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Trust and trustworthiness assessment and assignment: How do we make judgments about what/who to trust?


   Faculty of Business and Social Sciences

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Trust is a major topic of interest in psychological investigation. Researchers have tried to research the enigma of trust and trustworthiness assignment by exploring the characteristics that make a person, a situation, or something trusting or trustworthy. This study inserts itself into an agenda which addresses the effects of self-awareness, personality traits, motivation, and resilience in trust and trustworthiness judgments. Original research in the 1980s suggests that people make judgments about trust motivated and influenced by attitudes presented in situations [and values], and their own views of themselves. In addition, research has also showed that there are differences in assessment and assignment between women and men. In the age of fake news, computer manipulated images, and overall disbelief in information in media outlets, it becomes more and more important to learn what mechanisms humans [and animals, for ex., nonhuman primates] use to make judgments about trust.

Our research to date shows some interesting findings. In the area of self-assessed personality traits, people who score high on agreeableness, conscientiousness and extroversion (from the Big 5 personality questionnaire) are more likely to assign positive trust in trust and trustworthiness judgments. Our research also confirms that women provide more trustworthy responses than men in questions about values (Levine et al. 2018). There seems to exist also a relationship between people’s self-assessed personalities and how low or high they assign trustworthiness scores, that is, people who are asked to self-assess their personalities are not as willing to make positive judgments of trust as those people who are not asked to self-assess. This study contributes to the understanding of the factors that influence or underlie personal trustworthiness as well as expectations for other people’s trusting behaviours. Several other questions related to these findings exist which will be further developed in future studies.

This PhD research topic therefore explores ideas derived from the present research agenda under investigation by Dr Uller. The literature to date is not extensive, on the contrary, there is quite a large gap that can be exploited. There are several possibilities of focus, however. For ex., trust judgments in the medical field [diagnosis and treatments] are widespread. So are judgments in the financial and investment domains. The psychological treatment of what makes someone or something trustworthy merits further analysis, and a model to account for trust assessment and assignment can be developed. The studies in this project make use of parametric and non-parametric statistics.

Keynotes on PhD

This is a self-funded PhD project; applicants will be expected to pay their own fees or have a suitable source of third-party funding.

Duration: 3 years [full time] or 6 years [part-time].

Timeline: We are accepting applications for Autumn 2022 or Spring 2023 enrolment.

Prospective students should email the Lead Supervisor Dr Claudia Uller: with documents below.

How to Apply:

All applications must include the following information. Applications not containing these documents will not be considered.

  1. Personal statement outlining the motivation for a PhD and for this particular project;
  2. A CV including the names of two referees (ideally one being from someone who knows the candidate’s abilities for 1+ years).

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