, we examine extant research to provide definitions of institutions and note how these definitions have implications for defining institutional trust in each context. Second, we examine how characteristics of the trustor (individual-level characteristics) may affect the relationship between interpersonal and institutional trust. For example, a trustor’s gender, race and ethnicity, and familiarity with the institutional trustee may frame his/her interactions with, and subsequently their trust in, the institution. Being cognizant of these factors will improve understanding of the cases where a relationship between interpersonal and institutional trust exists. We conclude by highlighting how these arguments can inform future research.

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