Interpersonal trust in close relationships: The construct and its role in friendship formation

Jane Penaz Eisner, University of Pennsylvania


Departing from current state approaches, I argue that (1) trust in close relationships is a trait, and (2) dispositional trust importantly influences friendship formation. After defining dispositional trust, I introduce a scale designed to measure this construct: the Interpersonal Trust Questionnaire (ITQ). Two studies were conducted to validate the ITQ. Study 1 demonstrated that the ITQ measures a construct that is stable over time and consistent across different relationships. Study 2 showed, through convergent and discriminant validity, that the ITQ measures trust in close relationships. Using the ITQ, I then conducted five studies to determine how and why trust in close relationships affects friendship formation. Study 1 validated a laboratory method for presenting subjects with a trusting or a mistrustful "peer." Using this method, Study 2 examined whether trusting people like other trusting people, while mistrustful people like other mistrustful people (similarity effect). The study revealed that all subjects like a trusting peer more than a mistrustful one. To help explain this finding, Studies 3 and 4 examined subjects' beliefs about the differences in trusting and mistrustful peers' behaviors, feelings, and characteristics. Results indicated that subjects believe a trusting peer, compared to a mistrustful one, is more trustworthy, independent, altruistic, naive, and securely attached in friendships. Finally, Study 5 showed that trusting and mistrustful individuals' self-reports generally agree with subjects' differential beliefs about trusting and mistrustful peers. In conclusion, I discuss the implications of these findings and future directions for research examining trust in close relationships.

Subject Area

Personality|Social psychology|Psychological tests

Recommended Citation

Eisner, Jane Penaz, "Interpersonal trust in close relationships: The construct and its role in friendship formation" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9308564.