Social Science & Medicine 116 (2014) 239e240
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€m When should one (dis)trust trust measures? Response to Lindstro and Sawada Richard M. Carpiano Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia, 6303 Northwest Marine Drive, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z1
a r t i c l e i n f o Article history: Received 18 June 2014 Accepted 20 June 2014 Available online 25 June 2014 Keywords: Social capital Trust Social determinants of health Population health Construct validity Theory Measurement
€ m and Yasuyuki Sawada for their I thank Martin Lindstro thought-provoking commentaries and Senior Editor, Ichiro Kawachi, for the opportunity to publicly discuss the treatment of personal trust and social capital in health research. My response focuses on a key issue underlying the Carpiano and Fitterer (2014) article and both commentaries: construct validitydi.e. the extent to which a particular measure can be inferred to represent higher order constructs (Carmines and Zeller, 1979; Shadish et al., 2002). Guided by this validity concern, our study assessed the extent to which two commonly used perceived trust measures (i.e. generalized and particularized trust [of neighbors]) (a) correlate with different measures of actual social ties, and (b) covary with these measures in their relationship with health. Space constraints prevent reiterating speciﬁc ﬁndings and conclusions, but I encourage readers of this commentary to review that study and formulate their own evaluations. €m emphasizes, social capital is a concept that is As Lindstro deﬁned in various ways. But, he omits a key point: so, too, is trust (e.g., see Cook, 2005; Nannestad, 2008). For years, countless health studies of personal social capital have explicitly acknowledged the ﬁrst point, but not the second, while frequently utilizing perceived
DOI of original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.03.017. E-mail address: [email protected]
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.06.032 0277-9536/© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
trust measures to assess trust and, in turn, social capital. Use of perceived trust measures to assess personal social capital has essentially become an institutionalizeddbut largely unquestio€m neddpractice within health research. Hence, although Lindstro criticizes our efforts to make distinctions between trust and social capital, this variation in deﬁnitions for both trust (e.g., generalized, particularized, interpersonal) and social capital, combined with the ways in which they are assessed in health research, constitutes a legitimate need to assess empirically these variously-deﬁned constructs. €m's commentary exempliﬁes the very need for In fact, Lindstro such assessment. After initially asserting that trust is, conceptually, an essential part of social capital, he proceeds to question the utility of observing that trust and social ties are correlated. To this end, he €m, 2004) from an individual-level analysis details ﬁndings (Lindstro that generalized trust and a composite social participation index do not substantially correlate; concluding that one should not expect them to be correlated because they are measuring different constructs. Hence, a disconnection exists between the social capital €m champions (i.e., one that includes trust) construct that Lindstro and the empirical ﬁndings needed to support the validity of that construct. So if some seminal social capital deﬁnitions include trust, but individual-level studies ﬁnd weak associations between generalized and/or other forms of perceived trust and social relationships and engagement, how then might we make sense of this discon€ m's list of various social capital scholars' theonection? Lindstro retical approaches is instructive for pondering this question. All of the approaches he details include social ties or relationshipsdi.e., connections between individuals. This common aspect is a crucial factor to consider when measuring social capital at an individual level. Irrespective of which speciﬁc theoretical deﬁnition one chooses to utilize, social capital conceptualized at an individual level of analysis concerns connections that an individual has with others in her/his community, network, or society at large. Likewise, this common element of connections has signiﬁcant implications for conceptualizing and measuring trust. Consider two € m cites: speciﬁc social capital conceptualizations that Lindstro Coleman (1990) and Putnam (1993). Both emphasize that one element of social capital is the trust that an actor has with others in a groupdi.e., interpersonal trust. Health studies on personal social
R.M. Carpiano / Social Science & Medicine 116 (2014) 239e240
capital, however, often measure such trust in terms of an individual's generalized and/or particularized trust (e.g., of community members). These forms of trust differ from the interpersonal trust in an actual relationshipdi.e., the relational trust (see Cook, 2005) that, as per Coleman and Putnam, serves as a potential basis for that person's social capital to exist. Thus, it is unsurprising that Carpiano and Fitterer (2014), other individual level studies € m (2004) ﬁnd that generalized trust does not they cite, and Lindstro correlate substantially with a variety of measures of a person's actual friend, family, acquaintance, and organization ties. Rather than assessing interpersonal trust or even the presence of any speciﬁc relationship, this attitude-based trust measure is simply capturing one's perception or belief about her/his social world (see Miller and Mitamura, 2003; Cook, 2005). Certainly, this perception can vary depending on the local and national socioeconomic and historical contexts in which one is immersed (e.g., Wilkes, 2011), cross-cultural variation regarding what trust means (Miller and Mitamura, 2003), and the extent of an individual's radius of trust €m asserts that (Delhey et al., 2011). Hence, it is unclear why Lindstro one who labels perceived trust as “psychological aspects”, is implying that it is simply a relatively stable trait of an individual. Regardless, such personal trust attitudes are aspects related to, but not necessarily indicative of, one's actual social connections that constitute the interpersonal ties that are central to all leading deﬁnitions of social capital. Given this logic, I agree with Sawada (2014) that trust should not be included as a social capital component if it does not represent a person's belief in other persons (i.e. interpersonal ties). Also, I fully concur with Sawada that using multiple methods is a useful way to gain conceptual insights on social capital and to validate measures. Due to issues raised by other authors, however, I remain cautious regarding the conclusions about trust and social capital drawn from trust game experiments. These issues concern the internal and external validity of such experiments (Nannestad, 2008), potential alternative explanations for obtained results (Bicchieri et al., 2011), and ﬁndings that perceived trust measures correlate with trustworthiness of a person, but not a person's trusting behavior in such experiments (Karlan, 2005; Glaeser et al., 2000). Furthermore, though Sawada notes that Carpiano and Fitterer's (2014) statistically signiﬁcant correlations between measures of trust and social capital indicate some evidence for conceptual overlap, it is important to recognize that, when empirically evaluating the construct validity of measures, greater attention should be paid to the magnitudes of each correlation than to their corresponding p-values. In closing, I contend that achieving deﬁnitional consensus on social capitalda complicated and contested construct that evolved from different intellectual traditionsdin health research is less
important than ensuring that future health studies (a) clearly explicate the speciﬁc social capital deﬁnition being applied in a study and (b) utilize and continue to critically evaluate measures that are consistent with that deﬁnition and level of conceptualization (e.g., individual-, local community-, or nation-level). These efforts will aid in ensuring strong construct validity and, in turn, strong inferences that can be drawn from empirical ﬁndings. I place my trust in the utility of such effortsdand trust that others do too. Acknowledgments I authored this commentary while receiving funding from a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Although I take full responsibility for all arguments presented herein, they are the products of fruitful discussions with many colleagues and students. I wish to acknowledge their individual and collective impact on my own thinking, most recently and with respect to this commentary, Lisa M. Fitterer, Lorinda Moore, and Jennifer E.V. Lloyd. References Bicchieri, C., Xiao, E., Muldoon, R., 2011. Trustworthiness is a social norm, but trusting is not. Polit. Philos. Econ. 10 (2), 170e187. Carmines, E.G., Zeller, R.A., 1979. Reliability and Validity Assessment. Sage, Newbury Park, CA. Carpiano, R.M., Fitterer, L.M., 2014. Questions of trust in health research on social capital: what aspects of personal network social capital do they measure? Soc. Sci. Med.. Coleman, J.S., 1990. Foundations of Sociological Theory. Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA. Cook, K.S., 2005. Networks, norms, and trust: the social psychology of social capital. Soc. Psychol. Q. 68 (1), 4e14. Delhey, J., Newton, K., Welzel, C., 2011. How general is trust in “most people”? Solving the radius of trust problem. Am. Sociol. Rev. 76 (5), 786e807. Glaeser, E.L., Laibson, D.I., Scheinkman, J.A., Soutter, C.L., 2000. Measuring trust. Q. J. Econ. 115 (3), 811e846. Karlan, D.S., 2005. Using experimental economics to measure social capital and predict ﬁnancial decisions. Am. Econ. Rev. 95 (5), 1688e1699. €m, M., 2004. Social capital, the miniaturisation of community and selfLindstro reported global and psychological health. Soc. Sci. Med. 59 (3), 595e607. Miller, A.S., Mitamura, T., 2003. Are surveys on trust trustworthy? Soc. Psychol. Q. 66 (1), 62e70. Nannestad, P., 2008. What have we learned about generalized trust, if anything? Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 11, 413e436. Putnam, R.D., 1993. Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. Sawada, Y., 2014. Is trust really social capital? Commentary on Carpiano and Fitterer (2014). Soc. Sci. Med. Available online 6 June 2014. Shadish, W.R., Cook, T.D., Campbell, D.T., 2002. Experimental and Quasiexperimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference. Houghton Mifﬂin, New York. Wilkes, R., 2011. Re-thinking the decline in trust: a comparison of Black and White Americans. Soc. Sci. Res. 40 (6), 1596e1610.