Revisiting the Hendriks et al. (2016) trust model

After having read about “trust moves” that teachers report making (Felten et al., 2023), and currently working on figuring out what makes students trust their teachers (Persson et al., 2023), I now really need to sort out my reading of “trust” literature, which means putting it in my external memory, aka my blog. So here we go…

I started thinking about trust in 2017-ish, when I met Friederike Hendriks and heard her talk about their model for trust in science (Hendriks, Kienhues, & Bromme, 2016). There is the paradox of trust in science — on the one hand, you should not need to trust anything because you should be able to repeat an experiment and come to the same outcome. On the other hand, it is completely impossible for one person to “test” all the scientific discoveries that are out there by themselves, so they have to trust someone else (or the scientific community) to do part of that checking. And judgments about who we can trust to do that depends on our perception of that person or group’s expertise (knows what they are talking about and doing), benevolence (having good intentions for society) and integrity (comes to conclusions in a systematic manner and follows the rules of their profession and the larger society). Hendriks, Kienhues & Bromme (2015) developed the METI (Muenster Epistemic Trustworthiness Inventory), an instrument that measures the three scales explicitly by asking people to rate their agreements with items like for example competent-incompetent, considerate-inconsiderate, honest-dishonest. I vaguely remember working with that during my time at IPN in Kiel, but I have forgotten what I was doing with it. Shocking!

This expertise-benevolence-integrity model of trust was my go-to understanding for a long time, basically until Rachel Forsyth interviewed me for the (Felten et al., 2023) study, we got stuck talking about it, and we then got involved in our own research project on trust.

But another study by Hendriks et al. (2016) that has influenced my thinking a lot is called “Disclose your flaws! Admission positively affects the perceived trustworthiness of an expert science blogger“. Using the same trust model as above, they investigate how people rate the trustworthiness of a blogger who first makes a bold claim, and then either backtracks themselves because of a mistake they made, or the same mistake is pointed out in pretty much the same words by someone else. They find that in both cases the “expertise” dimension of the blogger takes a hit, but when the mistake is pointed out by the blogger themselves, their perceived benevolence and integrity actually increase. This really influenced my thinking at the time, and how we set up the science communication about our measuring campaign at the 13-m diameter rotating swimming pool in Grenoble.

When I downloaded the article with the Hendriks et al. (2016) trust model that I started out this blogpost with, it came with the whole book, and I stumbled upon the article “Trust Fostering Competencies in Asynchronous Digital Communication” by Kanthak & Hertel (2016), where they develop a competency model for asynchronous communication for working in teams: due to coordination problems and low interactivity, it’s sometimes really difficult to know who is “on the other side”, so why and how should you trust them? These problems can be compensated by extraversion and proactivity (initiating conversations, sharing things about themselves. Authenticity is so important! (Saffran et al., 2020)), computer-mediated communication skills (finding the right buttons to click, so the communication can happen in the first place; noticing the notifications for new messages…), self-management skills and conscientiousness (doing things well and on time), and prospective memory (remembering what tasks you were supposed to perform). Together, these ultimately lead to perceived benevolence, expertise (here called ability) and integrity as in Hendriks et al. (2016) above. Not really surprising, but good to know!

The next article in the book (Mazei & Hertel, 2016) on “Trust in Electronically Mediated Negotiations” suggests four strategies

  1. Exchanging personal information. They call in “schmoozing”, but I can very much relate to that after I recently talked to an administrator on the phone for the first time after years of typically annoying emails (not because of them, just because I hate doing admin stuff), and it was so unexpectedly nice!
  2. Using humor. They talk about sharing a cartoon on the topic of negotiations before the negotiation itself leading to better outcomes, but I’m always a little wary of humor in intercultural contexts. Or maybe I just don’t have any, who knows…
  3. Having or establishing a shared group membership. Remember the Levine et al. (2005) article on how people were more likely to help when they identified as football fans rather than fans of a particular club? Creating an ingroup as large as possible seems to generally be a good advice.
  4. “Heightening the salience of group memberships whose related norms support or value trust”, i.e. pointing out that many of the group are part of a trustworthy group (their examples are firefighters and paramedics), and that leads to other people also behaving in line with those group’s norms.

But there are actually also benefits of electronic negotiations, not just difficulties: In asynchronous communication, nobody is put on the spot and people can draft in peace. Having a bit more time can be used for deescalation of tricky situations. And there is automatic documentation of the whole process, for example an email trail, so nobody can pull a flip and switch!

Reading these articles now, I am even more surprised that students at LTH don’t report a larger influence of teachers disclosing who they are on those teachers’ trustworthiness. Are we asking the wrong questions or does it really not matter to them? Or are all our teachers so authentic that this is just a given that doesn’t need to be mentioned any more?

Hendriks, F., Kienhues, D., & Bromme, R. (2015). Measuring laypeople’s trust in experts in a digital age: The Muenster Epistemic Trustworthiness Inventory (METI). PloS one, 10(10), e0139309.

Hendriks, F., Kienhues, D., & Bromme, R. (2016). Disclose your flaws! Admission positively affects the perceived trustworthiness of an expert science blogger. Studies in Communication Sciences, 16(2), 124-131.

Hendriks, F., Kienhues, D., & Bromme, R. (2016). Trust in science and the science of trust. In B. Blöbaum (Ed.), Trust and communication in a digitized world: Models and concepts of trust research (pp. 143–159). Springer International Publishing/Springer Nature.

Levine, M., Prosser, A., Evans, D., & Reicher, S. (2005). Identity and emergency intervention: How social group membership and inclusiveness of group boundaries shape helping behavior. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 31(4), 443-453.

Saffran L, Hu S, Hinnant A, Scherer LD, Nagel SC (2020) Constructing and influencing perceived authenticity in science communication: Experimenting with narrative. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0226711.

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