Following up on ideas originally proposed by Niklas Luhmann, recent research has suggested that individuals may trust institutions and political actors only to the degree that they assume them to share their own value orientations. Two studies were conducted to test this proposition. Study 1 was a survey of attitudes towards unfamiliar technologies and trust in the institutions developing and regulating these technologies, involving 1200 participants from Finland, Germany and Italy. The causal structure in the data was identified by means of TETRAD search algorithms and cross-validated by means of structural equation models. The results suggested that value orientations, here measured as attitudes towards highly abstract concepts such as nature and technological progress, provide an evaluative standard relative to which the trustworthiness of institutions is judged. The trustworthiness of the institutions that develop and regulate a particular technology operates then as a heuristic for evaluating that technology. Study 2 was an experiment testing reversed-direction effects on trust, involving 1650 participants from Denmark, Germany, Italy, and the UK. Participants were confronted with different types of information about gene technology. The materials were attributed to different institutions. The results indicated that participants' trust in an institution was a function of the similarity between the position advocated in the materials and participants' own attitudes towards gene technology (which had been measured prior to the experiment), independent of who the institution was. The effect was twice as large as the effect of the different institutions. Support for the idea that trust relates to shared values is drawn also from work on the affect heuristic. Because affective or feelings-based evaluations are fundamental to human information processing, they can contribute significantly to other judgments (such as the risk, cost-effectiveness, trustworthiness) of the same stimulus object. Although deliberation and analysis are certainly important in some decision-making circumstances, reliance on affect is a quicker, easier, and a more efficient way of navigating in a complex and uncertain world. Hence, many theorists give affect a direct and primary role in motivating behavior. Taken together, the results provide uncannily strong support for the value-similarity hypothesis, strengthening the suspicion that this particular mechanism may be responsible for the success of populist politics. Understanding the role of affect is key to reducing polarization in debates about the value of new technologies.
MAPP; Tillid; Holdninger; Trust; Attitudes
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IAREP and SABE Joint Conference on Behavioural Economics and Economic Psychology, 2006