Circle of Trust

Kevin Lewis

February 10, 2010

Why So Cynical? Asymmetric Feedback Underlies Misguided Skepticism Regarding the Trustworthiness of Others

Detlef Fetchenhauer & David Dunning
Psychological Science, forthcoming

People tend to grossly underestimate the trustworthiness of other people. We tested whether this cynicism grows out of an asymmetry in the feedback people receive when they decide to trust others. When people trust others, they painfully learn when other people prove to be untrustworthy; however, when people refrain from trusting others, they fail to learn of instances when the other person would have honored their trust. Participants saw short videos of other people and had to decide whether to trust each person in an economic game. Participants overall underestimated the trustworthiness of the people they viewed, regardless of whether they were given financial incentives to provide accurate estimates. However, people who received symmetric feedback about the trustworthiness of others (i.e., who received feedback regardless of their own decision to trust) exhibited reduced cynicism relative to those who received no feedback or asymmetric feedback (i.e., who received feedback only after they trusted the other person).


No Good Deed Goes Unquestioned: Cynical Reconstruals Maintain Belief in the Power of Self-interest

Clayton Critcher & David Dunning
Cornell Working Paper, August 2009

Four studies examined how people maintain beliefs that self-interest is a strong determinant of behavior even in the face of disconfirming evidence. After further consideration, people reconstrue seemingly selfless behavior in more self-interested terms, but do not scrutinize seemingly selfish behavior for selfless motivations. Study 1 found that people react to new information about the commonness of selfless behavior by interpreting it as more reflective of self-interest. Studies 2a, 2b, and 3 found that inflated perceptions of self-interest emerged merely after further attributional thought, even when the selfless behavior had yet to occur. Given one might (fairly) see all freely chosen behavior as self-interested, it is necessary to account for a person's own use of the term before claiming they perceive too much self-interest in behavior. The present research applies Bayesian principles in accomplishing this. Additionally, the present research introduces a novel route by which beliefs resist disconfirmation.


Political Distrust and Social Capital in Europe and the USA

Peggy Schyns & Christel Koop
Social Indicators Research, March 2010, Pages 145-167


Levels of rising political distrust in the USA and parts of Europe attracted political scientists' attention in the 1990s, and urged them to look at possible consequences of this phenomenon for the functioning of democracies and social life. Approximately during the same period, from a sociological viewpoint, social capital theorists started studying the effects of declining social capital on political and economic life. In this article, we looked at the relationship between political distrust and social capital from an interdisciplinary perspective. We studied the relationship in six European countries from three regions (North-West, South and East), and the USA, and we were interested in the question of whether this relationship varies over the regions, or whether it is approximately the same everywhere. We used ISPP data from the 2004 wave, which included a range of social capital indicators and political distrust items. Social capital was subdivided into four dimensions, namely, networks (membership of organizations), interpersonal or social trust, social norms (citizenship norms), and linking social capital (political activities). First we studied the effect of political distrust on these four dimensions of social capital, while controlling for other variables such as political efficacy, political interest and a set of socio-structural background variables. One of our main findings was that the only significant effect of political distrust we found throughout all countries was a negative effect on one dimension of social capital, namely, interpersonal trust: the more people distrust politicians and people in government, the less they trust other people in general, even when controlled for all other variables. The reverse relationship led us to the same conclusion: the more people tend to trust people in general, the less they distrust politics, a result we found in all countries. This finding refutes the claim that there is no or either only a very weak relationship between political and social trust, as some have strongly argued before. Other important political attitudes connected to social capital were political interest and political efficacy, and for political distrust it was external efficacy. Significant socio-economic factors were religiousness and educational level for membership of voluntary organizations, educational level for interpersonal trust, religiousness for citizenship norms, and educational level and age for political activities. The reciprocal relationship was strongest in the USA and North-Western Europe, as were the explained variances of our (more extensive) regression models. In Southern and Eastern Europe other factors appear to be at work which influence both social capital and political distrust.


Motivating Change in Relationships: Can Prayer Increase Forgiveness?

Nathaniel Lambert, Frank Fincham, Tyler Stillman, Steven Graham & Steven Beach
Psychological Science, January 2010, Pages 126-132

The objective of the current studies was to test whether praying for a relationship partner would increase willingness to forgive that partner. In Study 1 (N = 52), participants assigned to pray for their romantic partner reported greater willingness to forgive that partner than those who described their partner to an imagined parent. In Study 2 (N = 67), participants were assigned to pray for a friend, pray about any topic, or think positive thoughts about a friend every day for 4 weeks. Those who prayed for their friend reported greater forgiveness for their friend than did those in the other two conditions, even when we controlled for baseline forgiveness scores. Participants who prayed for their friend also increased in selfless concern during the 4 weeks, and this variable mediated the relationship between experimental condition and increased forgiveness. Together, these studies provide an enhanced understanding of the relationship benefits of praying for a partner and begin to identify potential mediators of the effect.


Still Bowling Alone?: The Post-9/11 Split

Thomas Sander & Robert Putnam
Journal of Democracy, January 2010, Pages 9-16

The crisis of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has sparked a surge of increased civic engagement by young people in the United States, but there is also evidence of a growing divide along class lines.


The Right Amount of Trust

Jeffrey Butler, Paola Giuliano & Luigi Guiso
NBER Working Paper, September 2009

A vast literature has investigated the relationship between trust and aggregate economic performance. We investigate the relationship between individual trust and individual economic performance. We find that individual income is hump-shaped in a measure of intensity of trust beliefs available in the European Social Survey. We show that heterogeneity of trust beliefs in the population, coupled with the tendency of individuals to extrapolate beliefs about others from their own level of trustworthiness, could generate the non-monotonic relationship between trust and income. Highly trustworthy individuals think others are like them and tend to form beliefs that are too optimistic, causing them to assume too much social risk, to be cheated more often and ultimately perform less well than those who happen to have a trustworthiness level close to the mean of the population. On the other hand, the low-trustworthiness types form beliefs that are too conservative and thereby avoid being cheated, but give up profitable opportunities too often and, consequently, underperform. Our estimates imply that the cost of either excessive or too little trust is comparable to the income lost by foregoing college. Furthermore, we find that people who trust more are cheated more often by banks as well as when purchasing goods second hand, when relying on the services of a plumber or a mechanic and when buying food. We complement the survey evidence with experimental evidence showing that own trustworthiness and expectations of others' trustworthiness in a trust game are strongly correlated and that performance in the game is hump-shaped.


Dishonesty in the Name of Equity

Francesca Gino & Lamar Pierce
Psychological Science, September 2009, Pages 1153-1160

Under what conditions do people act dishonestly to help or hurt others? This paper addresses this question by examining the influence of a previously overlooked factor - the beneficiary or victim of dishonest acts. In two experiments, we randomly pair participants and manipulate their wealth levels through an initial lottery. We then observe how inequity between partners influences the likelihood of one dishonestly helping or hurting the other, while varying the financial incentives for dishonest behavior. The results show that financial self-interest cannot fully explain people's tendency to dishonestly help or hurt others. Rather, such dishonesty is influenced by emotional reactions to wealth-based inequity, even when this behavior bears a personal financial cost. Envy evoked by negative inequity leads to hurting behavior, while guilt induced by positive inequity motivates helping behavior. Finally, inequity between the partner and third parties triggers dishonest helping through empathy with the referent other.


Beyond the information given: The power of a belief in self-interest

Joel Vuolevi & Paul Van Lange
European Journal of Social Psychology, February 2010, Pages 26-34

How do we interpret other's behavior when we lack important pieces of information? Do we give the other the benefit of the doubt, believing that the other behaves in a fair manner? Or do we fill in the blanks with self-interest? To address these questions, we designed a new method - the dice-rolling paradigm - in which participants observed another person assigning outcomes by rolling two dice and allocating one of them to the participant, who only had information about one of the two dice. Using different baselines, the results revealed that participants underestimated the outcomes the other allocated to the participants, and overestimated the outcomes the other allocated to self, indicating that people assume self-interest from others when information is incomplete.


Negativity bias in attribution of external agency

Carey Morewedge
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, November 2009, Pages 535-545

This research investigated whether people are more likely to attribute events to external agents when events are negative rather than neutral or positive. Participants more often believed that ultimatum game partners were humans rather than computers when the partners offered unusually unfavorable divisions than unusually favorable divisions (Experiment 1A), even when their human partners had no financial stake in the game (Experiment 1B). In subsequent experiments, participants were most likely to infer that gambles were influenced by an impartial participant when the outcomes of those gambles were losses rather than wins (Experiments 2 and 3), despite their explicitly equal probability. The results suggest a negative agency bias - negative events are more often attributed to the influence of external agents than similarly positive and neutral events, independent of their subjective probability.


Thanks, but no thanks: The role of personal responsibility in the experience of gratitude

Rosalind Chow & Brian Lowery
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Current theories of gratitude suggest that individuals feel grateful when they perceive someone else to be responsible for a desired outcome. However, it is unclear whether individuals must also feel a lack of personal responsibility in order to feel gratitude. This paper provides evidence that in achievement contexts, without the belief that they are responsible for their success, individuals do not experience gratitude, even when they acknowledge the help they have received. In two studies, the more helpful participants thought an experimenter had been, the more grateful they felt, but only if they also spontaneously felt responsible for (Study 1) or were induced to feel responsible for (Study 2) their outcomes.


Face-to-Face Lying - An experimental study in Sweden and Japan

Håkan Holm & Toshiji Kawagoe
Journal of Economic Psychology, forthcoming

This paper investigates face-to-face lying and beliefs associated with it. In experiments in Sweden and Japan, subjects answer questions about personal characteristics, play a face-to-face sender-receiver game and participate in an elicitation of lie-detection beliefs. The previous finding of too much truth-telling (compared to the equilibrium prediction) also holds in the face-to-face setting. A new result is that although many people claim that they are good at lie-detection, few reveal belief in this ability when money is at stake. Correlations between the subjects' characteristics and their behavior and performances in the game are also explored.

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