fishy Scientists are finding that distrust can alter our behavior in unexpected ways.
BY KIRSTEN WEIR
You open an email containing an unfamiliar link. If the email is from a friend, chances are you’ll open it. But if it’s from a stranger, you’ll probably assume it’s a virus or, at best, annoying spam.
Our most basic everyday decisions rely on trust. When you make a
purchase, you trust the store clerk not to steal your credit card number.
When you’re on the road, you trust other drivers to stop at red lights.
On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to be distrustful, says
Ruth Mayo, PhD, a psychologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. If
a stranger offers you a ride home, you don’t eagerly jump in the car. “Trust
depends on the situation we’re in, and luckily our mind is very flexible,” she
As scientists study this essential facet of our lives, they’re learning that
trust — and its skeptical stepsister distrust — can influence our behavior
and cognition in ways good, bad and surprising.
Have less, trust more
Most people equate trust with integrity, says David DeSteno, PhD, a social
psychologist at Northeastern University and author of the upcoming
book “The Truth About Trust.” While that’s certainly a critical part of
trustworthiness, he says, there is another component that’s often
forgotten: competency. “You might trust a friend implicitly with
money or secrets. But if you needed someone to do brain surgery,
would you trust this person?” he asks. Unless she’d been to
medical school, probably not.
At its essence, trust is about opening yourself to others.
“The heart of trust is vulnerability. There’s something that
you need to acquire or achieve, and you need help to do
it,” he says. “But by accepting that help, you make yourself