To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

The impact of affective and cognitive trust on knowledge sharing and organizational learning

Peter E. Swift (Department of Business, University of South Carolina Beaufort, Bluffton, South Carolina, USA)
Alvin Hwang (Department of Management and Management Science, Lubin School of Business, Pace University, New York, New York, USA)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 4 January 2013




This paper seeks to add to the research on the role of cognitive and affective trust in promoting knowledge sharing between executives and consequently establishing an organizational learning environment.


This paper examines the influence of one conceptualization of trust, one that has two sub‐constructs – affective (emotional) trust and cognitive (rational) trust – on knowledge sharing among 157 marketing and sales executives.


The results indicate that affective trust is more important than cognitive trust in sharing interpersonal knowledge, but cognitive trust is more important in creating an organizational learning environment.

Research limitations/implications

The scope of this study was limited to the marketing and sales functions in business to consumer companies. Knowledge sharing is an acute issue in this industry and the results may not be completely applicable to less competitive industries or business functions. Therefore, researchers are encouraged to test the proposed propositions further in other industries and business functions.

Practical implications

The results indicate that organizations should focus on organizational processes which promote both affective and cognitive trust. Such processes include job rotation to improve cognitive understanding and employee screening for affective trust traits.


To date, much of the planned organizational learning efforts have been focused on outside interventions (i.e. training seminars, meetings, etc.) that have value but are limited in their ability to generate sustained levels of trust. To increase knowledge sharing and consequent organizational learning benefits, results of this study indicate that organizations should encourage cognitive and affective trust building endeavours.



Swift, P.E. and Hwang, A. (2013), "The impact of affective and cognitive trust on knowledge sharing and organizational learning", The Learning Organization, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 20-37.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited