Sub-theme 50: Dynamics of Trust and Distrust: Temporality, Technology and ‘Truth’

Lovisa Näslund
Stockholm University, Sweden
Kirsimarja Blomqvist
Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
Nicole Gillespie
University of Queensland, Australia

Call for Papers

Trust, Simmel (1990) argues, is a fundamental fabric of society. In the wake of recent events in politics and society, scholarly and popular interest in trust has increased. Currently, we seem to be plagued simultaneously with unwarranted distrust in science and ‘experts’, and unwarranted trust in fake news and social media feeds, highlighting the need to better understand the evolution, bases and dynamics of trust (e.g. interpersonal trust being replaced by impersonal trust in systems and institutions, or vice versa; institutionally conferred expertise losing its role in building trust). The aim of this sub-theme is to advance understanding of the dynamics of trust and distrust by bringing together researchers who can offer theoretical and empirical insights on these dynamics, particularly as they play out across time and multiple levels of analysis and/or through technology.
Trust dynamics have to some extent been the focus of foundational trust studies (e.g. Lewicki & Bunker, 1995; Zand, 1972), but often with a narrow focus at the interpersonal and micro-group level (Gillespie, 2017). Rather than linear development within one relationship, as these traditional models suggest, there may be dynamic trust spirals across individual and collective levels of analysis, so that trust occurs at the interplay of micro- and macro levels (Ferrin et al., 2008; Schilke & Cook, 2013). A process view on trust, furthermore, calls for renewed attention to trust as temporally situated, drawing on the interpretation of the past and the expectations of the future, and exploration of how trust dynamics will be influenced by the time horizons of trustor and trustee (Jagd & Fuglsang, 2016; Möllering, 2001). It may also be questioned to what extent trust is symmetrical and reciprocated over time (Korsgaard et al., 2015; Skinner et al., 2014), and the extent to which swift trust is a distinct form of trust, refocusing attention on how time and speed determine trust dynamics (Blomqvist & Cook, 2018).
Trust dynamics reflect not only the development and maintenance of trust, but also the destruction and restoration of trust over time. In this work, there is increasing evidence to suggest that distrust is not simply the same as low trust but a distinct concept, and consequently will have distinct but interrelated dynamics which need to be understood in their own right (Bijlsma-Frankema et al., 2015; Guo et al., 2017; Lewicki et al., 1998). However, the dynamics of trust and distrust have not been sufficiently explored. For example, it is not understood whether trust and distrust can co-exist and if and to what extent distrust may function as a barrier to trust development or repair. In line with recent calls for research on the dynamic interplay of trust and distrust and on the temporal dynamics of trust repair mechanisms (Bachmann et al., 2015; Gillespie, 2017), we encourage submissions that address these issues.
Trust relations in modern society are increasingly a complex web of interpersonal and impersonal relations that are embedded and mediated through technology (Giddens, 1990; Sztompka, 1999). Our increasing reliance on technology and digital platforms for relationships, information sharing and collaboration and service delivery poses questions as to how trust dynamics play out in digital contexts (van der Werff et al., 2018). We call for deeper exploration both of trust relationships mediated by digital technology, and of impersonal trust in digital systems and artificial intelligence.
In sum, this sub-theme encourages scholars to revisit the dynamics of trust and distrust in light of recent socio-economic, political and technological developments and disruptions in society. We call for conceptual and empirical papers that deepen and extend understanding of these dynamics as they play out across interpersonal, group, organization and/or inter-organizational levels. We actively encourage papers that bring a stronger temporal, processual and/or multilevel perspective to the study of trust and distrust, as well as those that extend understanding of the dynamics of trust and/or distrust in technology mediated or digital contexts.

Potential questions that could be addressed include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • How are the dynamics of trust development, decline and restoration related to notions of time, memory and forgetting? How do perceptions of temporality influence trust dynamics?

  • What is the significance of speed for trust dynamics? To what extent does the pace of trust development in itself change the nature and dynamics of trust (e.g. the development of ‘swift trust’ rather than ‘normal’ trust)?

  • How do trust and distrust as processes and practices develop, evolve and change within and between organizations over time? Do the dynamics of trust and distrust differ in meaningful ways, and how are they intertwined?

  • What influence does technology have on trust dynamics? Do trust dynamics that take place solely in a digital context differ to those that occur in face to face or hybrid contexts, and if so how?

  • What is the basis for trust or distrust in digital systems? Under what circumstances are expert systems trusted or distrusted to establish ‘truth’?

  • How are the dynamics of trust and distrust affected by asymmetry of trust, power and/or control in the relationship?

  • How do the dynamics of trust play out across levels, from micro interpersonal and group contexts to the more macro organizational, institutional and societal levels? For example, how do interpersonal and impersonal (organizational or institutional) trust dynamics differ and interrelate?



  • Bachmann, R., Gillespie, N., & Priem, R.L. (2015): „Repairing trust in organizations and institutions: toward a conceptual framework.” Organization Studies, 36 (9), 1123–1142.
  • Bijlsma-Frankema, K., Sitkin, S. B., & Weibel, A. (2015): “Distrust in the Balance: The Emergence and Development of Intergroup Distrust in a Court of Law.” Organization Science, 26 (4), 1018–1039.
  • Blomqvist, K., & Cook, K.S. (2018): “Swift trust. State-of-the-art and future research directions.” In: R. Searle, A.-M. Nienaber & S.B. Sitkin (eds.): The Routledge Companion to Trust. London: Routledge.
  • Ferrin, D.L., Bligh, M.C., & Kohles, J.C. (2008): “It takes two to tango: an interdepence analysis of the spiralling processes of perceived trustworthiness in cooperation in interpersonal and intergroup relationshps.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 107 (2), 161–178.
  • Giddens, A. (1990): The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Gillespie, N. (2017): “Trust dynamics and repair: An interview with Roy Lewicki.” Journal of Trust Research, 7 (2), 204–219.
  • Guo, S.-L., Lumineau, F., & Lewicki, R.J. (2017): “Revisiting the Foundations of Organizational Distrust.” Foundations and Trends in Management, 1 (1), 1–88.
  • Jagd, S., & Fuglsang, L. (eds.) (2016): Trust, Organizations and Social Interaction. Studying Trust as Process within and between Organizations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Korsgaard, A.M., Brower, H.H., & Lester, S.W. (2015): “It isn’t always mutual: A critical review of dyadic trust.” Journal of Management, 41 (1), 47–70.
  • Lewicki, R.J., & Bunker, B.B. (1995): “Trust in Relationships. A Model of Development and Decline.” In: B.B. Bunker & J.Z. Rubin (eds.): Conflict, Cooperation, and Justice. Essays inspired by the work of Morton Deutsch. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass, 133–173.
  • Lewicki, R.J., McAllister, D.J., & Bies, R.J. (1998): „Trust and distrust: New relationships and realities.” Academy of Management Review, 23 (3), 438–458.
  • Möllering, G. (2001): “The Nature of Trust: From Georg Simmel to a Theory of Expectation, Interpretation and Suspension.” Sociology, 35 (2), 403–420.
  • Schilke, O., & Cook, K.S. (2013): “A cross-level process theory of trust development in interorganizational relationships.” Strategic Organization, 11 (3), 281–303.
  • Simmel, G. (1990): The Philosophy of Money, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.
  • Skinner, D., Dietz, G., & Weibel, A. (2014): “The dark side of trust: When trust becomes a ‘poisoned chalice’.” Organization, 21 (2), 206–224.
  • Sztompka, P. (1999): Trust. A Sociological Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • van der Werff, L., Real, C., & Lynn, T.G. (2018): “Individual Trust and the Internet.” In: R. Searle, A.-M. Nienaber & S.B. Sitkin (eds.): The Routledge Companion to Trust. London: Routledge.
  • Zand, D.E. (1972): “Trust and managerial problem solving.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 17 (2), 229–239.

Lovisa Näslund is Assistant Professor of Management at Stockholm Business School and researcher at SCORE, Stockholm University, Sweden. Her research focuses on the construction of trust in impersonal systems such as quality assurance schemes, digitally mediated trust and trust-distrust dynamics in armed conflicts. Lovisa’s research appears in in journals such as ‘Human Relations’, and books, e.g. “The Routledge Companion to Trust”, “Trust in Regulatory Regimes”, and “Trust, Organizations and Social Interaction”.
Kirsimarja Blomqvist is Professor of Knowledge Management at the School of Business and Management, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland. Her research focuses on the interplay of trust, knowledge, innovation, digitalization and new forms of organizing. Her research has been published e.g. in ‘California Management Review’ and ‘Research Policy’, and books, e.g. “The Routledge Companion to Trust”. Kirsemarja serves as Assistant Editor for ‘Journal of Trust ResearchI and an Editorial Review Board Member for ‘Industrial Marketing Management’ and ‘Journal of Organization Design’.
Nicole Gillespie is Associate Professor of Management at UQ Business School, University of Queensland, Australia. Her research focuses on understanding organizational and stakeholder trust in challenging contexts, such as after trust breaches, during organizational change and technological disruption, and in contested industries. Her work appears in journals such as ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management’ and Business Ethics Quarterly’, and books, e.g. “Organizational Trust: A Cultural Perspective”. She is Deputy Editor of the ‘Journal of Trust Research’.