Photo TrustLab

[Measure] TrustLab

TrustLab relies on a web platform for experimental economics designed to document and analyze the distribution of social preferences and trust in large samples of populations.

Generalized trust has been shown to be a determinant of growth, social cohesion and wellbeing (Arrow 1972Putnam 2000). At the same time, citizens’ trust in public institutions is a crucial component for policy reform and the legitimacy of political systems (OECD 2013). Against the backdrop of rising social tensions and discontent with political elites in many Western democracies, understanding what drives trust has become more relevant than ever.

Available measurement instruments of trust have mostly been survey-based, with limited evidence on their validity (Naef and Schupp 2009). Laboratory experiments on the other hand allow the direct observation of preferences in real-time (Haushofer 2013). However, these studies have so far been restricted to small unrepresentative samples, mainly relying on university students as subjects.

Through a web platform targeting online samples, the TrustLab project collects country-comparable and nationally representative (n=1000 per country) estimates of trust. The platform combines experimental measures (behavioural games and an implicit association test) with an extensive survey module to assess trust in institutions, generalized trust, cooperative attitudes and risk preferences, plus their individual and system-level determinants. The first round of data collection is planned for France, Korea, the US, Germany and Slovenia. More countries could follow.

This rich dataset contributes to the field by allowing disentangling the relationships between self-reported and experimental trust measures, as well as their drivers. Among other findings, the preliminary results show that while implicit and explicit measures of trust in government are robustly correlated, self-reported generalized trust predicts experimental trustworthiness, but not experimental trust.

Watch the video below to find out more about the project.

This video was made when the HLEG Workshop on Measuring Trust and Social Capital, co-organized by the OECD and Sciences Po was held in Paris on 10 June 2016.

Research article