Marketing | 4 min read

Sep 15, 2018

How Do Humans Trust Other People?

The word trust has many origins. In the Indo-European roots, it means "solid" and "lasting", while the Old English roots refer to it as "dependence" and "confidence".

During the 14th century, famous Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of the English Literature, used the term trust to mean "virtual certainty and well-grounded hope." While trust today is known as an essential ingredient for thriving interpersonal relationships with one another (friends, family, colleagues, etc.), it is used as a lubricant for social interaction as well.

When there is social interaction, cooperation and collaboration are expected. After all, these help a person built their interpersonal skills. Apart from that, the feeling of accomplishing this is exceptionally gratifying. This makes trust an essential part of the collaborative aspect of the society. It means accepting a particular mutual risk regarding the other person.

In the field of Social Psychology, there are two kinds of trust - these are Cognitive and Affective trust. The first one is based on the evidence and knowledge about those people choose to trust, while the latter is born out of emotional ties with the others that come from the feeling generated by social interactions. Oftentimes, researchers define them as trusting with your brain and trusting with your heart.

Basically, the people who rest more are less likely to lie. Furthermore, they appear to be more ethical, happier and more attractive. When you have established trust in another person, then you are already epitomizing a set of positive characteristics such as competency, skills, the will to do good and the will to adhere to principles.

There have been many studies conducted about trust. But basically, the yielded results showed fascinating insights into the neurobiology and psychology of it. Here are some examples:

  • People base their trust or decision to trust on attractiveness. For example, a customer is more likely to trust a decent-looking sales agent that those agents who do not dress well and appropriately. This applies to businesses as well. People are generally more drawn to attractive websites and stores than plain ones.
  • Trust in strangers gradually increases from childhood to adolescent. It then remains more or less stable once a person reaches the adult stage.
  • Trust levels among cultures vary greatly. For instance, studies show that Americans are more trusting compared to Germans.
  • Negative emotions tend to push down and suppress the feeling of trust.
  • The release of oxytocin in the body suppresses the neural systems that regulate the feeling of betrayal and fear, thereby increasing trust.

There are basic factors that cause people to trust another.

  1. Internal Factors
  • The belief that people are generally good and have no intentions of deceiving others.
  • Personal values learned over the years
  • Mental models and how a person interprets what is going on around them
  • Goals or the act of setting a goal in becoming more trusting
  1. External Factors
  • Appearances or physical attractiveness
  • Behaviors of other people
  • Past experience in working with the other person
  • The preferences of other people (e.g. taste in music, sense of fashion, hobbies, etc.)
  1. Contextual Factors
  • Which group or clique this particular person belongs to
  • A person's culture, including his or her ethnicity, gender, and beliefs

Below are the factors that cause the other person to trust back

  1. Concern
  • Seeing and feeling of care and genuine concern by others
  • Not using his or her position and power to hurt or get what they want from the other person
  1. Reliability
  • The reciprocity of favors or doing something good for the other person
  • A person sticks to his or her integrity regardless of their position in life is
  1. Necessity
  • The pressure to trust another person even though there are no grounds for trust
  • When people who are anxious about giving their trust have to trust another person

Trusting means accepting and taking on the possible risks in the relation with another person. In essence, it is the security you feel that is based on the belief that someone is reliable, honest, good, knowledgeable and effective or at least a combination of some of these attributes.

Trust develops when people interact or participate and like the results and the way they were delivered and presented. This is why businesses must do what it takes for their customers to trust them.


Greg Hickman