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The influence of general trust and specific trust on buying behaviour

Peter Kenning (Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany Department of Retailing and Distribution, Marketing Center Muenster, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 9 May 2008




In the last perhaps ten years the interest of marketing research in the subject of trust increased dramatically. Although well known in several scientific disciplines, in marketing research trust is often conceptualized without the concept of general trust. Therefore, one main aim of this paper is to broaden marketing research understanding of trust by showing how general trust (which has the character of a personal trait) and, in comparison, specific trust (which is associated with a specific retailer) affects buying behaviour.


After a review of trust‐literature the paper identifies two subcategories of trust, which might be relevant for buying behaviour: general trust and specific trust. It then aims to test their influence on retail food buying behaviour empirically. To do so, it uses for the first time in marketing research the ITS‐Rotter‐scale for measuring general trust.


The results, including data from about 331 subjects in the German food‐retailing market, indicate that general as well as specific trust positively affects buying behaviour. In contrast to expectations, it was found general and specific trust to be unrelated. Moreover, it was found that, the influence of specific trust on buying behaviour increases when customers scored lower on the ITS‐Rotter‐scale indicating lower levels of general trust.


This paper is the first in marketing literature which integrates the concept of general trust and uses the ITS‐Rotter‐scale for measuring general trust in a marketing related context. Accordingly, it provides for the first time evidence on the positive influence of general trust on buying behaviour. It shows that general trust is able to substitute lacking specific trust.



Kenning, P. (2008), "The influence of general trust and specific trust on buying behaviour", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 36 No. 6, pp. 461-476.



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