Social representations of trust among teachers and principals in Cameroonian, Indian, and Finnish schools

Anna-Maija Pirttilä-Backman, Rusten Menard, Jyoti Verma, Raul Kassea

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Abstract

Quantitative studies on trust often attempt to measure levels of trust, while neglecting local meanings of trust. These studies are usually based on Eurocentric models in Western cultures, though the models may have limited ecological validity. As a result, this study sought to investigate trust as locally produced structures and practices in Cameroon, Finland and India. In each country, teachers and principals were interviewed individually, while nineteen focus groups among teachers were also conducted (N = 111). The theory of social representations provides the methodological framework for the study. Our analyses suggest that in Cameroon understandings of trust were anchored in complementarity, in Finland in contracts, and in India in social hierarchies. We suggest that the Cameroonian representations were more fluid than in the other two countries, which may be due in part to the working arrangements there. In all of the national contexts, numerous metaphors and imagery helped to solidify trust as phenomena built in everyday practices. Cooperation was an important element in the data from all of the country contexts, although it had particular and varying meanings in each. Finally, we interpret culturally embedded dichotomies, or themata, that participants draw upon to imbue workplace trust with meaning. We discuss the analyses and interpretations in terms of local practices and the concrete conditions in which the participants worked.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-57
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Social and Political Psychology
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2017

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