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Influence of power imbalance and actual vulnerability on trust formation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Saurabh BhattacharyaORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Purpose: Leveraging Emerson's theory of power and motivated reasoning, we explore how the net power of an individual and actual, instead of perceived vulnerability, results in asymmetric trust and distrust development in a dyadic relationship. Design/methodology/approach: Based on extant literature and gaps in the literature, this conceptual paper hypothesizes and proposes trust formation based on power dynamics and vulnerability. Findings: This research extends the knowledge base by exploring the role of actual vulnerability over perceived vulnerability in trust formation and distrust formation. Research limitations/implications: Our research propositions imply that the dyadic trust formation process is not rational, and trust itself is not symmetrical but asymmetrical. The net power possessed by one individual over the other drives trust. Net power balance determines the actual vulnerability of the focal individual, and then the individual, through motivated reasoning, trusts or distrusts another individual. Scholars, going forward, could explore how trust formation varies at group and firm levels. Originality/value: Extant literature has not explored the role of power imbalance in determining actual (vs. perceived) vulnerability that influences trust formation between parties. Our conceptual paper fills this gap.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Agnihotri A, Callahan CM, Bhattacharya S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Organizational Analysis

Year: 2024

Volume: 32

Issue: 5

Pages: 861-886

Print publication date: 03/06/2024

Online publication date: 16/06/2023

Acceptance date: 16/06/2023

Date deposited: 07/11/2023

ISSN (print): 1934-8835

ISSN (electronic): 1758-8561

Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited


DOI: 10.1108/IJOA-11-2022-3499

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/jagt-4c41


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