Original Research

Dimensionality of trust: An analysis of the relations between propensity, trustworthiness and trust

Marita Heyns, Sebastiaan Rothmann
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 41, No 1 | a1263 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v41i1.1263 | © 2015 Marita Heyns, Sebastiaan Rothmann | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 December 2014 | Published: 22 May 2015

About the author(s)

Marita Heyns, Optentia Research Focus Area, North-West University, Vaal Triangle Campus, South Africa
Sebastiaan Rothmann, Optentia Research Focus Area, North-West University, Vaal Triangle Campus, South Africa


Orientation: Research concerning trust relationships on the interpersonal level, particularly when studied in dyadic relationships from the follower’s point of view, is relatively scarce. Only a few researchers have attempted to link multiple dimensions of trust in the same study.

Research purpose: This study examined the dynamic interplay between trust propensity, trustworthiness beliefs and the decision to trust, as perceived within dyadic workplace relationships.

Motivation for the study: No studies, as far as the authors are aware, have ever attempted to use a combination of Mayer and Davis’s well-known assessment of trustworthiness and Gillespie’s measure of behavioural trust within the same study. By including measures of main antecedents and the actual decision to trust in the same study, the multidimensionality of trust can be established more concretely.

Research approach, design and method: A cross-sectional survey design with a convenience sample (N = 539) was used. The Behavioural Trust Inventory and the Organisational Trust Instrument were administered.

Main findings: Results confirmed the distinctness of propensity, trustworthiness and trust as separate main constructs. Trust was strongly associated with trustworthiness beliefs. Trustworthiness beliefs fully mediated the relationship between propensity and trust. The observed relations between propensity and trustworthiness suggest that individuals with a natural predisposition to trust others will be more inclined to perceive a specific trust referent as trustworthy.

Practical/managerial implications: Leaders should realise that their attitudes and behaviour have a decisive impact on trust formation processes: if they are being perceived as trustworthy, followers will be likely to respond by engaging in trusting behaviours towards them. Tools to assess followers’ perceptions of the trustworthiness of the leader may provide useful feedback that can guide leaders.

Contribution/value-add: This study contributes to scientific knowledge regarding the influence of propensity to trust and trustworthiness on trust of leaders.


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Crossref Citations

1. The dimensionality of trust-relevant constructs in four institutional domains: results from confirmatory factor analyses
Lisa M. PytlikZillig, Joseph A. Hamm, Ellie Shockley, Mitchel N. Herian, Tess M.S. Neal, Christopher D. Kimbrough, Alan J. Tomkins, Brian H. Bornstein
Journal of Trust Research  vol: 6  issue: 2  first page: 111  year: 2016  
doi: 10.1080/21515581.2016.1151359