1. Background and Objectives of the Study The purpose of this research was to assess the interpersonal and inter-group trust levels of a group of students at the University of Pretoria. Furthermore, the relationship between the diversity variables of gender, home language, field of study and previous experience of cultural diversity in high school, and interpersonal and inter-group trust was explored. The demographic composition of South African tertiary institution campuses has changed considerably in the last thirteen years. Historically Afrikaans institutions in particular have had to adapt to an increasingly culturally diverse student body. Students share the common goal, inter alia, of obtaining a degree. Contributing, albeit peripheral, factors such as a violence-free campus, adequate facilities and harmonious relationships, provide a supporting academic environment. Trust is the basis of human relationships, and it supports the ethical norms of human behaviour and, if present, assists in creating the macro-environment conducive to academic performance. Cooperating and co-habiting often involves interdependence, and it implies that people must depend on others in various ways to help them accomplish their personal goals and to obtain the outcomes they value. Trust has been identified as a key element of enhanced cooperation, information sharing and problem solving. Diversity variables such as gender, home language and cultural background may also influence the interpersonal trust between individuals. Furthermore, people who share the same cultural background are more likely to be attracted to one another and form positive relationships on the basis of ‘sameness’ or homogeneity bias. Increasing diversity, if not managed effectively, will have a negative influence on outcomes such as relationships in the group, identification with the group, and group integration. The research comprised of a literature study, covering the theoretical aspects of the different topics related to the study, as well as of a quantitative investigation. 2. Literature Study This part of the research covered themes related to the concept of trust and the development of interpersonal and inter-group trust. People diversity and the impact of different diversities on interpersonal and inter-group relationships were also researched, using authoritative publications on the subject. In the last instance the relationship between people diversity, interpersonal and inter-group trust, and cooperation was explored. 3. Quantitative Research A quantitative study was conducted. Questionnaires were used that are designed to measure the following: <ul> <li>Interpersonal trust levels between students;</li> <li>Their acceptance of others;</li> <li>Their perceived acceptance by others;</li> <li>Their trust levels towards persons from cultures other than their own.</li> </ul> A convenience sample of ± 500 students was recruited from the first year groups of pre-determined university residences; all the students chosen in leadership positions in residences at the University of Pretoria; and also non-residential students enrolled as Human Resource Management students in their second year at the University of Pretoria. The trust levels of the students were then analysed in terms of their group relationship as is defined by different diversities such as gender, national culture, school background and home environment. The results indicate that females generally tend to be more trusting than males. Respondents from urban areas also tend to be more trusting than those from rural areas. A difference was also found between the levels of inter-group trust in Afrocentric and Eurocentric subjects.
Dissertation (MPhil)--University of Pretoria, 2009.