Dr. D. Ryan Schurtz is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Stevenson University. Trained in Social Psychology, Dr. Schurtz is interested in understanding the social interactions among individuals and how the real or imagined presence of others may impact our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.

Since the beginning of this semester, I have been working in Dr. Schurtz’s research lab. Together with him and fellow Psychology students Elijah Nieto, Elise Stickley, and Julia Wingard, we are investigating the many factors that may influence individuals’ trust in social institutions such as large corporations and government.

Dr. Schurtz and Sophie Spartana

For the past weeks, we have spent time selecting and reading empirical articles to develop a greater understanding of trust and trustworthiness and learned a great deal from our readings! For example, Mayer and Davis (1999) posited that trustworthiness is comprised of three factors: ability, benevolence, and integrity. Ability is comprised of several characteristics and skills that allow a group to have influence. Benevolence is the extent to which an individual wants to do good to one another without a self-interested motive and integrity refers an individual’s perception that another person will adhere to a set of principles. Turning to Ben-Ner and Halldorsson (2010), we have learned that trust involves believing another person will remain fair and cooperative even when there are opportunities to act otherwise, and that trustworthiness involves an individual’s willingness to be cooperative in response to someone’s demand.

After my fellow students and I have reviewed the definitions of the major constructs for this research project, we are identifying and developing good measures. We’ve created a survey that asks multiple different trust-related questions. This allows us to measure several different factors that could potentially be an influence. Though our data collection just got started, we are all excited to see the results of this study.

By: Sophie Spartana (’21 Psychology)