Examining the Validity and Reliability Of Generalized Trust Measuring

Proceedings of The 4th International Conference on Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts

Year: 2023

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.33422/4th.icsha.2023.04.001


Examining the Validity and Reliability Of Generalized Trust Measuring

Márk Hegedüs




Trust is a field of research in social sciences that has complex, well-developed theoretical approaches, but its empirical tools are less established. The most common survey tool for measuring generalized trust is a formula often referred to in the literature as standard trust question, which reads as follows: „Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?”. The aim of the publication is to examine this standard survey item along the dimensions of reliability and validity. In my analysis, I use Hungarian data obtained from various international surveys. My results indicate serious validity problems, as the standard question shows only weak linkage with additional variables, which, based on the conceptual background, should be in a close relationship with trust. The question arises, however, as to whether generalized trust, as a personal and social phenomenon, actually exists, whether the concept is worth dealing with, and, from a methodology point of view, whether we can say that the standard trust question used to measure generalized trust works properly. In any case, the number of critical observations appearing in the literature in connection with measurement is increasing, some of them raise theoretical concerns and others are very critical of the methodology. The starting point of my own endeavors is theoretical in nature, too, and does not merely shed light on the methodological issues in connection with the measurement of trust. I’m showing this through Hungarian data, using the biggest survey databases.

keywords: trust, generalized trust, measurement, validity, reliability