- the willingness of one party (trustor) to rely on the actions of another party (trustee);
- reasonable expectation (confidence) of the trustor that the trustee will behave in a way beneficial to the trustor;
- risk of harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave accordingly; and
- the absence of trustor's enforcement or control over actions performed by the trustee.
Trust can be attributed to relationships between people, and is attributable to relationships within and between social groups (families, friends, communities, organisations, companies, nations etc.). It is a popular approach to frame the dynamics of inter-group and intra-group interactions in terms of trust.
In the social sciences, the subtleties of trust are a subject of ongoing research. In sociology and psychology the degree to which one party trusts another is a measure of belief in the honesty, fairness, or benevolence of another party. The term "confidence" is more appropriate for a belief in the competence of the other party. Based on the most recent research, a failure in trust may be forgiven more easily if it is interpreted as a failure of competence rather than a lack of benevolence or honesty. In economics trust is often conceptualized as reliability in transactions. In all cases trust is a heuristic decision rule, allowing the human to deal with complexities that would require unrealistic effort in rational reasoning.