Trust is a crucial component of many kinds of relationships. It helps couples feel emotionally and commitment safe, provides motivation to overcome obstacles together and can even save lives in the case of a failing marriage. Despite its central role, trust is a very hard thing to measure. Its hidden, personal nature makes it difficult to identify when it’s low or to fix it if it’s broken. In fact, researchers have found that a lack of trust is the number one cause of divorce.
In addition to its impact on relationships, trust also plays a critical role in organizations. Its absence can lead to a lack of productivity, loss of innovation and decreased morale. Trust can also have a profoundly negative impact on people’s health, with studies suggesting that it leads to higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety. This may explain why trust is a key focus for many workplaces, with leaders often encouraging staff to build and maintain it.
Some of the most important things we do require trust, including work and family life, as well as our interactions with strangers. It’s therefore vital that we understand how to develop it and how to keep it healthy. Fortunately, scientists are doing more and more research into this topic, which has revealed some interesting findings about what it takes to trust well.
A number of workshop speakers discussed the importance of trust in human lives. For example, Rose McDermott of Brown University pointed out that trust has a biological component related to the oxytocin hormone. This chemical plays a part in social bonding and is thought to be a precursor to trust. She said that a person’s oxytocin concentration can predict whether or not they will be willing to trust someone.
The philosophical work on trust focuses on the concept of warranted trust, which means it’s either justified or well-grounded. Justified trust is based on the idea that a person who claims to be trustworthy has a high probability of being so. Well-grounded trust is based on the notion that a person who claims to be trustworthy possesses the relevant knowledge or evidence. There is a large literature on the epistemology of trust, and also on the particular issue of trust in testimony.
Some theories of distrust are narrower than others, focusing on the value that distrust can have for political democracies or for groups that resist tyranny. Meena Krishnamurthy, for instance, offers a normative account of distrust that derives from the writings of Martin Luther King Jr.
Some of the most practical applications of trust come from the use of trusts, which are documents that give one person power to manage money or property for someone else’s benefit. Trusts are a great way to minimize taxes, protect assets and spare children from having to go through probate court after an individual’s death. Creating a trust, however, is complex and requires the guidance of an estate planning attorney or financial planner.