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Trust Working in Interpersonal Relationships:A Comparative Cultural Perspective with a Focus on East Asian Culture

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Sociological analysis of interpersonal trust has focused primarily on general trust, neglecting the role of particular trust. Some analysis of social capital in Asian countries, however, reveals that activities in voluntary associations are grounded on particular trust, posing an important question to Putnam’s thesis linking general trust to democracy and economic development. In order to understand the working of particular trust, we took a comparative cultural perspective to trust. Based on the cultural psychology of Korean trust, trust is characterized as a corollary to the intimacy of relationship. Different degrees of interpersonal trust work through the mediating process of caring mind (maum in Korean vernacular) which is afforded when we see social acts directed upon us. Granting an innate bias of granting trust toward close others, we postulate that human beings engage in activities of trust working. Four types of tactics typically employed in forming trust were provided. Subsequently, a comparative cultural analysis of trust was presented by analyzing indigenous concepts (trust, guanxi, amae, & woori) characteristically representing cultural aspects of trust in different cultures with emphasis on East Asian countries. This comparative analysis characterizes that trust in East Asia is laden heavily with relational affective properties, while trust in theWest relies on cognitive properties. Despite these differences, common features allow meaningful understanding of how trust is constructed and maneuvered in each culture.


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