Social trust is the belief that others are generally honest, fair, diligent and good. This is a basic characteristic of humans and human societies, systems and cultures. The following are illustrative examples of social trust.
Socioeconomic StatusIndications of socioeconomic status such as income and wealth are heavily correlated to trusting attitudes. For example, in a 2007 survey of trust attitudes 46% of high income Americans ranked as high trust compared to 26% of low income Americans.1
DemographicsTrusting attitudes increase with age and with marriage.2
DevelopmentHigh levels of interpersonal trust are associated with highly developed countries. For example, Norway, Netherlands and Sweden topped the 2014 World Value Survey for self-reported trust attitudes.3
ProfessionsPeople trust others based on their profession. For example, a 2019 UK survey indicated that 93% of people trust doctors and 26% trust journalists.4
Trusting CharacterThe ability to trust is a character strength that should not be confused with naivety.
TrustworthinessTrustworthiness describes the character of someone who can be trusted. This is based on other character strengths such as honesty, candor, loyalty and diligence.
NormsNorms are informal conventions of a culture that allow an individual to demonstrate respect for a culture and the people in it. This helps to build trust. For example, a neighbor who conforms to neighborhood norms such as maintaining their property may enjoy high trust where a neighbor who ignores norms does not.
ToleranceTolerance is the ability to trust people with whom you may have few shared norms, identity factors or experiences. For example, the ability to be friendly and helpful to a foreign tourist who accidentally violates local norms and doesn't speak your language.
CivilityCivility is adherence to the norms and systems that guide the resolution of disputes. This is a basis for trust in a society or community as it allows you to follow norms even where you intensely disagree with others.
ObjectivityObjectivity is the principle that you not inject your personal viewpoints into your work. For example, a professor who doesn't color their lectures with their personal ideological views. Objectivity is required for professional competence and trust in a profession, intuition or system such as a society.
Efficiency & ProductivityTrust is a basis for the economic efficiency and productivity that are required for a high standard of living. For example, trust allows processes and work to be synchronized as you know that others will try to deliver their commitments on time at a reasonable level of quality.
Building TrustBuilding trust is the ability to get others to trust you and the profession, organization, institution, society or community that you represent. This is an extremely valuable skill that is the basis for professions in areas such as leadership, sales and diplomacy.
Abundance MentalityAbundance mentality is the view that their is enough for everyone such that the successes of others don't diminish your own. This embraces trust, cooperation and win-win approaches.
ControlTrust can be contrasted with controls such as laws, regulations, rules, processes, procedures, monitoring and validation. Technology allows for control to be automated such that it has potential to replace trust with a system of absolute conformity to all rules. This is typically viewed as destructive to quality of life as it would erode freedom and joy.
Critical TheoryCritical theory is an academic approach that uses power structures to explain things that are traditionally viewed as systems of trust. For example, critical theory views language as a tool of control that is designed to support the agenda of an elite. This can be contrasted with traditional views of language that view it as priceless cultural heritage that evolves with shared experience. The traditional view essentially views people as trusting each other and cooperative whereas critical theory views people as locked into a power struggle in everything they do.
Trust & VerifyTrust and verify is way to implement a reasonable level of control without crushing trust. For example, a employer that allows employees to complete their work assignments as they see fit that only monitors and measures end results known as objectives. This could be contrasted with an employer that monitors an employee's every move.
SocializationThe ability to trust others and demonstrate trustworthiness is a basic element of socialization. For example, children who learn to share things with classmates and siblings are learning to trust.
Honor SystemAn honor system is a common way to help young people to develop character strengths related to trust. For example, a school that only has rules, monitoring and punishment affords students no opportunity to be trusted by the institution. An honor system gives students responsibilities, values and principles and simply trusts students to deliver. Where this is properly introduced and socialized, students will take the honor system seriously and will self-enforce things like a code of conduct.
OverprotectionOverprotection refers to a parent or a paternalistic society that doesn't trust individuals to face risks they could manage themselves. This diminishes freedom and, in the case of children, may harm development in areas such as trust, initiative, self-direction, self-efficacy and resilience.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about social trust.
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References12Americans and Social Trust: Who, Where and Why, Pew Research Center, Feb 22, 2007.3Inglehart, R., C. Haerpfer, A. Moreno, C. Welzel, K. Kizilova, J. Diez-Medrano, M. Lagos, P. Norris, E. Ponarin & B. Puranen et al. (eds.). World Values Survey: Round Six. 2018. 4Ipsos, M. O. R. I. "Veracity Index 2019." London: Ipsos MORI (2019).
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