chapter
16 Pages

Introduction

ByJULIE BROWNLIE, ALEXANDRA HOWSON

There is a great deal of talk about trust: what it is, how to nurture it, and if it is lost, how to retrieve it. Its similarity to love has been noted in recent writings: both concepts are used promiscuously and, as a result are diffi - cult to pin down (Solomon 2000). Indeed, in literature at least, trust comes second only to love as a plotline (Hardin 2002, 31). But the lively global debate, both inside and outside academia about the nature of trust and the conditions necessary to establish and sustain it, suggests that in ‘real life,’ trust may now even have usurped, or at least caught up with, love as our primary focus. The message from politicians, the media, academics, pollsters, practitioners and that most mythical of entities, ‘the public,’ is that trust matters. It is somewhat surprising, then, to fi nd that the concept of trust is still widely used in an unquestioning or unproblematic way. Even though politicians and pollsters might get away with treating trust as a ‘primitive term’—something that we know when we see it-(Hardin 2001, 8), the job of social scientists has been to investigate what comprises trust and how and where it is practised. Although teasing out trust’s nature-for example, its cognitive and affective dimensions (Lewis and Weigert 1985)— is beginning to happen, there are still few published accounts exploring trust empirically (Möllering 2005; Bijlsma-Frankema and Klein Woolthius 2005) and, even fewer in relation to health (for exceptions see Lee-Treweek 2002; Brownlie and Howson 2005, 2006; Entwistle and Quick 2006).