| 2022-2025

Will this ordeal ever end? How the accumulation of administrative encounters can erode trust in government and create psychological harm


Low levels of citizen trust in government are problematic. When citizens become cynical and alienated from the government, they may refuse to cooperate when called upon (such as in Covid-19 vaccine programs). Although we already know that citizens' administrative encounters with public services may affect trust, I argue that public administration has crucially overlooked the temporal perspective. Some citizens are not faced with single administrative encounters but with complex and protracted battles against sometimes multiple administrative or judicial entities. I propose that we focus specifically on such accumulated encounters and their results. Such accumulated experiences may exacerbate negative perceptions of procedural fairness and outcome favorability, ultimately affecting trust. Moreover, I propose that more attention to the psychological costs of encounters is essential when taking such a temporal perspective. Protracted procedures with impactful outcomes (e.g., on someone's livelihood) will be highly stressful for citizens. The resultant psychological strain may exacerbate their negative perceptions of the procedure, which may spill over into general mistrust of government. The project proposes an original combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis to gain a thorough and robust insight into the trust dynamics of accumulated administrative encounters.


  • ​FWO Research Foundation Flanders - Junior Postdoctoral Fellowship

Project team