A Matter of Trust: Does Collectivism Matter in Trust Decisions?

Stack of hands showing unity and teamwork. People helping each o

In new relationships, trust is important. This includes our relationships as consumers with brands and retailers, and our relationships as businesspeople with suppliers and customers. In the award-winning article “Trust Propensity Across Cultures: The Role of Collectivism,” published in 2022 in the Journal of International Marketing, Culverhouse’s Drs. Stanford A. Westjohn and George R. Franke along with collaborators Peter Magnusson (University of Texas Rio Grande) and Yi Peng (Tennessee Tech) investigate how collectivism influences our initial level of trust in others.

Unlike individualistic cultures like that of the US, in collectivist cultures like Korea, group harmony is valued more highly than individual expression. To understand how collectivism interacts with trust propensity, or expectancy that “the words and promises of others are reliable,” the authors conducted four studies with multiple methods in multiple countries, and found a strong relationship between collectivism and trust. They theorize that collectivism’s focus on “harmony and collaboration” facilitates trust propensity through social projection, or the belief that others think, feel, and behave as we, ourselves, tend to think, feel, and behave. One important implication for marketing is that collectivist individuals and cultures might be motivated to trust brands that stress collectivist values.

The paper won the Journal of International Marketing‘s S. Tamer Cavusgil Award for 2022, which honors the publication from the prior calendar year that made the most significant contribution to the advancement of the practice of international marketing management.

According to Westjohn, “there has been some contradiction in the literature about the role of collectivism in trust. This paper employed multiple methods involving over 6,000 responses from 36 countries to contribute robust evidence about collectivism’s role. We are excited about the outcome and for being selected for this prestigious award.”

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