June 1, 2023

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Smart move that helps us to know more

* The researcher’s article was published at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, Hugo Mercier Time. Aeon is an online journal that asks big questions and seeks new answers and a fresh perspective on social reality, science, philosophy, and culture. NEWS 24/7 republishes a story every week for those who love original thinking on issues old and new.

We all know people who have struggled with a lot of trust: betrayed clients, abandoned lovers, shunned friends. In fact, most of us have been “burned” by misplaced confidence. These personal and second-hand experiences lead us to believe that people display great confidence, often bordering on naivety.

In reality, We don’t trust enough.

Take data on trust in the US (the same would be true at least in most affluent democracies). Personal confidence, is a measure of whether people think others are generally trustworthy lower levels nearly the past 50 years. However, it is unlikely that people will be less reliable than before: the mega He falls of crime in recent decades suggest otherwise. Trust in the media is also in lower levelsalthough the mainstream media has an impressive (if not flawless) effect on register Accuracy.

Meanwhile, trust in science has held up relatively well, as most people trust it Scientists Most of the time. However, in at least some areas, from climate change to vaccination, part of the population does not trust science enough, with disastrous consequences.

Sociologists have a variety of tools to study how trustworthy people are and how trustworthy they are. The most popular is Confidence game, in which two participants, usually anonymous, play. The first participant is given a small amount of money, say $10, and asked to say how much to transfer to the other participant. Then the transferred amount is tripled and the second participant chooses the amount to be returned to the first. Trust at least in Western countries rewarded: The more money the first participant transfers, the more money the second participant sends, and thus the more money the first participant gets. However, beginners transfer half of the money they earned on average. in Some studiesA contrast was presented in which participants knew each other’s nationality. Participant bias led to mistrust of certain groups – Israeli men of Mizrahi descent (Asian and African immigrants and their descendants born in Israel) or black students in South Africa – remit less money to them, Although these groups have proven to be just as reliable as the most respected groups.

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If people and institutions are more trustworthy than we think, why don’t we get it right? Why don’t we trust more?

In 2017, sociologist Toshio Yamagishi was kind enough to invite me to his apartment in Machida, a city in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The cancer that would take his life a few months later had weakened him, but he retained his youthful zeal for research and his sharp mind. On this occasion, we discuss an idea of ​​his with profound implications for the topic: the information asymmetry between trust and mistrust.

When you trust a person, you understand whether your trust is justified or not. An acquaintance asks if he can sleep over at your place for a few days. If you accept, you will know if he is a good guest or not. A colleague advises you to get a new software application. If you follow his advice, you’ll find out if the new software works better than you used to.

Conversely, when you don’t trust someone, most of the time you never know if you should trust them. If you don’t invite an acquaintance, you won’t know if they’d make a good guest. If you don’t follow your colleague’s advice, you won’t know if the new software application is actually better, and therefore if your colleague gives good advice in this area.

Information asymmetry means that we learn more through trust than from mistrust. Furthermore, when we trust, we not only learn about specific people, but more generally about the type of situations we should or shouldn’t trust. We become better when we trust.

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Yamagishi and colleagues They have proven Advantages of learning from confidence. the experiments They were similar to trust games, but the participants could interact with each other before deciding to transfer money (or not) to the other. The more confident participants were better at knowing who would be trustworthy or who they should transfer money to.

We find the same pattern in other regions. People who trust the media are more knowledgeable about politics and news. The more people trust her Sciences, the more scientifically literate they are. Even if this evidence remains threaded, it stands to reason that people who trust the most should get better at knowing who to trust. In confidence as in anything else, With practice comes mastery.

Yamagishi’s vision gives us reason to be confident. But the ambiguity comes to a head: If trust provides these learning opportunities, we must trust too much, rather than not trust enough. Ironically, the underlying reason we trust more—the fact that we gain more information from trust than from mistrust—may cause us to tend to trust less.

When our trust is betrayed—when we trust someone we shouldn’t—the cost is significant, and our reaction ranges from annoyance to anger and despair. It’s easy to overlook the benefit – what we learned from our own mistake. In contrast, the cost of not trusting someone we can trust is, as a rule, invisible. We know nothing of the friendship we could have established (If we let that acquaintance sleep at our place). We don’t realize how useful some advice can be (if we use our colleague’s advice on implementing the new software).

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We don’t trust enough because the cost of misplaced trust is too obvious, while The benefits (learning) of mistrust, as well as the costs of mistrust, are largely hidden. We must consider these hidden costs and benefits: Think about what we learn by trusting the people we might befriend, and the knowledge we might gain.

Giving people a chance isn’t just a moral thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do.