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Saint Vincent College Faculty Blog

Who Do You Trust?

Posted by Michael Urick on Wed, Jul 8, 2020 @ 11:07 AM

Some people seem to naturally elicit trust in others. If you do a search on the internet for trustworthy famous people, for example, you will find lists that include the likes of Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Betty White and James Earl Jones. Locally in Latrobe, hometown heroes Arnold Palmer and Fred Rogers are viewed as exemplars of trustworthiness. On the other hand, there are also many examples of people that some individuals might consider to be non-trustworthy, but I will not mention them here in order to focus more on the positive.

Of course, though they can serve as examples of individuals that people trust, celebrities are not the only people who are judged based on their level of being trustworthy or not. On a personal level as a professor, I strive for my students and colleagues to trust me, especially in times of uncertainty such as this one.

But how do these celebrities build the perception of being trustworthy? How can I encourage others to place their in trust in me? And how can leaders increase trust within their groups? The study of organizational behavior can help to partially answer these questions. Some scholars in this field have suggested that there are at least three major aspects to developing perceptions of trustworthiness: disposition-based, cognition-based and affect-based trust (Baer & Colquitt, 2018).

The first element of trust is related to the individual distributing trust, not the person being trusted. Some people have a natural propensity to trust others. Other people do not have the same propensity. This is known as disposition-based trust. Whether or not someone is trusted can depend on the nature of the individual perceiving her or him to be trustworthy.

The concept of trustworthiness is central to the second major influence of trust. This has been labeled cognition-based trust. Here, people form thought-based impressions of another person’s trustworthiness often on the basis of their perceived ability, integrity or honesty. Think about someone that you trust. You likely think of that person as competent and truthful. Of course, individuals low on disposition-based trust may have a difficult time leveraging this type of trust.

While cognition-based trust leverages what a person thinks, the third type of trust is affect-based trust which is concerned with how someone emotionally feels. This is a type of trust that develops over a long periods of time in fewer relationships than those exhibiting cognition-based trust. This is a very strong type of trust. Think of those individuals that you trust most. It is likely that they elicit very strong positive emotions within you.

Of course, trust in a person is strongest when all three types noted above are present. For individuals who want to be more trustworthy, though, building strong trust takes time. It likely cannot be done by everybody because it takes actual integrity and it takes creating a true connection with others. And building trust also assumes that those that you want to trust you have the propensity to do so.

While building trust takes a long time, losing it can occur quite quickly. Once trust is decreased and someone is viewed to be untrustworthy, psychological contracts (unwritten expectations that people have of each other; Robinson, 1996) are often broken which leads to negative relationships, decreased morale, dissatisfaction and a loss of commitment.

I want to hear your thoughts. Who do you trust? What makes that person trustworthy? Which of the three types of trust discussed above do you feel is most important? Send me an email at michael.urick@stvincent.edu or connect with me on Facebook.

Dr. Mike Urick


Baer, M., & Colquitt, J. A. (2018). Moving toward a more comprehensive consideration of the antecedents of trust. Routledge companion to trust, 163-182.

Robinson, S. L. (1996). Trust and breach of the psychological contract. Administrative science quarterly, 574-599.

Topics: Saint Vincent College, Faculty Blog, Dr. Mike Urick, trust

About the Authors

Michelle Gil-Montero is an associate professor of English and director of creative writing at Saint Vincent College. She runs the visiting writers series on campus, oversees the student literary magazine, and serves as guru to aspiring poets on campus. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2007, and she has been on the Saint Vincent faculty since that year. She is an active poet and literary translator from Spanish. She is spending part of the 2016-17 school year travelling to Argentina on a Howard Foundation fellowship and Fulbright grant. 

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January 2008. Dr. Smetanka has taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry and Geology as well as interdisciplinary seminars. He has published scientific research articles in physics and astrophysics journals, numerous conference proceedings and also works in science education reform and the interaction between science, technology and theology.

Jim Kellam is an associate professor of biology at Saint Vincent College and our resident ornithologist. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2003, and is taking this semester as a sabbatical. What does that mean? He'll explain in his blog posts.

Dr. Michael J. Urick is Graduate Director of the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence program, and Associate Professor of Management and Operational Excellence at the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics, and Government. Dr. Urick teaches courses related to organizational behavior, human resources, culture, leadership, diversity, conflict, supply chain, operations and research methods. Professionally, Urick serves on the board of the Institute for Supply Management (Pittsburgh) and belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and APICS. For fun, Urick enjoys music and, since 1998, has led and performed with Neon Swing X-perience, a jazz band that has released multiple albums and toured portions of the US. He enjoys watching movies, is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and also likes to fence.

David Safin, C'00, has been a lecturer in the communication department since the Fall of 2003, and has served in a variety of administrative roles since the summer of 2004. Currently, he teaches multimedia in the communication department as an assistant professor. 

Dr. Michael Krom received his Doctorate in philosophy at Emory University in 2007 and is currently the chair of the philosophy department at Saint Vincent. He has authored a book on religion and politics and continues to publish works in Catholic moral and political thought. Dr. Krom also directs the Faith and Reason summer program every summer. 

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