Risk and trust in social exchange: An experimental test of a classical proposition


The classical exchange theorists proposed that trust is more likely to develop between partners when exchange occurs without explicit negotiations or binding agreements. Under these conditions, the risk and uncertainty of exchange provide the opportunity for partners to demonstrate their trustworthiness. This study develops the theoretical implications of this proposition and conducts an experimental test that compares levels of both trust and commitment in two forms of direct exchange, negotiated and reciprocal. The results support the classical proposition, showing that reciprocal exchange produces stronger trust and affective commitment than negotiated exchange, and that behaviors signaling the partner's trustworthiness have greater impact on trust in reciprocal exchange.

Publication Title

American Journal of Sociology