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Understanding Trust


  • This study is part of a larger project funded by the Templeton Foundation. Without its support none of this would have been possible. In addition, Paola Sapienza thanks the Zell Center, and Luigi Zingales thanks the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) and the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for financial support. Anna Toldra-Simats thanks the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University) because this is where this study started. We thank Ernesto Reuben for valuable suggestions throughout the process of writing this article, and Janice Luce and Peggy Eppink for editorial help. We also thank three anonymous referees.


The World Values Survey (WVS) question on trust has been widely used to study the economic effect of trust. Recent work, however, questions its validity as an accurate measure of trust by showing that it is not correlated with the sender's behaviour in the Berg et al. trust game. What measure then should we trust to measure trust? In this article, we argue that the sender's behaviour in a trust game is driven both by beliefs and by preferences. In contrast, WVS-like measures capture mostly the belief-based component of a trust game.