Another example of a generalized expectancy (GE) that has provoked considerable interest and research is the concept of interpersonal trust. Rotter (1980) defined interpersonal trust as "a generalized expectancy held by an individual that the word promise, oral or written statement of another individual or group can be relied on" (p. 1). Interpersonal trust does not refer to the belief that people are naturally good or that they live in the best of all possible worlds. Neither should it be equated with gullibility. Rotter saw interpersonal trust as a belief in the communications of others when there is no evidence for disbelieving, whereas gullibility is foolishly or naively believing the words of other people.
Feist-Feist: Theories of I V. Learning Theories I 17. Rotter and Mischel: I I ©The McGraw-Hill
Personality, Sixth Edition Cognitive Social Learning Companies, 2005
514 PartV Learning Theories
Pair skating demands a high level of interpersonal trust.
Because many of our rewards and punishments come from other people, we develop generalized expectancies that some type of reinforcement will follow from verbal promises or tlneats made by others. Sometimes these promises and tlneats are kept; other thnes they are broken. In this way, each person learns to trust or distrust the words of others. Because we have differential experiences with the words of others, it follows that individual differences will exist among people with regard to interpersonal trust.
To measure differences in interpersonal trust, Rotter (1967) developed an Interpersonal Trust Scale, which asked people to agree or disagree to 25 items that assessed interpersonal trust and 15 filler items designed to conceal the nature of the instrument. The scale is scored on a 5-point gradation from strongly agree to strongly disagree so that strongly disagree and agree responses would mdicate trust on 12 items and strongly disagree and disagree responses would indicate trust on the other 13 items. Table 17.2 reveals several sample items from Rotters Interpersonal Trust Scale. Scores for each of the 25 items are added so that high scores mdicate the presence of interpersonal trust and low scores mean a generalized expectancy of distrust.
Is it more desirable to score high or low on the scale, to be trustful or distrustful? When trust is defined independently of gullibility, as Rotter (1980) contended, then high trust is not only desirable but essential for the survival of civilization. People trust that the food they buy is not poisoned; that the gasoline hi then cars will not explode on ignition; that airline pilots know how to fly the plane in which they travel; and even that the postal service will deliver the mail without tampering with it. Societies can function smoothly only when people have at least a moderate amount of trust in each other.
Rotter (1980) summarized results of studies that indicate that people who score high in interpersonal trust, as opposed to those who score low, are (1) less likely to lie; (2) probably less likely to cheat or steal; (3) more likely to give others a second chance; (4) more likely to respect the rights of others; (5) less likely to be
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