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A Global Examination of Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships

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This study investigates the antecedents and outcomes of cognitive trust during the expansion phase in buyer–supplier relationships. It takes a global approach and examines cultural nuances between developed nation and emerging market firms by including participants from the United States, China, and Brazil. The results demonstrate the importance of trust in building social capital and the central role which trust plays in shaping business relationships in all studied cultural contexts. There are similarities and differences across countries. Results support relationship marketing theory by demonstrating the importance of conflict resolution, communication frequency, and social bond in building buyer–supplier relationships in the United States, which in turn increase cooperation between partners. Results also indicate that in China, social bond plays a much greater role in building trust, which in turn increases cooperation only to the extent that it serves as a mechanism to secure committed relationships. In Brazil, results show that conflict resolution is the most important factor in building trust. It also mediates the relationship between communication frequency and trust, as well as drives cooperation positively. Overall, trust is found to influence exchange of confidential communication and increases commitment between partners in all three countries.
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A GLOBAL EXAMINATION OF
COGNITIVE TRUST IN BUSINESS-TO-
BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS
Sandra S. Graça and James M. Barry
ABSTRACT
This study investigates the antecedents and outcomes of cognitive trust during
the expansion phase in buyersupplier relationships. It takes a global approach
and examines cultural nuances between developed nation and emerging market
rms by including participants from the United States, China, and Brazil. The
results demonstrate the importance of trust in building social capital and the
central role which trust plays in shaping business relationships in all studied
cultural contexts. There are similarities and differences across countries.
Results support relationship marketing theory by demonstrating the importance
of conict resolution, communication frequency, and social bond in building
buyersupplier relationships in the United States, which in turn increase coop-
eration between partners. Results also indicate that in China, social bond plays
a much greater role in building trust, which in turn increases cooperation only
to the extent that it serves as a mechanism to secure committed relationships.
In Brazil, results show that conict resolution is the most important factor in
building trust. It also mediates the relationship between communication
frequency and trust, as well as drives cooperation positively. Overall, trust
is found to inuence exchange of condential communication and increases
commitment between partners in all three countries.
Keywords: Cognitive trust; commitment; relationship marketing;
communication; cooperation; conict resolution and social bond
New Insights on Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships: A Multi-Perspective Approach
Advances in Business Marketing & Purchasing, Volume 26, 736
Copyright r2019 by Emerald Publishing Limited
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
ISSN: 1069-0964/doi:10.1108/S1069-096420190000026005
7
INTRODUCTION
Considerable research is devoted to the subjectoftrustinrelationship mar-
keting. Since the mid-1980s, an extensive body of literature has revealed its
antecedents and pervasive inuence on selling, brand relationships, and mul-
tinational partnership performance. But despite the vast research stream
devoted to trust, the multifaceted inuence in global buyersupplier settings
has led to a renewed interest in the subject. In particular, scholars are
increasingly focusing their research efforts on the trust-building process
concomitant with the advancement of relationships. This has led to more
robust examinations of trust as it progresses from the early exploration
to the expansion and maintenance phases of a relationship (Akrout &
Diallo, 2017;Dowell, Morrison, & Heffernan, 2015). Relationship market-
ing researchers recognize that this multistage development of trust requires
closer scrutiny of its calculative, cognitive, and affective dimensions
(Claro & Claro, 2008;Davies & Prince, 2005;Johnson & Grayson, 2005).
Consequently, a resurgence of research has emerged in search of generalized
frameworks for capturing the intricacies of this evolving trust-building
process.
Complicating this framework development are the contextual subtleties
relatedtoabuyerspublic or generalized trust dispositions. Specically, trust
research in emerging market literature (Graça, Barry, & Doney, 2017;
Lee, Tang, Yip, & Sharma, 2017) and cross-cultural marketing (Barry &
Doney, 2011;Bjørnskov, 2007;Borit, Vanhée, & Olsen, 2014;Chua, 2012;
Doney, Cannon, & Mullen, 1998;Lai, Singh, Alshwer, & Shaffer, 2014;
Roy, Balaji, Soutar, Lassar, & Roy, 2018) suggests that the considerations
made by buyers in assessing supplier trustworthiness are largely inuenced
by the generalized trust dispositions inherent in their cultural or institutional
surroundings. Consequently, the qualication of a globally relevant frame-
work for examining the trust-building process should consider the moderat-
ing inuences of national culture. Of particular relevance to suppliers is the
manner in which cultural dissimilarities with their buyers can thwart their
efforts to advance overseas relationships. Should suppliers underestimate the
buyers criteria for trustworthy validations, for example, opportunities may
be missed in the expansion phase of a relationship lifecycle.
The research ndings in this study conrm that the trust expectations
held by buyers vary widely across national cultures. Such proclivities likely
inuence the buyer safeguards used to mitigate the risk of supplier exploita-
tion. This, in turn, will likely temper the importance placed by buyers on
various trust antecedents. In particular, our study conrms that the socializ-
ing aspects of certain national cultures have much to do with a buyers
scrutiny of relational bonds in assessing supplier trustworthiness. Moreover,
a buyers culturally conditioned tolerance for ambiguity will likely shape
its sensitivity to a suppliersconict management style as an indicator of
trustworthiness.
8 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
MODELING COGNITIVE TRUST BUILDING FOR
CULTURAL CONTEXTS IN THE EXPANSION STAGE
The intent of this chapter is to globally validate the antecedents and outcomes
of trust apposite for relationship expansion. Attention to this growth stage
permits a more parsimonious examination of the relevant trust variables while
shedding light on where the cultural adaptation challenges are most evident.
Given that the populations of some nations are more trusting than others,
cultire-induced clashes often arise in overseas partnerships. Researchers of
institutional theory suggest that relationships between a developed nation and
emerging market rms (e.g., Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are especially
susceptible to such conicts (Li, 2009;Peng, Wang, & Jiang, 2008). As described
further, these nations differ widely along dimensions referred to by Hofstede
(1983) as collectivism and uncertainty avoidance (UA).
Crucial to the expansion stage of the relationship lifecycle is the role of cogni-
tive trust. According to Akrout and Diallo (2017, p. 161), cognitive assessments
dene trust during the expansion stage. Buyers at this stage are likely depending
on accurate information exchanges that discourage opportunism and the need
for monitoring [].With greater communication, cognitive trust ultimately is
determined by communication, sympathy, and conict resolution. The authors
tested and conrmed the direct relationship between each of these constructs
and cognitive trust in a single country (France) study. The authors further exam-
ined aspects of behavioral trust manifested in condential communication.
Using similar constructs, our study examined these construct relationships
across disparate cultures in search of cultural moderation. Consistent with
the cross-cultural and relationship marketing literature, the study extended the
examination of cognitive trust outcomes to cooperation and affective
commitment.
Conceptualizing Cognitive Trust
Cognitive trustis a customers condence or willingness to rely on a service
providers competence and reliability (Moorman, Deshpande, & Zaltman,
1993). This knowledge-driven aspect of trust arises from the accumulated infor-
mation that allows one to make predictions, with some level of condence,
regarding the likelihood that partners will live up to their obligations
(Johnson & Grayson, 2005, p. 501). Dowell et al. (2015) point out that this par-
ticular aspect of trust emerges from predictions of a suppliers competence,
integrity, and goodwill intentions (i.e., benevolence). In the case of competency,
the prediction is that the supplier will show evidence of their expertise and abil-
ity to perform tasks to a certain standard of competency. The prediction for
integrity is that the supplier will live up to its promises and contractual obliga-
tions. Finally, the prediction stemming from the suppliers benevolence is that
the supplier will voluntarily look after the buyers interests and is willing to
achieve mutual goals.
9Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
Cognitive Trust Outcomes
Condential Communication
Of interest in the expansion stage of relationships is the role that cognitive trust
plays in eliciting committed and cooperative partnerships where both parties act
upon their trust. The latter, often referred to as behavioral trust,isdened by
Johnson and Grayson (2005) as the resulting actions that ow from a state of
cognitive trust. In effect, cognitive trust as a willingness to assume trust and
behavioral trust as the actual assuming of trust(Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman,
1995, p. 724).
Condential communication is one aspect of behavioral trust suggested as an
outcome of cognitive trust. According to Currall and Judge (1995, p. 153), part-
ners manifest trust by disclosing important yet potentially self-damaging infor-
mation.Akrout and Diallo (2017) suggest that the disclosure of condential
communication is evidence of behavioral trust as it demonstrates a partners
willingness to be vulnerable and risk a betrayal of condence. In cross-border
marketing partnerships, Aulakh, Kotabe, and Sahay (1996) found a positive
relationship between trust and the exchange of information that is not part of
the contract. Similarly, Ashnai, Henneberg, Naudé, and Francescucci (2016),
demonstrated that the trust developed between partners indeed inuences their
willingness to openly share information that is often proprietary. Finally, Mital,
Israel, and Agarwal (2010) demonstrated that information exchange inuences
trust, which in turn, inuences the disclosure of private information.
Although the degree to which cognitive trust inuences condential commu-
nication may vary across cultures, the relationship is expected to be universal.
Some research suggests that varying aspects of trustworthiness (competence,
integrity, or benevolence) are considered before disclosing sensitive information.
In their study of US and Japanese marketing alliances, for example, Voss,
Johnson, Cullen, Sakano, and Takenouchi (2006) found that benevolence was a
more important determinant of information exchange for Japanese rms relative
to US rms since relationships in collectivist cultures are typied by high good-
will. However, credibility (i.e., integrity and competence) was a more important
determinant of information exchange for US rms as rational considerations
take precedence over goodwill evidence in the individualist cultures. The follow-
ing is therefore proposed:
H1. Cognitive trust universally inuences condential communication in
buyersupplier relationships.
Cooperation
Another well-researched consequence of cognitive trust examined in buyersupplier
relationship studies is the cooperation that exists when parties work together to
achieve mutual goals. Anderson and Narus (1990) dene cooperation as similar or
complementary coordinated actions taken by rms in interdependent relationships
to achieve mutual outcomes with expected reciprocation over time(p. 45). Its cru-
cial role in the mature stages of relationship development is explained in Wilsons
(1995) ve-stage framework. In effect, cooperation can be perceived as a working
10 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
partnership in progress;Terawatanavong and Quazi (2006) described it as where
partners proactively make efforts to achieve mutual benets (Anderson & Narus,
1990;Morgan & Hunt, 1994).
The inuence that cognitive trust has on cooperation has been demonstrated
in both single country and cross-cultural settings. According to Sharma, Young,
and Wilkinson (2015, p. 47),when parties to a relationship have condence in
each others abilities and motivation and thus trust each other, they can work
together (i.e. they cooperate).Studies conrming a positive relationship
between trust and cooperation appear in Table 1.
The degree to which culture impacts the inuence of cognitive trust on coop-
eration remains in debate. In their conceptual examination of national culture
and Business-to-Business (B-to-B) relationships, for example, Terawatanavong
and Quazi (2006) posit that the positive relationship between trust and coopera-
tion will be stronger in a highly collectivist culture than in a highly individualist
culture. Hewett and Bearden (2001) conrmed this relationship in their examina-
tion of foreign subsidiaries. But Chen, Chen, and Meindl (1998) suggest that
cognition trust will be more related to cooperation in individualist cultures than
in collectivist cultures. The authors argue that cognition trust alone is insuf-
cient for collectivist cooperation as role expectations extend beyond task perfor-
mance to partners also having a caring motivation. Instead the authors propose
that affective trust will be more positively related to cooperation in a collectivist
culture than in an individualist culture. Consistent with their suggestion that
trust engenders cooperation irrespective of the societies to which they belong,
the following is proposed:
H2. Cognitive trust universally inuences cooperation in buyersupplier
relationships.
Affective Commitment
Perhaps the most examined consequence of cognitive trust is affective commit-
ment. Like trust, affective commitment is a central tenet in building successful
long-term relationships. Morgan and Hunt (1994) dene commitment as an
exchange partner believing that an ongoing relationship with another is so impor-
tant as to warrant maximum efforts at maintaining it(p. 23). Distinct from cal-
culative, normative, or continuance commitment, Geyskens, Steenkamp, Scheer,
and Kumar (1996) add that affective commitment expresses the extent to which
partners like to maintain their relationship with specic partners(p. 303).
The inuence that cognitive trust has on affective commitment is well docu-
mented and presented in Table 2. Of the known cross-cultural studies done on
the relationship between trust and affective commitment (Ha et al., 2004;Styles,
Patterson, & Ahmed, 2008), no research nding suggests that trust is more posi-
tively related to affective commitment in a collectivist culture than in an individ-
ualist culture. The following is therefore proposed:
H3. Cognitive trust universally inuences affective commitment in
buyersupplier relationships.
11Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
Cognitive Trust Antecedents
Conict Resolution
Studies in B-to-B relationships suggest that cognitive trust is largely determined
by a partners history of successful conict management. Often captured as
Table 1. Literature Review Findings of Trust and Cooperation Relationships.
Source Cultural Context Partnership Context Demonstrated Inuence
CLTV* INDV*
Anderson and
Narus (1990)
US Distributors and
manufacturers
Cooperation →← Trust (cooperation
leads to trust, which, in turn, leads to a
more willingness to cooperate in the
future)
Ha, Karande,
and
Singhapakdi
(2004)
Korea US Importers and
exporters
Cooperation Trust (no relational
differences between individualist and
collectivist cultures)
Hewett and
Bearden
(2001)
Multiple
Foreign
Settings
US Foreign subsidiaries
and headquarters
marketing
Trust Cooperation (trust has more
of an effect on cooperation in highly
collectivist cultures than in highly
individualist cultures)
Mavondo and
Rodrigo
(2001)
China Australia ChinaAustralia
business partners
Trust Cooperation
Morgan and
Hunt (1994)
US Automobile tire
retailers and
suppliers
Trust Cooperation
Palmetier
et al. (2006)
Multisample meta-analysis Trust Cooperation
Rodríguez,
Peréz, and
Gutiérrez
(2007)
Spain MarketingRD
relationships
Trust Cooperation
Sharma et al.
(2015)
India Industrial buyers
and suppliers
Trust Cooperation
Siguaw,
Simpson, and
Baker (1998)
US Dyadic
distributorsupplier
relationships
Trust Cooperative norms
Smith and
Barclay (1999)
Canada Dyadic selling
partner working
relationships
Mutual Trust Cooperation (ndings
conrmed on both sides of the selling
partner dyad)
Vieira,
Monteiro, and
Veiga (2011)
Brazil Suppliers of a
tourism rm
Trust Cooperation
Wu, Weng,
and Huang
(2012)
Taiwan High-tech executives
and main exchange
partners
Trust Cooperation
Notes: *collectivist (CLTV) and individualist (INDV).
12 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
Table 2. Literature Review Findings of Trust and Commitment Relationships.
Source Cultural Context Partnership Context Demonstrated Inuence
CLTV* INDV*
Andaleeb
(1996)
US Dyadic
manufacturerdistributor
Trust Affective
commitment
Ashnai et al.
(2016)
UK Multi-industry
buyersupplier
Trust Affective
commitment (positive for
inter-organizational and
interpersonal trust)
Aurier,
Philippe, and
Séré de
Lanauze (2012)
France Consumer brand
relationships in fast-
moving goods
Trust Affective
commitment
Garbarino and
Johnson (1999)
US Customers of repertory
theater company
Trust Affective
commitment
Geyskens et al.
(1996)
US and the
Netherlands
Automobile dealers and
suppliers
Trust Affective
commitment
Gilliland and
Bello (2002)
US Manufacturerdistributor
relationships
Trust Loyalty (Affective þ
Normative) commitment
Ha et al.
(2004)
Korea US Importers and exporters Trust Affective
commitment
Kim & Frazier US Industrial
distributorsupplier
relationships
Trust (Integrity) Affective
commitment
Morgan and
Hunt (1994)
US Automobile tire retailers
and suppliers
Trust Affective
commitment
Moorman,
Zaltman and
Deshpandé
(1992)
US Dyadic market research
providers and users
Trust Affective
commitment
Mukherjee and
Nath (2007)
UK Online retailing Trust Affective
commitment
Ndubisi (2011) India
and
China
Outsourced service
provider and client rm
relationships
Cognitive trust
Commitment
Siguaw,
Simpson and
Baker (1998)
US Dyadic
distributorsupplier
relationships
Trust Commitment
(indirectly through
cooperative norms)
Styles et al.
(2008)
Thailand Australia Dyadic WestEast
exporterimporter
partnerships
Goodwill trust Affective
commitment
Ulaga and
Eggert (2006)
US Manufacturersupplier
relationships
Goodwill trust Affective
commitment
Wetzels, de
Ruyter, and
van Birgelen
(1998)
Netherlands Ofce equipment
manufacturers and
suppliers
Trust (in benevolence and
honesty) Affective
commitment
13Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
conict resolution or functional conict, this evidence of a suppliers ability and
willingness to resolve issues provides assurances to buyers that future misunder-
standings or contentious disagreements can be avoided. The more the supplier is
perceived as dealing constructively with potential conicts, the more trust should
develop as buyers predict the supplier will faithfully pursue mutually
acceptable solutions (Ndubisi, 2011). This rationale has led many researchers, as
appearing in Table 3, to examine and empirically validate the relationship
between conict resolution and trust in multi-country settings.
But the strength of this relationship has been shown to vary across cultures
(Ndubisi, 2011). In particular, the extent to which buyers of one culture feel
threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations will likely temper the relative
importance of conict resolution on cognitive trust. The relevance of this UA
stems from a buyers prediction comfort. For example, Johnson and Grayson
(2005) point out that cognitive trust derives from the knowledge that allows a
buyer to predict whether the supplier will live up to their obligations. It therefore
stands to reason that buyers from nations with low tolerances for ambiguity
(i.e., high UA) will be more sensitive to unresolved issues until evidence shows
otherwise. As explained further, buyers from cultures associated with low UA
cultures may be less sensitized to the potential of conicts to tarnish trust.
Buyers from many of the low UA cultures (e.g., China) espouse the more har-
monious forms of conict management. A study of Japanese-American joint ven-
tures by Sullivan, Peterson, Kameda, and Shimada (1981) concluded that Japanese
managers from Japan (very high in UA) believe in building future trust by resolv-
ing disputes as they come up through conferral rather than through binding arbitra-
tion(p. 812). The more legalistic and potentially contentious conict management
style of Americans (moderate UA), however, can lead to coercive tactics. This, in
turn, can spoil the relationship. These and other authors concluded that Americans
are not as unsettled over conict issues in comparison to their high UA counter-
parts since they can minimize uncertainty and opportunistic behavior through due
diligence and contractual safeguards(Johnson & Grayson, 2005, p. 501).
This higher emphasis on conict resolution on trust assessments among
nations of high UA (i.e., Japan and Taiwan) is somewhat borne out in Wu
et al.s (2012) replication of Morgan and Hunts (1994) trust-commitment study.
Using the same scale items and hypotheses assumed in the latters study of US
rms (moderate UA), Wu et al. (2012) measured the inuence of cognitive trust
Table 2. (Continued)
Source Cultural Context Partnership Context Demonstrated Inuence
CLTV* INDV*
Wong et al.,
(2008)
Hong
Kong
Insurance service clients Trust Affective
commitment
Wu et al.
(2012)
Taiwan High-tech executives and
main exchange partners
Trust Affective
commitment
Notes: *collectivist (CLTV) and individualist (INDV).
14 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
on functional conict across rms in Taiwan (high UA) and the United States.
The signicantly higher regression coefcient in Taiwan vs US settings would
suggest that the relationship between conict resolution and trust is in fact
greater among buyers of high UA cultures.
At the other extreme, a number of researchers suggest that nations of low UA
likely dismiss the role of conict resolution as a critical consideration for assessing
the trust of their supplier counterparts. The more compromising management style,
especially embedded in Chinese cultures, should relieve buyer discomforts from fac-
ing future contentious issues. Rooted in the tenets of guanxi,Ndubisi (2011) com-
pared their low UA Chinese sample to a more moderate UA Indian sample and
concluded that the compromising style of conict handling is more inuential on
trust among the Chinese service providers than it is with their Indian counterparts.
The author attributes this to a more harmonizing Chinese nature that lends itself
to more enduring friendships. Coupled with the desire in Chinese cultures to save
face and preserve the relationships, an argument could be made that buyers from
China are more optimistic about future relational harmony with their suppliers. In
effect, the very high tolerance for ambiguity associated with these nations suggests
Table 3. Literature Review Findings of Conict Resolutions and Trust
Relationships.
Source Cultural Context Partnership Context Demonstrated Inuence
High
UA*
Moderate
UA*
Low
UA*
Akrout and
Diallo (2017)
France Buyersupplier
relationships
Conict resolution
Cognitive trust
Chung,
Sternquist,
and Chen
(2006)
Japan Department store
managers and
suppliers
Cognitive trust Functional
conict
Currall and
Judge (1995)
US Superintendentunion
relationships
History of failed management
() Cognitive trust
Massey and
Dawes
(2007)
Australia Marketingsales
relationships
Cognitive trust Functional
conict
Naoui and
Zaiem (2010)
Tunisia Pharmacistsales rep
relationships
Conict resolution
Cognitive trust
Ndubisi
(2011)
India China HR outsourced service
providerclient rm
relationships
Conict handling (integrating,
accommodating,
compromising) Cognitive
trust
Sullivan
et al. (1981)
Japan US Japanese-American
joint ventures in Japan
Conict resolution Mutual
trust
Wu et al.
(2012)
Taiwan High-tech executives
and main exchange
partners
Cognitive trust Functional
conict
Note: *uncertainty avoidance.
15Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
that low UA buyers have greater condence that conicts will work themselves
out. This leads us to the following hypotheses:
H4. Conict resolution universally inuences cognitive trust in buyer
supplier relationships.
H5. The inuence of conict resolution on cognitive trust is positively
moderated by the UA associated with the buyers national culture.
Communication Frequency
Given that cognitive trust derives from the accumulated knowledge required from
buyers to assess the competence and integrity of suppliers, the frequency with
which the necessary knowledge is shared should contribute to this trust assess-
ment. Frequent communication not only helps suppliers understand these
information requirements for competency assessments, it is also likely to be recip-
rocated. According to Massey and Kyriazis (2007), this resulting bidirectional
communication ow is what allows suppliers to demonstrate their work-related
competence. Shown in Table 4 are the research ndings of studies conrming the
direct and indirect inuences of communication frequency on cognitive trust.
Although no studies to date suggest any cultural moderation of this relation-
ship within the dimensions Hofstede (1983) examines, a conceptual argument
Table 4. Literature Review Findings of Communication Frequency and Trust.
Source Cultural Context Partnership Context Demonstrated Inuence
HC* LC*
Becerra and
Gupta (2003)
Multinational Dyadic cross-division
manager relationships
Communication frequency
moderates trust antecedents
Cognitive trust
Doney and
Cannon (1997)
US Industrial
manufacturersupplier
relationships
Contact frequency Cognitive trust
Gudykunst
and Nishida
(1986)
Japan US Student interpersonal
relationships
Communication frequency
Attributional condence (moderated
by communication context)
Jena, Guin,
and Dash
(2011)
India Steel buyersupplier
relationships
Communication frequency
Cognitive trust
Massey and
Kyriazis (2007)
Australia Research and
development (RD)
managermarketing
relationships
Communication frequency
Bidirectional communication
Cognitive trust
Rodríguez,
Peréz, and
Gutiérrez
(2007)
Spain MarketingRD
relationships
Communication (Frequency þ
Quality) Cooperation
Cognitive trust
Notes: *high context (HC) associated with collectivism and low context (LC) associated with
individualism.
16 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
could be made that the strength of this relationship may be tempered by the con-
text of communication embedded in national cultures. Specically, the high con-
text (HC) cultures associated with collectivist societies require less verbal
communication. Instead, messaging and assessment are often communicated
more implicitly (i.e., less is said). A cross-cultural study of communication fre-
quency and attributional condence, a construct similar to cognitive trust,
indeed supports this conclusion (Gudykunst & Nishida, 1986). The authors
found that communication frequency was more highly correlated with attribu-
tional condence in the low context (LC) US sample than in the HC Japanese
sample. This leads us to the following hypotheses:
H6. Communication frequency universally inuences cognitive trust in
buyersupplier relationships.
H7. The inuence of communication frequency on cognitive trust is positively
moderated by the collectivism associated with the buyers national culture.
Social Bond
A number of cross-cultural studies of trust building have demonstrated the
importance of suppliers being friendly, nice, and pleasant. Often captured under
constructs known as likeability, sympathy, congeniality, or social bond (see
comparisons in Table 5), this expectation resonates more in cultures known for
Table 5. Construct Comparisons for Sympathy, Likeability, and Social Bond.
Construct Source of Scales Sample Items
Likeability Doney and
Cannon (1996);
Andaleeb and
Anwar (1996)
The salesperson is friendly
The salesperson is pleasant
The salesperson is always nice to us
The salesperson is someone we like to have around
The salesperson has a sense of humor
Sympathy Swan et al. (1988);
Akrout and Diallo
(2017)
The seller is friendly
[R] The seller is not particularly pleasant
We were pleased to know this seller
Congeniality Moorman et al.
(1993)
Disagreeable-agreeable (great deal, none)
Friendly-unfriendly (great deal, none)
Good disposition-bad disposition (great deal, none)
Social bond
(social
interaction)
Han (1992);
Rodríguez and
Wilson (2002),
Mavondo and
Rodrigo (2001)
A strong friendship has developed with this supplier
over the years
We enjoy each others company
Our relationship with this supplier often involves
social time together
We are able to talk openly as friends
We are both interested in each others personal life
We both feel like we share a common bond
17Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
interpersonal interaction. Of the four related constructs, social bond has argu-
ably received the greatest attention in the cross-cultural literature. Often
described as social interaction or relational bonds, social bond contains elements
of friendship and closeness (Williams, Han, & Qualls, 1998) captured under like-
ability or sympathy. But richer than these constructs, social bond also implies
investments of time and energy that produce positive inter-personal relationships
between actors (Perry, Cavaye, & Coote, 2002)in (Ramström, 2008, p. 504).
The direct positive impact that social bond has on cognitive trust is well
documented (see Table 6). In their meta-analysis, Samaha, Beck, and Palmatier
(2014, p. 82) conclude that in cultures with higher individualism, relationships
based on long-term social bonding become more difcult to form, and the bene-
cial effects of relationships on outcomes are weaker.Moreover, cross-cultural
alliance research suggests that the relationship between social bond and cogni-
tive trust strengthens when buyers are from nations associated with high collec-
tivism. Rodríguez and Wilson (2002), for example, concluded in their evaluation
of USMexican alliances that managers from Mexico (high collectivism) per-
ceive social bonding as more important than structural bonding in building trust
in USMexican alliances, whereas US managers perceive structural bonding as
more important than social bonding in building trust in USMexican alliances.
This supports the ndings of Williams et al. (1998) who demonstrated that the
effect of social bonding on commitment [a well-documented outcome of trust] in
Table 6. Literature Review Findings of Social Bond and Trust Relationships.
Source Cultural Context Partnership Context Demonstrated Inuence
CLTV* INDV*
Doney, Barry,
and Abratt
(2007)
42-nation sample from
high CLTV to high
INDV.
Aircraft component
repair by buyer and
service provider
Social bond Cognitive trust
ˇ
Cater (2008) Slovenia Marketing research and
client rms
Social bond Cognitive trust
Leonidou et al.
(2017)
Greece Exporterimporter
relationships
Social bond Cognitive trust
Mavondo and
Rodrigo (2001)
China Australia ChinaAustralia
business partners
Social bond Cognitive trust
Ponder,
Holloway, and
Hansen (2016)
US Attorneyclient and
real estateclient
relationships
Cognitive trust Social bond
Rodríguez and
Wilson (2002)
Mexico US USMexican strategic
alliances
Social bond Cognitive trust
(stronger for nations of high
collectivism)
Williams et al.
(1998)
China,
Jamaica and
Costa Rica
US and
Germany
Social bond Commitment
(stronger for nations of high
collectivism)
Notes: *collectivist (CLTV) and individualist (INDV).
18 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
collectivist countries was bigger than the effect of social bonding in individualist
countries(p. 141).
This deference for social bond is also supported by Ramström (2008) when
comparing Chinese business partners with their individualist Nordic counter-
parts. The author attributes the greater Chinese afnity for social bond to a phi-
losophy that relationships create future transactions. Consequently, greater
attention is placed on interpersonal aspects of relationships. To the contrary, the
more performance-driven relationships in the West and Northern Europe sug-
gest a mentality that transactions and performance create future relationships.In
this case, greater attention is likely placed on the inter-organizational or struc-
tural aspects of a relationship (i.e., performing to contract specications). This
leads us to the following statements.
H8. Social bond universally inuences cognitive trust in buyersupplier
relationships.
H9. The inuence of social bond on cognitive trust is moderated positively
by the collectivism associated with the buyers national culture.
RESEARCH METHOD
Sample and Data Collection
The three countries selected in this study have distinct scores on Hofstedes
(2001) UA and individualism dimensions (see Table 7).
To study distinctions between the three country samples, we conducted
country-level comparisons based on aggregated scores (Cannon, Doney,
Mullen, & Petersen, 2010;Doney et al., 2007;Graça, Barry, & Doney, 2016).
Data were collected via a self-administered survey of 169 American, 100
Chinese, and 110 Brazilian business managers and buyers belonging to the
Brazilian-American Chambers of Commerce in Miami, Orlando, New York, and
Atlanta, the Associação Comercial da Bahia (Commercial Association of Bahia)
in Brazil, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. The survey was
accompanied by a cover letter stating that the Chambers endorsed the study.
Respondents were similar in job responsibility, group membership, and business
objectives and represent equivalent culti-units between countries. Also, drawing
the sample from the same geographic area in each country increases the likeli-
hood of attaining cultural similarity within groups. (Craig & Douglas, 2005,
Table 7. Hofstedes Country Scores.
Hofstedes Dimension China United States Brazil
Uncertainty avoidance scores 30 (Low) 46 (Medium) 76 (High)
Individualism scores 20 (Low) 91 (High) 38 (Medium)
Source:https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/brazil,china,the-usa/
19Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
2006). To ensure that participants selected business partners in the expansion
stage of a relationship, survey instructions directed participants to choose a sup-
plier that was neither their largest nor a sole provider of a product or service, or
one they had been doing business with for two or more years. Table 8 is a sum-
mary of the distribution of the samples across buyer characteristics and key
rmographics.
In the United States, data were collected primarily via the online version of
the survey with a response rate of 13.2 percent. Given the B-to-B context of this
study, this response rate is considered standard. However in China and Brazil,
the online response rate was extremely low. Upon consultation with Chamber
ofcials, we decided to also deliver the paper version of the survey in person to
address local preference in these two countries to conduct business face-to-face
(Malhotra, Agarwal, & Petersen, 1996). The response rate from the paper collec-
tion based on a random sample was close to 100 percent in both countries. To
test for potential nonresponse bias, we compared the means between early versus
late respondents for each group independently (Armstrong & Overton, 1977).
No statistically signicant differences were found for any of the key variables in
this study; therefore, nonresponse bias was ruled out as a concern.
Measurement
We developed the conceptual model for this study based on the theoretical frame-
work of trust in buyersupplier relationships under the expansion stage of rela-
tionship development (Akrout, 2015); the key mediating variable (KMV) model
of relationship marketing (Hunt & Morgan, 1994); and the model of communica-
tion ows, socialization, trust, and strategic cooperation (Graça et al., 2017).
Survey items were originally selected from seminal studies in the eld of relation-
ship marketing, buyersupplier relationship, and channel communication
Table 8. Sample Distribution.
Length of Relationship 1 5 Years (%) 6 10 Years (%) 11 or More Years (%)
US sample (n¼169) 39.05 37.87 23.08
Chinese sample (n¼100) 68.00 32.00
Brazilian sample (n¼110) 47.27 31.82 20.91
Responsible for Purchase Buyer (%) Non-buyer (%)
US sample (n¼169) 82.80 17.20
Chinese sample (n¼100) 79.00 21.00
Brazilian sample (n¼110) 80.00 20.00
Organizations Main Offering Product (%) Service (%) Both (%)
US sample (n¼169) 40.80 66.90 24.85
Chinese sample (n¼100) 62.00 51.00 13.00
Brazilian sample (n¼110) 61.80 55.50 17.27
20 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
(Barry & Doney, 2011;Doney & Cannon, 1997;Mohr, Fisher, & Nevin, 1996;
Mohr & Nevin, 1990;Morgan & Hunt, 1994;Reynolds & Beatty, 1999) and
compared for equivalence with survey items from Akrout and Diallo (2017).
Conict resolution is represented by three items that measure the suppliers
ability to avoid potential conicts, openly discuss solutions to problems once
they arise, and solve manifest conicts before they become problems (Ndubisi,
2007). Communication frequency contains three items measuring both the
actual amount of contact and interaction the buyer has with the supplier, as
well as how much buyers welcome frequent contact with the supplier (Mohr &
Nevin, 1990). The social bond scale contains four items adapted from
Reynolds and Beatty (1999) measuring friendship aspects of the buyersup-
plier relationship. In particular, social bond measures how much the buyer
values and enjoys the suppliers time, company, and personal relationship.
Cognitive trust measures the buyers personal expectations toward and beliefs
about the supplier. It is the overall assessment, based on cumulative knowl-
edge, that the buyer makes regarding the likelihood of a supplier to follow
through with obligations and promises (Akrout, 2015). Cognitive trust is multi-
dimensional, incorporating elements of benevolence, honesty, and competence
(Akrout & Diallo, 2017). Benevolence is represented with three items that mea-
sure the buyers assessment of the suppliers goodwill, welfare consideration,
and genuine intentions to keep the buyers best interest in mind. The honesty
dimension contains four items assessing the buyers perception regarding the
suppliers ability to keep promises and provide credible information and over-
all trustworthiness. Competence is represented with four items measuring the
suppliers ability to meet the buyers expectations, help accomplish goals, and
perform in a manner that produces desired results. Condential communication
entails the sharing of proprietary information between buyer and supplier. The
scale contains three items which also measure buyers level of information-
sharing with the supplier and the degree of importance a buyer places on the
suppliers level of information-sharing with the buyer. Cooperation is measured
with two items from Anderson and Narus (1990) and refers to coordinated
actions(Anderson & Narus, 1990, p. 45) between buyer and supplier to
achieve mutual goals. Affective commitment contains three items that measure
the degree to which a buyers loyalty and sense of allegiance is to the supplier,
as well as the degree to which the buyer considers the supplier to be part of
the family.
All measures were anchored using a seven-point Likert scale ranging from
strongly disagree to strongly agree. The effect of the length of the relationship
(one to ve years, between ve and 10 years, and greater than 10 years) between
buyer and supplier on performance satisfaction was included as a control vari-
able. The survey items, original authors, and composite reliability (CR) for each
scale are included in Appendix 1. In addition, a summary of the samplesstatis-
tics (means and standard deviations) is presented in Appendix 2 and the correla-
tion matrices for all three samples are included in Appendix 3.
21Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
Reliability and Validity
The original English version of the survey underwent translation and back-
translation by professional translators into Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese.
To ensure content validity and consistency of construct meaning among both
samples, we sought the advice of bilingual experts on the meaning of each item
in both the original and the translated survey versions (Malhotra et al., 1996).
In addition, a pilot test was administered to marketing practitioners and
researchers from each culture. No concerns were raised in regard to the meaning
of survey items.
We followed the two-step approach to developing the measures, assessing
validity and reliability of the measurement and structural models suggested by
Anderson & Gerbing, 1988 and Churchill, 1979. We assessed the internal consis-
tency and validity of the scales within each culture by analyzing the CR and
average variance extracted (AVE) for each scale. The measures demonstrate
adequate properties as the reliability and CR for each scale in all three cultures
exceed the recommended 0.70 threshold, and AVE is equal to or exceeds the
threshold of 0.50 (Fornell & Lacker, 1981;Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson,
2010). Table 9 summarizes the reliability and validity tests for the nal scales in
the study.
To further assess convergent validity, a conrmatory factor analysis was con-
ducted and the overall t of the measurement model is in an acceptable range
(χ2
(379)
¼1131.416, p<0.01; comparative t index (CFI) ¼0.84; incremental t
index (IFI) ¼0.85; Tucker-Lewis index (TLI) ¼0.81; root mean square error of
approximation ¼0.106) (Hair et al., 2010). The correlation matrix for all three
samples, shown in Appendix 3, demonstrates evidence of discriminant validity
as the correlations between the same variables are larger than the correlations
between distinct variables (Churchill, 1979).
The factor loadings of items onto each construct are signicant and appropri-
ate for all three samples (Hair et al., 2010) and the measurement models demon-
strate an adequate level of universal structure to allow for cross-cultural
comparisons of the structural model (MacKenzie, Podsakoff, & Podsakoff,
2011).
Table 9. Reliability and Validity Tests for Measures.
US China Brazil
Variable CR AVE CR AVE CR AVE
Conict resolution 0.89 0.73 0.89 0.77 0.77 0.56
Communication frequency 0.94 0.84 0.94 0.73 0.88 0.89
Social bond 0.92 0.75 0.80 0.56 0.80 0.56
Cognitive trust 0.96 0.70 0.95 0.63 0.92 0.51
Condential communication 0.84 0.63 0.76 0.54 0.75 0.52
Cooperation 0.91 0.83 0.70 0.56 0.86 0.80
Affective commitment 0.89 0.74 0.85 0.65 0.87 0.70
22 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
Data Analysis
We analyzed the data using structural equation modeling to test the relation-
ships between all constructs in the conceptual model in Fig. 1. The model was
estimated simultaneously for each cultural pair (the United States and China,
the United States and Brazil, and China and Brazil) via a multigroup analysis of
structural invariance using Amos 18. The path coefcients for each cultural
group were analyzed separately to allow for statistical comparisons to be made.
Signicant differences in the path coefcients were analyzed with pairwise
parameter comparisons to examine the moderating effect of national culture
on the hypothesized relationships. We tested the invariance in the parameter
coefcients for each relationship by analyzing the critical ratios for differences
between parameters matrix to assess the z-scores for the differences of each
parameter between groups (Byrne, 2004). The mediating effects of each
exchange climate variable were examined utilizing a combination of Baron
and Kennys (1986) regression method and bootstrapping (Preacher & Hayes,
2008).
FINDINGS, DISCUSSION, AND MANAGERIAL
IMPLICATIONS
Most relationships are positive and signicant in our model with the exception
of the relationships between communication frequency and cognitive trust in the
Brazilian sample and cognitive trust and cooperation in China. In addition, the
paths between conict resolution and cognitive trust differ at a statistically sig-
nicant level for all three samples. There are also statistically signicant differ-
ences between the paths of social bond and cognitive trust and cognitive trust
and cooperation for the samples from the United States and China and Brazil
and China. The overall result of the model is presented in Fig. 2, and a summary
of the results is listed in Appendix 4.
Cognitive
Trust
Expansion
Phase
Conflict
Resoltion
Confidential
Communication
Cooperation
Affective
Commitment
Communication
Frequency
Social
Bond
- Benevolence
- Honesty
- Competence
UAI
IND
}
Fig. 1. Proposed Model of Cognitive Trust in Expansion Phase. Notes: Tested in
three cultural contexts: low, medium, and high uncertainty avoidance (UAI) and
individualism (IND).
23Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
The discussion continues by analyzing the results for each country sample
individually to shed light on managerial and strategic implications for buyers
and managers under each country context.
United StatesResults
As one would expect for a country with a medium UA score, conict resolution
plays a signicant role in shaping cognitive trust in the United States. However, as
the country with the highest score in individualism, the United Statesbuyers place
lower emphasis on social bond as a determinant of cognitive trust. Communication
frequency falls in the middle and contributes to building trust as well. Cognitive
trust has signicant, large impact on increasing condential communication, coop-
eration, and affective commitment in the United States (see Table 10).
The explanatory power of the United Statesmodel is excellent. Together,
conict resolution, communication frequency, and social bond explain 77 per-
cent of cognitive trust, which combined with the three antecedents explains 31
percent of condential communication, 58 percent of cooperation, and 53 per-
cent of affective commitment.
United StatesDiscussion and Managerial Implications
Relationship marketing is considered a strategic tool to build long-term relation-
ships between business partners. Our study supports the importance of cognitive
trust (as a key relationship marketing (RM) variable) in fostering committed
partnerships in the United States in the expansion phase of the relationship.
Managers are advised to pay close attention to conict resolution as the factor
Values represent Standardized Regression Weights. 1
st
Value = US; 2
nd
Value = Brazil, 3
rd
Value = China
Do Not Differ
Do Not Differ
R2=
R2=
R2= 0.58; 0.61; 0.01
R2
=
0.53; 0.61; 0.64
Conflict
Resolution
Cognitive
Trust
Confidential
Communication
Cooperation
Affective
Commitment
Frequency
Communication
Social
Bond
0.53
0.69
0.21
0.76; 0.78; 0.64
0.55; 0.53; 0.75
0.18*; 0.26**; 0.46
0.76; 0.78; n/S
0.29; n/S; 0.34**
0.77; 0.72; 0.80
0.31; 0.28; 0.63
Fig. 2. Model Results. Notes: All p-values <0.01, unless noted as: *p-value <0.10;
**p-value <0.05; or n/s. Statistically signicant differences: Conict resolution
Cogitative trust (all three samples differ); Social bond Cognitive trust AND
Cognitive trust Cooperation (US and Brazilian samples do not differ but both
differ from the Chinese sample).
24 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
with the greatest inuence on building buyersupplier trust in the United States.
Suppliers should avoid conicts or attempt to resolve them as they arise and
increase the frequency of communication with buyers that signal competence,
reliability, honesty, and benevolence. A trusted partnership greatly contributes
to increasing mutual cooperation, the exchange of condential information, and
affective commitment between buyers and suppliers.
Chinas Results
As expected in a highly collectivist country, social bond plays a major role and
is the greatest determinant of cognitive trust in China. Conict resolution and
communication frequency, although less than social bond, also contribute to
shaping cognitive trust in China as well. In turn, cognitive trust positively
impacts condential communication and affective commitment; however, cogni-
tive trust has no signicant, direct impact on cooperation (see Table 11).
In order to further examine the role cooperation plays in the Chinese model,
and as an ad-hoc decision, we performed a combination of Baron and Kenny
(1986) and bootstrapping (Preacher & Hayes, 2008) to test for the mediating
effects of condential communication and affective commitment on the relation-
ship between cognitive trust and cooperation. We found that affective commit-
ment fully mediates the relationship. The direct effect of cogitative trust on
cooperation was not signicant without the mediator. In the presence of the
affective commitment as mediator, the direct effect became negative while the
indirect effect was signicant. Results indicate that cognitive trust only increases
cooperation between buyers and sellers in China to the degree that it increases
affective commitment (see Table 12).
The explanatory power of the Chinese model is excellent. Together, conict
resolution, communication frequency, and social bond explain 80 percent of
cognitive trust, which combines to explain 63 percent of condential communi-
cation and 64 percent of affective commitment. When testing for the mediating
role of affective commitment on the relationship between cognitive trust and
cooperation, the model increases the variance explained in cooperation from 1
to 20 percent.
Table 10. United StatesResults.
R
2
P
Social bond Cognitive trust 0.18 0.011
Communication frequency Cognitive trust 0.29 0.000
Conict resolution Cognitive trust 0.53 0.000
Cognitive trust Cooperation 0.76 0.000
Cognitive trust Affective commitment 0.76 0.000
Cognitive trust Condential communication 0.55 0.000
Notes:*p-value <0.10; **p-value <0.05; ***p-value <0.01; R
2
, standardized regression weights;
P, probability. .
25Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
Chinas Discussion and Managerial Implications
Friendships play a greater role in business relationships in collectivist versus
more individualist societies (Hofstede, 2001). Our results conrm that social
bond is the most important factor impacting cognitive trust in the Chinese
model, followed by communication frequency and lastly by conict resolu-
tion. The collectivist inclination of the Chinese society contributes to heighten
the emphasis buyers placed on personal relationships as a precursor to busi-
ness dealings. Cultivating social bond becomes a matter of necessity for
Chinese buyers and suppliers and a part of the guanxi development process
(Shou, Guo, Zhang, & Su, 2011) essential in committed business relation-
ships. Our ndings are supported by other guanxi scholars; Jukka et al. (2017)
found that the Chinese managers emphasized relationshipspecic person-
alized trustworthiness [] personalized communication, commitment, and
personalized benevolence(p. 492); all aspects of guanxi.Furthermore,
guanxi has a tremendous inuence on loyalty and a buyers patronage behav-
ior (Lee et al., 2017). We found that Chinese buyers will only cooperate with
suppliers they have built a sense of allegiance with and consider as part of
the family.
Managers are advised to build friendship with buyers in China by investing
time in getting to know their business partners. Chinese buyers value the suppli-
ers personal touch in the relationship dealings and appreciate a suppliers close
and personalized attention. These behaviors contribute to building social bond
that in turn will increase the buyers trust in and commitment to the supplier. A
high degree of affective commitment or buyers loyalty toward the supplier has
Table 11. Chinas Results.
R
2
P
Social bond Cognitive trust 0.46 0.007
Communication frequency Cognitive trust 0.34 0.000
Conict resolution Cognitive trust 0.46 0.040
Cognitive trust Cooperation 0.06 0.183
Cognitive trust Affective commitment 0.64 0.000
Cognitive trust Condential communication 0.75 0.007
Notes:*p-value <0.10; **p-value <0.05; ***p-value <0.01.
Table 12. Chinas Mediating Results.
R
2
P
Cognitive trust Cooperation -0.35 0.000
Cognitive trust Affective commitment 0.64 0.000
Affective commitment Cooperation 0.56 0.000
Notes:*p-value <0.10; **p-value <0.05; ***p-value <0.01.
26 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
been considered the holy grail of marketing(Lee et al., 2017, p. 3) and enables
greater cooperation between partners in China.
Brazils Results
Brazils UA score was the highest among the three countries. As expected, con-
ict resolution was signicantly more important in increasing cognitive trust
than it was for the other two samples. With a medium score in individualism,
Brazil also considered social bond an important determinant of cognitive trust.
In turn, cognitive trust had a signicant impact on all three outcomes (conden-
tial communication, cooperation, and affective commitment) see Table 13.
Unlike our proposal, communication frequency did not have a signicant
impact on cognitive trust in the Brazilian model. Using the same methodology
as we did in the Chinese sample, we tested for the mediating effects of conict
resolution and social bond on the relationship between communication fre-
quency and cognitive trust. We found that conict resolution fully mediates the
relationship indicating that communication frequency only impacts cognitive
trust to the extent that it helps resolve conicts in the Brazilian model (see
Table 14):
The explanatory power of the Brazilian model is also excellent. Conict reso-
lution, communication frequency, and social bond explain 72 percent of cogni-
tive trust which also explains 28 percent of condential communication, 61
percent of cooperation, and 61 percent of affective commitment.
Brazils Discussion and Managerial Implications
The results indicate that a country with a high degree of UA places great
emphasis on a partners ability to resolve conicts as the most important deter-
minant of trust. According to Hofstede (2001),uncertainty-avoidance cultures
shun ambiguous situations(p. 148) and prefer predictable environments.
Conict presents an unstable environment which can cause a great deal of stress
for Brazilian organizations. Countries that avoid uncertainty at all cost are
more likely to end a partnership due to conict or refuse to build one that pre-
sents potentiality to create conict. Claro and Claro (2008, p. 208) found that
Table 13. Brazils Results.
R
2
P
Social bond Cognitive trust 0.26 0.003
Communication frequency Cognitive trust 0.05 0.458
Conict resolution Cognitive trust 0.69 0.000
Cognitive trust Cooperation 0.78 0.000
Cognitive trust Affective commitment 0.78 0.000
Cognitive trust Condential communication 0.53 0.000
Notes:*p-value <0.10; **p-value <0.05; ***p-value <0.01.
27Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
Brazilian companies seek to build trust primarily as a mechanism to overcome
potential problemsand Graça and Barry (2016) found that conict resolution
is the greatest determinant of perceptions of communication effectiveness in
Brazil. In addition, and similar to our ndings, conict resolution not only
impacts outcomes such as trust and satisfaction directly, it also serves as a medi-
ator between communication and trust and trust and other relational outcomes
(Graça, Barry, & Doney, 2015).
It is highly recommended when dealing with buyers and managers from high
UA countries such as Brazil to avoid conicts or to attempt to solve them before
they become problems. In case conicts arise, it is recommended that suppliers
openly discuss solutions to these conicts. It is also important to note that
increasing the amount of communication and contact with the buyer sends a
positive signal that attempts are being made to avoid or resolve conicts. This
behavior, in turn, will increase buyers trust in the supplier which ultimately
increases the degree of condential communication being exchanged, mutual
cooperation, and degree of loyalty and allegiance in the partnership.
CONCLUSION
The study here illustrates the complexity of cognitive trust and its importance in
shaping business systems which allow for efcient exchanges to occur between
organizations. The centrality of trust is widely shared; what is vastly misunder-
stood is how trust is built to create social capital and its role in shaping
exchanges across three distinct cultural samples. The results of our study demon-
strate that there are similarities and differences across countries with low,
medium, and high scores in UA and individualism.
The importance of cognitive trust in allowing business partners to share con-
dential information is universal across the three distinct cultures tested in our
study. The ability of business partners to openly divulge proprietary information
can be mutually benecial in creating efciencies and trust is the vehicle to
facilitate such exchange in the United States, China, and Brazil.
In a high individualist country such as the United States, our ndings demon-
strate that the relationship marketing theory largely explains trust behavior.
Trust is a KMV of relational outcomes (Morgan & Hunt, 1994) in the West and
our study supports the importance of conict resolution, communication fre-
quency, and to a lesser degree, social bond in building buyersupplier relation-
ships in the United States. The study also conrmed that cognitive trust plays a
Table 14. Brazils Mediating Results.
R
2
P
Communication frequency Conict resolution 0.37 0.001
Communication frequency Cognitive trust 0.05 0.464
Conict resolution Cognitive trust 0.73 0.000
Notes:*p-value <0.10; **p-value <0.05; ***p-value <0.01.
28 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
central role in permitting the exchange of condential communication, increas-
ing cooperation, and affective commitment between partners.
This study demonstrates that in China, a country ranking low in both indi-
vidualism and UA, social bonds play a much greater role in building trust which
in turn only increases cooperation to the extent that it serves as a mechanism to
secure committed relationships. In fact, trust without commitment has a nega-
tive impact on cooperation. The differences between the United States and
China also illustrate how the trust-building process is distinctly shaped under
relationship marketing and guanxi contexts.
The importance of conict resolution is paramount in Brazil, a country that
ranks high in UA and low in public trust. Not only is conict resolution behav-
ior the greatest determinant of trust, it mediates the relationship between com-
munication frequency and trust. Countries with low levels of tolerance toward
ambiguity are conict-averse and are more likely to engage in trusted and com-
mitted business partnerships under a conict-free and problem-solving climate.
The original scales of this study were derived from research designed to mea-
sure relationship marketing under Anglo-Saxon context. Despite our careful
measures to assure that the English version of the survey was carefully trans-
lated, understood in China and Brazil and equivalent to the original, misunder-
standing of survey items cannot be ruled out.
Finally, although the relationship marketing paradigm shares some universal-
ity across distinct cultural contexts, striking differences are also found in our
research. We demonstrate that the moderating inuences of national culture are
complex and confounded by each nations degree of individualism, UA, general-
ized public trust, and institutional peculiarities such as guanxi. Future cross-
cultural research in relationship marketing cannot ignore the peculiarities of
national culture moderators in testing relational models across distinct cultural
contexts. Therefore, we recommend that future studies include other country
samples, as well as other relationship marketing constructs (e.g., relationship
quality, communication quality, and social and functional benets), to increase
the generalizability of our ndings and expand the applicability of relationship
marketing in various cultural contexts.
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32 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
APPENDIX 1
Scales and Composite Reliability Scores
Conict resolution (CR: US ¼0.89, CH ¼0.90, BR ¼0.77)
This supplier tries to avoid potential conicts with us
This supplier tries to solve manifest conicts before they create problems
This supplier has the ability to openly discuss solutions when problems arise
Communication frequency (CR: US ¼0.94, CH ¼0.89, BR ¼0.88)
We have frequent interactions with this supplier
We value the amount of contact that this supplier makes with our company
We desire and welcome frequent contacts with this supplier
Social bond (CR: US ¼0.92, CH ¼0.80, BR ¼0.80)
The friendship aspect of our relationship with this supplier is very important to us
We enjoy spending time with this supplier
We value the close, personal relationship we have with this supplier
We enjoy this suppliers company
Cognitive trust (CR: US ¼0.96, CH ¼0.95, BR ¼0.92)
Honesty: This supplier keeps promises it makes to our business
We believe the information that this supplier provides us
This supplier is trustworthy
The information provided by this supplier is credible
Benevolence: This supplier is genuinely concerned that our business succeeds
We trust that this supplier keeps our best interests in mind
When making important decisions, this supplier considers our welfare as well as its own
Competence: The performance by this supplier meets our expectations
The performance by this supplier leads to desired results
The turnaround time for work performed by this supplier meets our expectations
Compared to alternative suppliers, we are condent this supplier will better help usaccomplish our goals
Condential communication (CR: US ¼0.84, CH ¼0.76, BR ¼0.75)
We share proprietary information with this supplier
We keep this supplier well informed about what is going on in our company
We believe it is imperative that this supplier keep us updated on critical information about their
companys operations
Cooperation (CR: US ¼0.91, CH ¼0.70, BR ¼0.86)
Our company helps this supplier in whatever ways they ask
This supplier helps our company out in whatever ways we ask
Affective commitment (CR: US ¼0.89, CH ¼0.85, BR ¼0.87)
Our loyalty to this supplier is a major reason why we continue to work with this supplier
We want to stay associated with this supplier because of our allegiance to them
We intend to continue working with this supplier because we feel they are part of the family
Notes: Scales have been adapted to reect the context of this study.
33Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
APPENDIX 2
Descriptive Statistics
Mean
(US)
Std.
Deviation
(US)
Mean
(Brazil)
Std. Deviation
(Brazil)
Mean
(China)
Std. Deviation
(China)
Conict resolution 5.4970 1.01973 5.4242 1.05690 5.1633 0.58698
Communication
frequency
5.2761 1.46882 6.0091 0.95831 5.2433 0.78974
Social bond 5.0281 1.35851 4.0273 1.33167 4.7700 0.62227
Cognitive trust 5.6288 0.94436 5.3884 0.91449 5.2700 0.46882
Condential
communication
4.7554 1.51601 4.6394 1.39617 4.4467 0.77593
Cooperation 5.0030 1.33575 4.6045 1.55200 4.0000 0.84984
Affective
commitment
5.1755 1.28332 4.5818 1.57739 5.0467 0.77997
34 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
APPENDIX 3
Conict
Resolution
Comm.
Frequency
Social
Bond
Cognitive
Trust
Condential
Comm.
Coop Affective
Commit
Correlation Matrix (US)
Conict
resolution
1
Communication
frequency
0.588 1
Social bond 0.623 0.502 1
Cognitive trust 0.776 0.667 0.646 1
Condential
communication
0.446 0.518 0.648 0.505 1
Cooperation 0.649 0.563 0.788 0.709 0.595 1
Affective
commitment
0.607 0.503 0.718 0.677 0.498 0.712 1
Correlation Matrix (China)
Conict
resolution
1
Communication
frequency
0.255 1
Social bond 0.574 0.386 1
Cognitive trust 0.679 0.567 0.613 1
Condential
communication
0.388 0.407 0.494 0.434 1
Cooperation 0.145 0.058 0.363 0.003 0.089 1
Affective
commitment
0.785 0.291 0.621 0.561 0.379 0.317 1
Correlation Matrix (Brazil)
Conict
resolution
1
Communication
frequency
0.356 1
Social bond 0.366 0.129 1
Cognitive trust 0.710 0.379 0.519 1
Condential
communication
0.333 0.300 0.372 0.471 1
Cooperation 0.539 0.141 0.582 0.687 0.363 1
Affective
commitment
0.554 0.198 0.621 0.714 0.371 0.608 1
Notes: Values in italics are non-signicant (p>0.05).
35Cognitive Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
APPENDIX 4
BR US z-score
R
2
PR
2
P
Social bond Cognitive trust 0.26 0.003 0.18 0.011 0.950
Communication frequency Cognitive trust 0.05 0.458 0.29 0.000 0.860
Conict resolution Cognitive trust 0.69 0.000 0.53 0.000 2.897***
Cognitive trust Cooperation 0.78 0.000 0.76 0.000 0.749
Cognitive trust Affective commitment 0.78 0.000 0.76 0.000 0.932
Cognitive trust Condential communication 0.53 0.000 0.55 0.000 0.801
CH US z-score
R
2
PR
2
P
Social bond Cognitive trust 0.46 0.006 0.18 0.011 2.011**
Communication frequency Cognitive trust 0.34 0.000 0.29 0.000 0.524
Conict resolution Cognitive trust 0.46 0.039 0.53 0.000 2.567**
Cognitive trust Cooperation 0.06 0.367 0.76 0.000 8.176***
Cognitive trust Affective commitment 0.64 0.000 0.76 0.000 1.036
Cognitive trust Condential communication 0.75 0.007 0.55 0.000 0.671
CH BR z-score
R
2
PR
2
P
Social bond Cognitive trust 0.46 0.007 0.26 0.003 1.552
Communication frequency Cognitive trust 0.34 0.000 0.05 0.459 1.117
Conict resolution Cognitive trust 0.46 0.040 0.69 0.000 4.109***
Cognitive trust Cooperation 0.06 0.183 0.78 0.000 4.313***
Cognitive trustAffective commitment 0.64 0.000 0.78 0.000 0.436
Cognitive trust Condential tommunication 0.75 0.007 0.53 0.000 0.115
Notes:*p-value <0.10; **p-value <0.05; ***p-value <0.01; BR, Brazil; CH, China; US,
United States.
36 SANDRA S. GRAÇA AND JAMES M. BARRY
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