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The Trust Paradox: A Survey of Economic Inquiries Into the Nature of Trust and Trustworthiness


Author Info

  • Harvey James

    (University of Missouri)


This paper examines the concepts of trust and trustworthiness in the context of a one-sided variation of the prisoner's dilemma, and it evaluates four different categories of solutions to the PD problem: changing player preferences, enforcing explicit contracts, establishing implicit contracts, and repeating the interaction of the players. Because these solutions rely on the creation of incentives to induce cooperation, this paper articulates a paradox of trust in that if one trusts another because there are incentives for the other to be trustworthy, then the vulnerability to exploitation is removed which gives trust its very meaning. The paper explores the implications of trust when understood to exist at two levels -- one in which there are incentives to trust, and the other in which appropriate incentives are absent.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Microeconomics with number 0202001.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 04 Feb 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0202001

Note: Type of Document - Microsoft Word; prepared on IBM PC; to print on HP; pages: 28; figures: 4. Figures embedded as tables in document
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Related research

Keywords: Trust; social norms; transaction costs; rationality; prisoner's dilemma;

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