Salient Value Similarity, Social Trust, and Risk/Benefit Perception


Michael Siegrist Psychology Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA.


It was postulated that shared values determine social trust in institutions and persons related to a technology: One has trust in people holding similar salient values. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that social trust has a positive influence on perceived benefits and a negative impact on perceived risks. Results of a survey of University of Zürich students indicated that the proposed causal model explained perception of pesticides, nuclear power, and artificial sweetener very well. When social trust was controlled, the relation between risks and benefits perceived diminished. Results indicate that social trust is a key predictive factor of the perceived risks and benefits of a technology, and provide support for the salient values similarity theory of social trust.