A new scale for the measurement of interpersonal trust
Julian B. Rotter, University of Connecticut
One of the most salient factors m the effectiveness of ourpresent complex social organization is the willmgness of one ormore mdividuals m a social unit to trust others The efiSciency,adjustment, and even survival of any social group depends uponthe presence or absence of such trust.Interpersonal trust is defined here as an expectancy held by an mdividual or a group that the word, promise, verbal or wntten statement of another individual or group can be relied upon.This definition clearly departs significantly from Enkson's ( 1953)broad use of the concept of basic trust which Enkson descnbesas a cential ingredient m "the healthy personality "Vanous wnters have already mdicated that a high expectancythat others can be relied upon is an important variable in thedevelopment of adequate family relationships and of healthypersonahties in children The failure to trust others, particularlyrepresentatives of society, such as parents, teachers, and powerfulcommunity leaders, has frequently been cited as an importantdetermmant m delmquency (Redi & Wmeman, 1951) DifiBculties m race relationships and m mmonty group-majonty grouprelationships have, likewise, been frequently related to expectancies of one group that the verbal statements of the othercannot be accepted Many psychotherapists believe interpersonaltrust is a major determinant in the success of psychotherapy Infact, an expectancy that others can be believed must be animportant variable m human leammg in general Much of theformal and informal learning that human bemgs acquire is basedon the verbal and wntten statements of others, and what theyleam must be significantly affected by the degree to which theybelieve their informants without independent evidence.
It seems evident that an adequate measure of individual differencesm mterpersonal trust would be of great value for researchm the areas of social psychology, personahty, and clinical psychologySocial scientists have mvestigated some of the conditionsrelatmg to mterpersonal trust usmg game theory (Deutsch,1958, i960, Rapaport & Orwant, 1962, and Scodel, 1962). Forthe most part these mvestigations have shown that a typicalreaction of two strangers m a two-person non-zero-sum gamesituation mvolving trust produces behavior usually mdicativeof competitive rather than cooperative attitudes One mightconclude that Americans at least are a highly suspicious andextremely competitive group who would give up many benefitsrather than cooperate with someone else. The results of thesestudies, however, do not seem consistent with a common-senseanalysis of our own society From the family unit to big busmess,cooperation seems to mark the everyday behavior of mdividualsand organizations to a far greater degree than would be anticipatedfrom the study of two-person game situations Perhapsthis is the result of special reactions to these laboratory situationswhich are highly competitive in nature and are speciJBc to thesesituations, or at least have limited generahty. The wnter haspreviously published an analysis of some of the factors involvmgspecificity of reaction to test and experimental laboratory situationswhich may be apphcable here (Rotter, 1955, i960).
Studies involvmg the commumcation of information (Mellinger,1956, Loomis, 1959, Kelley & Rmg, 1961) have severalcharacteristics in common with game approaches but presentsituations somewhat closer to the present study. These investigationsmdicate that people who trust others more are also moretrustworthy, or cooperative. Simuar findmgs were obtamed byDeutsch (i960) using the "game" paradigm
Other recent literature has dedt with trust indirectly Discussionsof Machiavellianism, ie., the tendency to manipulateothers to gam one's own ends (Christie & Merton, 1958), andanomie (Merton, 1949), suggest that, at least m part, distrust ofothers is dependent upon normlessness m the social organization.
The problem of trust in the present research is bemg viewedfrom the perspective of social learning theory (Rotter, 1954).From this onentation, choice behavior m specific situations dependsupon the expectancy that a given behavior wdl lead toa particular outcome or remforcement m that situation and thepreference value of that remforcement for the mdividual m thatsituation
It IS a natural lmphcation of social leammg theory that experiencesof promised negative or positive reinforcements occurnngwould vary for different mdividuals and that, consequently,people would develop different expectancies that such remforcementswould occur when promised by other people It isalso natural to expect, to some degree, that such expectanciesthat promises of other social agents will be kept would generalizefrom one social agent to another That is, mdividuals woulddiffer m a generalized expectancy that the oral or wntten statementsof odier people can be rehed upon The development ofsuch a generalized attitude may be leamed directly from thebehavior of parents, teachers, peers, etc., and also from verbalstatements regardmg others made by significant people or trustedsources of commumcation such as newspapers and television.It IS ironic that we can leam to distrust large groups of peoplewithout personal expenence vahdating such distrust, becausepeople who are themselves tmsted teach distiust
Previous work on the choice of a smaller immediate rewardversus a more highly valued, delayed reward by Mahrer (1956)and Mischel (1961a, 1961b) is related to the concept of trustas defined here These studies strongly suggest that childrenwho have experienced a higher proportion of promises kept byparents and authonty figures m the past have a higher generalizedexpectancy for mterpersonal trust from other authonty figures
CONSTRUCTION OF THE INTERPERSONAL TRUST SCALE
As a first step m the construction of the scale a number of itemswere wntten usmg a Likert format An attempt was made to samplea wide vanety of social objects so that a subject would be caUedupon to express his trust of parents, teachers, physicians, pohtiaans,classmates, fnends, etc. In other words, the scale was constructedas an addttwe scale m which a high score would show trust for agreat vanety of social objects In addition to the specific items, afew Items were stated m broader terms presumed to measure a moregeneral optimism regardmg the society Fmally, a number of filler items, intended to partially disguise the purpose of the scale, werewritten and mcluded in the first expenmental form
The expenmental form was group-admuiistered to two large classesof students m an introductory psychology course The sample compnsed248 male and 299 female subjects Along with this scale theMarlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (1964) of "need for socialapproval" was admmistered