Trust in World Politics Working Group

It has been generally accepted that trust is imperative to constructive interpersonal and international interaction and cooperation. The trust working group engages with theoretical debates and empirical puzzles, focusing on the nature, forms, and roles of trust, as well as the dynamic stages of trust-building across individual, group, organisational, community, national, and international levels. Our research is varied but primarily aimed at understanding the role of trust for cooperation, the relationship between trust and culture and the dynamics between trust and distrust.

We welcome research collaborations with scholars and students (PGR, PGT and UG) who are interested in any aspects of trust. If you are interested in research on trust or want to get involved with our working group, please contact Professor Nicholas J Wheeler:

The Trust Working Group is part of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS).

Trusting Enemies

About us

Our interdisciplinary Trust Working Group brings together senior and junior scholars who seek to effectively investigate the holistic content and dynamic processes of trust through a variety of empirical case studies. Our team collectively has extensive expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, spanning from experiments, large-N surveys, in-depth elite interviews, ethnographic research, content and discourse analysis, and document analysis. Our working group sits within the Institute for Conflict Cooperation and Security (ICCS), holds monthly research meetings at the University of Birmingham, hosts research talks with both internal and external speakers, and organises methodology workshops that are open to all. We collaborate closely with the International Political Psychology Group (IPoPsy), and we are members of the First International Network on Trust (FINT), the British International Studies Association (BISA), and the International Studies Association (ISA).


We are currently working on the following projects – please contact us if you want to join any of our research projects, gain valuable research experience, share expertise, and develop your own research alongside ours.

Members from ICCS

The Challenge of Building Trust Between Adversaries: This project pioneers the application of the concept of interpersonal trust to the international level, focusing on the psychological dispositions and interactions that lead political leaders to accept vulnerability in their interactions with the leaders of states with whom their state is in an adversarial relationship. The project examines how new trusting relationships that overcome the barriers to trust can be made possible (e.g. peaceful/defensive self-images, and bad faith models of the adversary). For more information, contact Nicholas Wheeler.

The development of trusting relationships in ASEAN: This project develops a multi-dimensional concept of trust, where the belief that constitutes trust has multiple sources of evidence that develop as a relationship does, which it applies to the development of trusting relationships in ASEAN. By exploring whether trusting relationships can eventually be maintained by trusting behaviour as practice, furthermore, it suggests a way in which trust between individuals can institutionalise - stabilising the trusting relationship by embedding trust as practice into a structure. Scott Edwards.

Trusting Relationships in Multilateral Agreements: This project focuses on the cooperation between nuclear weapon states. Is it meaningful to discuss trusting relationships between more than two individuals/groups/states? Can networks of trusting relationships exist? While research on trust has mostly focused on conceptualising dyadic relationships, this project examines the role trust might play in multilateral settings. For more information contact Ana Alecsandru.

The security dilemma in Sino-Indian Relations: This project aims to explain how security cooperation became possible between India and China in the late 1980s, and how India’s nuclear test in 1998 signalled the collapse of that progress. The project investigates how to develop peaceful relations between two states whose future relationship will be a key determinant of international security in the 21st century. For more information contact Chiara Cervasio.

Institution-based Trust (the Moscow Washington Hotline) in Cold War superpower relations: This project investigates the interaction between interpersonal and institution-based trust and their relationship to cooperation in international crisis situations. It examines two cases: the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. For more information contact  Eszter Simon.

Social Identity and Trust: This project applies psychology models of social identity to issues of trust and cooperation in post-'Troubles' Northern Ireland. For more information contact Sumedh Rao.

Organizational Reputations of Efficacy and Reliability and Media Responses to Blame: This project draws on theoretical insights in political psychology and public policy to examine the impact of reputations on political decision making. It investigates how organizational reputations of efficacy, generating expectations of confidence, and reputations of reliability generating expectations of trust, can predict the types of responses international business organizations provide when implicated in scandals or allegations of bad business practice, such as child labour or unsafe working conditions. For our data analysis we match data on international organizational reputations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) with content analysis data of organizational scandal and account coverage. For more information contact Tereza Capelos.

The Creation of the Hotline: This project focuses on the interaction of trust in different levels, but looks at this interaction more from the direction of the micro (interpersonal) level than on the mezo (group/state) level, taking into account insights from psychology. For more information contact  Eszter Simon.

Members from the Birmingham Business School

The role of trust and distrust in patient safety:  This research undertaken with Carole Doherty (Surrey University) and Charitini Stavropoulou (City University) examines the patient clinician relationship and the role of trust and distrust in enabling and disabling patient safety. A sample of elective surgery patients and their caregivers narratives prior, during and post treatment provides insights into their experiences and the role of trust and distrust and their attitudes to decision making.  Early findings indicate implications for the process of gaining patients consent, the utility of consent forms, and in particular the consequences of too much trust. For more information contact Mark Saunders.

Intra-organisational trust and distrust across cultures: This research scrutinises the relationship between trust and culture and questions whether trust is a universal (etic), as the current literature mainly assumes, or context and culture specific (emic). The importance of the relationship between culture and trust is increasingly recognised as central to the trust research and there have been calls for more emic approaches. In response to such calls, this research explores the relationship between culture and trust and also culture and distrust. Firstly, this research investigates the relationship between trust and distrust, providing empirical evidence on the continuing debate on the nature of distrust, and then explores how trust and distrust is formed across different cultural settings. For more information contact Neve Isaeva at

Building trust in virtual relationships: This project focuses on the development of trust between managers and employees of virtual sales teams. Much of the trust literature has focused on traditional working relationships, and the manager-employee dyad has been identified as one of the most important intra-organisational trust relationships. However studies of virtual teams have largely focused on employee-employee relationships, much of the research being conducted in laboratory settings. This research, conducted within multinational ICT companies, offers insights to organisations and dyad members about the range of antecedents of trust development in the manager-employee virtual dyad.  

Working Group Members

Academic members:

Doctoral Researchers:

  • Ana Alecsandru
  • Polly Black (BBS)
  • Scott Edwards
  • Colin Hughes (BBS)
  • Neve Isaeva (BBS)
  • Sumedh Rao
  • Thomas Stocks
  • Chiara Cervasio

Past events

Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation 2019

In April 2019, the ICCS hosted its fifth annual training programme on Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation at the University of Birmingham. The course gave participants theoretical and practical insights the complexities of mediation in the context of civil wars and international conflicts.

Trusting Enemies: Interpersonal Relationships in International Conflict

In May 2018, the College of Social Sciences was delighted to present the inaugural lecture of Professor Nicholas Wheeler, Professor of International Relations.

Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation 2018

In April 2018, the ICCS hosted its fifth annual training programme on Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation at the University of Birmingham.

Roundtable: The Social Construction of Trust

In September 2017, the ICCS held a workshop at the University of Birmingham to bring together doctoral students/early career researchers and experienced scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the current trust research in the field of International Relations. This podcast is taken from the final roundtable.

 Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation 2017

In March 2017, the ICCS hosted its fourth annual training programme on 'Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation' at the University of Birmingham. The programme brought together current students with delegates from around the world, including from the Czech Republic, Nepal and the United States, to learn about the different approaches to conflict resolution in International Relations.

Geneva Summit: 30th Anniversary Conference

In November 2015, The ICCS invited scholars and practitioners to reflect on the legacy of the meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev, exploring what went right, what went wrong, and assessing the prognosis for the future. The central focus of this event was to address the question of how trust was developed between the two leaders, why the relationship has broken down in the intervening years, and whether trust can be restored given the current state of US-Russia relations.

Podcast: Trust and Deception Workshop

In October 2015, the ICCS held a workshop at the University of Birmingham to bring together experts from a variety of disciplinary perspectives to discuss trust and deception in international politics. How do trust and deception affect each other? Why, when, and how do leaders and policy-makers attempt to deceive each other and their publics? What are the available tools to detect deception? Can trust be built in an environment in which deception is perceived to be the norm? Scholars convened to tackle the theory and application of their current research.

Workshop report: 'Face-to-face Diplomacy and Interpersonal Trust in IR'

In March 2015, the ICCS hosted a visit from Dr Marcus Holmes, Assistant Professor of Government at the College of William & Mary, who, in 2014, became an Honorary Research Fellow in Social Neuroscience and International Relations at the ICCS. The visit culminated in a workshop on Saturday 28th March, on 'Face-to-face Diplomacy and Interpersonal Trust in IR', which looked in depth at chapters from Dr Holmes' current work-in-progress, and also from Professor Nicholas J Wheeler's forthcoming book, 'Trusting Enemies'.

Trust, Cooperation and the Global Nuclear Future

In September 2012, the ICCS hosted the third annual symposium of "The Challenges to Trust Building in Nuclear Worlds" entitled "Trust, Cooperation and the Global Nuclear Future" in conjunction with the University of Leicester's Intelligence, Security and Strategic Studies Group (ISSG)

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