on being trusting

ihtg said about trust: “Unlike IQ/g, trust isn’t (IMO) an innate personal attribute encoded within one person’s brain. It’s a variable in a man’s interaction with his peers. Its existence depends on that interaction.”

well, yes … and no.

clearly trusting someone else happens during an interaction, yes. and the level of trust will be higher or lower depending on the circumstances in which that interaction happens — it’s prolly much easier to be trusting nowadays in peaceful, middle class minnesota than in war-torn congo.

but being trusting is also a personality trait — being more or less trusting is something innate — at least partly. and, like all the other personality quirks, it varies from individual to individual — and from population to population. from “Heritability of cooperative behavior in the trust game” in which the researchers studied twins taking part in the trust game [pgs: 3724-25, link opens pdf]:

“Our results thus suggest that humans are endowed with genetic variation that can partially account for differences in trust and trustworthiness when interacting with anonymous partners in the laboratory….

“Although we do find that genetic differences play a significant role for behavior in the classic trust game, the largest portion of the variance is explained by differences in unique environment. This is consistent with general results from the trust game that indicate behavior is more susceptible to state (unique mood, context) than trait. However, a result that may surprise some social scientists is that genetic differences appear to be a more important source of phenotypic variation than differences in common environment. This finding is in line with a broad consensus in the behavior genetics literature. Indeed, the second ‘law of behavior genetics’ proposed by Turkheimer is that the effect of being raised in the same family is generally smaller than the effect of genes.”

swedes appear to be more trusting than americans to me. unfortunately, “american” is such a catch-all description, it’s difficult to know what sort of ethnic groups we’re talking about here (note that the americans had more options of how much to share than the swedes did):

and the heritability of trust amongst swedes seems to lean a bit more towards a genetic explanation than amongst americans. (interesting that the shared environments of the twins seems to have amounted to diddly squat.):

people who are more agreeable — as in agreeableness in the big five personality traits — tend to be more trusting:

“People who score high on this dimension are empathetic, considerate, friendly, generous, and helpful. They also have an optimistic view of human nature. They tend to believe that most people are honest, decent, and trustworthy…. [I]n general, people who are concerned about others also tend to cooperate with them, help them out, and trust them.”

i’m not very agreeable (32nd percentile). i just know i’m gonna wind up a cranky, old cat-lady yelling at the kids to GET OFF MY LAWN! (~_^)

previously: trust and i’m abnormal

(note: comments do not require an email. get off my lawn!)


  1. “i just know i’m gonna wind up a cranky, old cat-lady yelling at the kids to GET OFF MY LAWN! (~_^)”

    Not if you get married and have a bunch of kids of your own. You’ll have better things to yell about.


  2. Is there any difference between ‘trust’ as defined here and ‘agreeableness’? Because if not, I think the latter term is much preferable.


  3. as a general rule people assume others are like themselves (until they get evidence to the contrary). so agreeable people will be trusting on that basis.

    however i think there’s something separate to that which is maybe makes more sense if you reverse the idea that outbreeding leads to more trust and couch it more as inbreeding leads to less trust i.e. inbred groups are more distrustful i.e. outbred populations are less distrusting. obviously it comes to the same thing but may make more intuitive sense.

    i can’t find it now but i came across a perfect example recently among peasant farmers in Pakistan. there was a simple mutually beneficial task that required cooperation across a number of clan groups. they understood what was required and what the benefits would be to them all if they cooperated but they didn’t trust each other not to cheat so they didn’t do it.

    found it

    from http://www.brownpundits.com/2011/09/28/microeconomics-palanpur/

    “Palanpur farmers sow their winter crops several weeks after the date at which yields would be maximised. The farmers do not doubt that earlier plantings would give them larger harvests, but no one, the farmer explained, is willing to be the first to plant, as the seeds on any lone plot would be quickly eaten by birds. I asked if a larger group of farmers, perhaps relatives, had ever agreed to sow earlier, all planting on the same day to minimise the loses. “If we knew how to do that,” he said looking up from his hoe at me, “we would not be poor.””


  4. @ihtg – “Is there any difference between ‘trust’ as defined here and ‘agreeableness’?”

    technically, officially, in the World o’ Science … i dunno. but for myself i think there’s a difference. the big 5 personality trait, agreeableness, is a much broader term describing a whole mind-set in humans, whereas trust — or being trusting — is just one part of being agreeable. that’s how i view it anyway.


  5. @g.w. – “as a general rule people assume others are like themselves….”

    and some people never get past that. or past wanting others to be just like themselves. i’m in this endless argument with my mother who’s always complaining about her sister-in-law (one of my aunts via marriage) saying, basically, “why doesn’t she (my aunt) do so-and-so?”, i.e. what my mother would’ve done. i keep trying to explain to her that people are DIFFERENT, but it never sinks in. aaaaaaaah, the joys of family. (~_^)

    @g.w. – “‘If we knew how to do that,’ he said looking up from his hoe at me, ‘we would not be poor.'”

    wow. that’s a brilliant example, thnx. i’m gonna use that! poor people — i do feel sorry for them. mistake to import such people to the u.s./britain! — but i still feel sorry for them.

    i’ll always remember a few years back — must’ve been 5 or 6 years ago now — there was a big earthquake in pakistan and the governmental teams bringing supplies and emergency equipment were having a hard time getting to some remote areas. (they probably weren’t hurrying their *sses, either, not being so closely related to the peoples up in the moutains, etc., etc.)

    anyway, this unfortunate man was interviewed by some tv journalist (it was prolly bbc america that i was watching — the news crews were there, but not the emergency crews!), and this man was naturally very angry. very, very angry. and he promised that when the government teams did finally get there, he (and i guess all his fellow villagers/family) would DESTROY the government’s trucks and equipment, etc., etc. so there!

    and i’m just sittin’ there thinking — well that’ll really help!


  6. “wow. that’s a brilliant example, thnx.”

    yes it’s perfect. it made me think that focusing on a reduction in distrust rather than an increase in trust being the critical factor might be a better way of looking at it. it’s the same thing but it seems clearer viewed from that direction.

    thinking numerically again and taking two villages where the villagers could have all eight great-grandparents be from the same village or six from the home village and two from the other or four from each then the three cases are 8+0, 6+2 and 4+4.

    defining numbers of great-grandparents as relatedness, relatedness as trust and the gap in trust as distrust then maybe the best way to look at it is distrust = inner group trust minus outer group trust or in our three cases:
    8 – 0 = 8 distrust
    6 – 2 = 4 distrust
    4 – 4 = 0 distrust

    if distrust acts as the barrier to co-operation. reducing distrust reduces the barrier.

    “poor people — i do feel sorry for them.”

    and also if the theory is correct the solution is so simple.


  7. g.w. – “and also if the theory is correct the solution is so simple.”

    simple and yet not so simple. how to persuade people to outbreed when they’ve got everything riding on inbreeding?


  8. “when they’ve got everything riding on inbreeding?”

    well i disagree on that. i think out-breeding has proved itself more adaptive. if you take history from 1000AD to 1960 which group was the most successful at spreading their genes? it was the out-bred northern europeans because out-breeding allowed larger scale co-operation.

    there’s simply no contest***.

    out-breeding does have exploitable weaknesses but if the research that started in the 1880s hadn’t been successfully sabotaged by Boas, Gould, Lewontin etc then White people would have figured all this out by about 1960 and avoided the mistakes that were made.

    White people just need to understand their nature, in particular their need for culture-based cohesion and their resultant weakness to culture-based warfare. if the weakness is understood and taken care of then you’re left with an almost infinite capacity for large-sale co-operation.

    (***maybe Chinese, not sure Chinese population numbers in 1960)


  9. @g.w. – “well i disagree on that. i think out-breeding has proved itself more adaptive.”

    oh, i agree. i just mean, how do you persuade afghanis or saudis to start outbreeding when they’ve based their whole society on inbreeding (a LOT). they might not buy the argument so readily.


  10. hi hbdchick! hope you’re good..

    Just wondering..Where did you get “i’m not very agreeable (32nd percentile)”?? Have you got a link to a test maybe? :)

    About trust: in my case I think as a personality trait I’m prone to be trusting and optimistic, but because I’ve been raised by a mother who is very untrusting and highly suspicious, I’ve grown up to be almost bipolar in my trusting of other people and life in general!


  11. @theodora – “Have you got a link to a test maybe? :)”

    sure do! it’s right here.

    @theodora – “I’m prone to be trusting and optimistic….”

    i dunno if i’ve ever been very optimistic — i’m very much a “that glass is half empty!” kinda gal (get that from my mother). i used to be much more trusting, tho — not so much anymore. jaded now. maybe that just comes with (too much) experience.

    stay cool there! (^_^)


  12. thanks for the link! :)

    I agree, we become less trusting and optimistic with experience..I get flashes though occasionaly!.

    I’m not sure I understand the meaning of the word “jaded” (the greek translation is something between bored+tired!)..Does it mean dis-oriented or unsure? I’d love a better definition if you could offer one!

    Totally irrelevant, I know, just wondering!


  13. @theodora – “I’m not sure I understand the meaning of the word ‘jaded’ (the greek translation is something between bored+tired!)”

    yeah, it can mean that. i was using it more in the sense of tired or worn out from all the negative experiences in life. one becomes — or can become — cyncial with age, you know?

    maybe especially if you read politics too much. (~_^)


  14. @theodora – “Agreeable 27th percentile.”

    oh, oops!

    well, to look on the bright side, i think less agreeable people are more independent-minded — more original in their thinking — because they don’t go along with the crowd so readily.

    it can be good to go along with the crowd, of course — but the world also needs independent types. without them, there’d never be any original ideas. (^_^)


  15. ok got it, thanks..for that webster link too! I agree with becoming more cynical as we grow older..or apathetic..

    Well, what can I say, tests are fun but as a psych major we’ve been told not to trust them for a bunch of reasons..But I’ll never grow tired of taking them!


  16. “they might not buy the argument so readily.”

    I can’t believe you are even discussing this. Who the f__ are you to plan their habits for them? how about convincing whites to care more for their kin instead of wondering how to weaken Afghans?

    Really weird. You sound like one of those blameless eternal victims who don’t control anything at the American Enterprise Institute. “Hm, how do we make the brown people divided and weak like our goyim … “


  17. “Hm, how do we make the brown people divided and weak like our goyim … “

    They are divided and weak already. They won’t co-operate on their bird problem because they don’t trust each other enough.

    Most farmer type communities have marriage patterns which widen the net to include everyone in their local area. Places like Pakistan got the much more inbred pattern only suitable for small pastoralist groups via the Islamic conquest.

    White people may be too outbred but the farmers in the example are too inbred to solve a very simple collective problem with their neighbours. There’ll be an optimal point for small agricultural populations like the one in the example in the same way there seems to be a reproductive optimum when marriage is between people who are around 3rd and 4th cousins.

    Not enough trust has as many consequences as too much.


  18. @uh – “I can’t believe you are even discussing this. Who the f__ are you to plan their habits for them?”

    my blog. i get to discuss what i want.

    @uh – how about convincing whites to care more for their kin instead of wondering how to weaken Afghans?”

    in case you haven’t noticed, that is what i’ve been doing. well, not the “convincing” part ’cause i’m not … heh … convinced that that’s possible. rather, i’ve been trying to figure out why we are the way we are. capiche?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s