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Joseph A. Hamm - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Joseph A. Hamm

Assistant Professor | Michigan State University


Expert in: Public trust in legal and regulatory governmental entities





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Public Engagement  Science, Strategies & Tools 1



Joe Hamm studies how best to appropriately measure trust, and its connection to "outcomes" like cooperation and compliance. Joe’s work spans a number of governmental contexts, seeking to use research on trust in trustees like the police, courts, water infrastructure managers, natural resource authorities, and a variety of state and federal entities to develop a cross-boundary social science of trust.

Joe works closely with a variety of criminal justice and environmental organizations, and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Trust Research and Psychology, Public Policy, and the Law. His teaching responsibilities include CJ 905 (Law and Society), CJ 908 (The Cross-Boundary Social Science of Trust in the Institutional Context), and ESP 804 (Environmental Applications and Analysis). Joe also supervises the School of Criminal Justice’s doctoral traineeship in the State Courts and Society.

Industry Expertise (2)


Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (6)

Public Opinion


Natural Resource Management

State Courts

Performance Measurement

Good Governance

Education (4)

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Ph.D. 2014

University of Nebraska, College of Law: M.L.S. 2013

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: M.A. 2011

University of Northern Colorado: B.A. 2008

Affiliations (2)

  • Journal of Trust Research : Editorial Board
  • Psychology, Public Policy and the Law : Editorial Board

Journal Articles (9)

Public Participation, Procedural Fairness, and Evaluations of Local Governance: The Moderating Role of Uncertainty

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

2018 The purpose of this article is to test whether the use of public participation by a local government increases perceptions of procedural fairness among the public and to propose an explanation for why fairness is a strong predictor of satisfaction with governmental decisions. To do this, we draw on the uncertainty management model to hypothesize that indications of procedural fairness can increase public support for government and its decisions and that fairness effects are greater for individuals who are more uncertain (less knowledgeable) about the governmental body in question. To test the hypothesis, we embedded an experiment in a survey of the public that was used by a local government to inform its budgetary decisions. The results provide support for the notion that governmental use of public input does increase perceptions of governmental fairness and that, in turn, perceptions of fairness have stronger relationships with overall governmental assessments for those who are relatively uncertain about a governmental institution.

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Fair Process, Trust, and Cooperation: Moving Toward an Integrated Framework of Police Legitimacy

Criminal Justice and Behavior

2017 Positive public perceptions are a critical pillar of the criminal justice system, but the literature addressing them often fails to offer clear advice regarding the important constructs or the relationships among them. The research reported here sought to take an important step toward this clarity by recruiting a national convenience sample to complete an online survey about the police in the respondent’s community, which included measures of the process-based model of legitimacy and the classic model of trust. Our results suggest that although both are predictive, the models can be integrated in a way that allows the strengths of each model to address the weaknesses of the other. We therefore present this model as a first step toward an Integrated Framework of Police Legitimacy that can meaningfully incorporate much of the existing scholarship and provide clearer guidance for those who seek to address these constructs in research and practice.

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Trust, Trustworthiness, and Motivation in the Natural Resource Management Context

Society & Natural Resources

2017 Trust is critical for natural resource management (NRM). In recognition of this, a noteworthy body of literature has investigated the construct but is, as yet, still developing. The current research proposes and tests an increasingly complete model that integrates the major advances in not only the NRM literature but in the social psychological literature addressing trust more generally as well. To that end, the current analyses were conducted with a large sample of Michigan hunters (n = 23,954). The results suggest that, as hypothesized, the theoretical model is a statistically defensible account of trust in this context and suggest that both trustworthiness and motivation have important roles to play in driving cooperation intention and behavior. Thus, the current work suggests that although it is important for NRM institutions to attend to their trustworthiness, they should not ignore the motivation that arises from benefits they provide.

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A longitudinal and experimental study of the impact of knowledge on the bases of institutional trust


2017 This study examined a knowledge-centered theory of institutional trust development. In the context of trust in water regulatory institutions, the moderating impact of knowledge was tested to determine if there were longitudinal changes in the bases of institutional trust as a function of increases in knowledge about a target institution. We hypothesized that as people learn about an institution with which they were previously unfamiliar, they begin to form more nuanced perceptions, distinguishing the new institution from other institutions and relying less upon their generalized trust to estimate their trust in that institution. Prior to having specific, differential information about a new institution, we expected institutional trust to be a function of generalized trust variables such as dispositional trust and trust in government. The longitudinal experiment involved 185 college students randomly assigned to one of three information conditions. Every 3 months for 15 months, participants read information about water regulatory institutions or a control institution. At each time point, participants reported their trust in and perceptions of the trust- and distrust-worthiness of the water regulatory institutions. Participants also completed measures of knowledge of water regulatory institutions, dispositional trust, and governmental trust. Our manipulation check indicated that, as expected, those in the experimental group increased in subjective knowledge of water regulatory institutions to a greater extent than those in the control condition. Consistent with our hypotheses, there was some evidence that, compared to the control group, the experimental group relied less on their general trust in government as a basis for their trust in water regulatory institutions. However, contrary to our hypotheses, there was no evidence the experimental group relied less on dispositional trust as a basis for institutional trust. There also was some evidence the experimental group’s trust in water regulatory institutions was less affected by fluctuations of trustworthiness (but not distrustworthiness) perceptions over time. This suggests that knowledge results in the development of more stable institutional trust attitudes, but that trustworthiness and distrustworthiness perceptions may operate somewhat differently when impacting trust in specific institutions.

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On the Cross-Domain Scholarship of Trust in the Institutional Context

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Trust

Joseph A. Hamm, Jooho Lee, Rick Trinkner, Twila Wingrove, Steve Leben, Christina Breuer

2016 As argued throughout this volume, trust matters. This importance has spawned a number of major contemporary efforts to increase trust in numerous domains. These efforts typically seek to leverage the best available science for understanding and motivating trust but it is, as yet, not well understood to what degree trust is essentially the same or importantly different across the various domains.

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On the influence of trust in predicting rural land owner cooperation with natural resource management institutions

Journal of Trust Research

Joseph A. Hamm, Lesa Hoffman, Alan J. Tomkins, & Brian H. Bornstein

2016 Contemporary natural resource management (NRM) emphasises the role of the public in general and land owners in particular as voluntary participants in the process. Understanding the role of trust in voluntary cooperation is therefore critical, but the current state of the relevant literature is such that it fails to systematically address a few important issues. This inquiry sought to address these issues by presenting and testing a model of land owners’ trust in and cooperation with a NRM institution.

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Social-Ecological Resilience and Law in the Platte River Basin

EPA Science Inventory

2014 Efficiency and resistance to rapid change are hallmarks of both the judicial and legislative branches of the United States government. These defining characteristics, while bringing stability and predictability, pose challenges when it comes to managing dynamic natural systems. As our understanding of ecosystems improves, we must devise ways to account for the nonlinearities and uncertainties rife in complex social-ecological systems. This paper takes an in-depth look at the Platte River basin over time to explore how the system’s resilience—the capacity to absorb disturbance without losing defining structures and functions—responds to human driven change. Beginning with pre-European settlement, the paper explores how water laws, policies, and infrastructure influenced the region’s ecology and society. While much of the post-European development in the Platte River basin came at a high ecological cost to the system, the recent tri-state and federal collaborative Platte River Recovery and Implementation Program is a first step towards flexible and adaptive management of the social-ecological system. Using the Platte River basin as an example, we make the case that inherent flexibility and adaptability are vital for the next iteration of natural resources management policies affecting stressed basins. We argue that this can be accomplished by nesting policy in a resilience framework, which we describe and attempt to operationalize for use across systems and at different levels of jurisdiction. As our current natural resources policies fail under the weight of looming global change, unprecedented demand for natural resources, and shifting land use, the need for a new generation of adaptive, flexible natural resources governance emerges. Here we offer a prescription for just that, rooted in the social, ecological and political realities of the Platte River basin.

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Trust and Intention to Comply with a Water Allocation Decision: The Moderating Roles of Knowledge and Consistency

Ecology and Society

Joseph A. Hamm, Lisa M. PytlikZillig, Mitchel N. Herian, Alan J. Tomkins, Hannah Dietrich and Sarah Michaels

2013 Regulating water resources is a critically important yet increasingly complex component of the interaction between ecology and society. Many argue that effective water regulation relies heavily upon the compliance of water users. The relevant literature suggests that, rather than relying on external motivators for individual compliance, e.g., punishments and rewards, it is preferable to focus on internal motivators, including trust in others.

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Deconstructing public confidence in state courts

Journal of Trust Research

Joseph A. Hamm et al.

2013 Although researchers have consistently demonstrated the importance of confidence in public institutions like the courts, relatively little attention has been paid to understanding what confidence itself really is. This article presents data from two samples of community members, thereby building on and extending a preliminary investigation that sought to understand constructs related to confidence in state courts with student samples.

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