Trust is a comfortable feeling: it saves you from headaches and unnecessary worries. Meanwhile, the question “to trust or not to trust?” most of us most often answer in the negative.
Alex Belyan, Doctor of Economics (PhD), Associate Professor at the International Institute of Economics and Finance at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Head of the Laboratory of Experimental and Behavioral Economics, Senior Fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of RAS, tells us what trust depends on and what affects it.
What is trust?
I like this definition: trust is an inner feeling that a person can identify another person’s interests with his own. In other words, if I trust someone, I can rely on them as if they were my own. The sensual nature of trust means that there is no objective measure for it-at least, not yet discovered. It is known, it is true, that trust is correlated with certain hormones, with currents and processes in the human brain that can be measured. But this is a correlate, not a value of trust.
If trust is correlated with currents in the brain, does that mean its level can be artificially altered?
Yes, and this is clinically proven. You can, for example, inject a person with a certain dose of a hormone – like serotonin, or the “happiness hormone” that promotes openness and good spirits – and the level of trust increases. But in everyday life, this is not so easy to do. So there are other ways to stimulate trust. For example, if you find yourself in a room where loud music is playing, where everything is painted in aggressive colors (such as red and black), where strange people are walking around and looking at you obliquely – you are sure to feel nervous tension and be at least cautious about the people around you. But in another room: soft light, cozy furniture, green and blue colors, everyone smiling – and you, on the contrary, relax, calm down, and begin to relate to the world with a high degree of trust. It is not for nothing that the first atmosphere is characteristic of casinos, and the second is typical of private clinics.
How and when a person develops a sense of trust? What are its origins?
Initially a person forms trust in the mother, it is almost prenatal, it is the original biologically formed bond between mother and child. The identification of the mother with the child is a very stable process, and it takes several years before it breaks down and the child becomes fully aware of itself as a separate physical being. If at a very early stage the mother shows the child that the world is kind to him, that no one will hurt him, that he will always be helped and protected, the child learns to trust those around him. If the mother behaves differently and the child sees only negativity from her, he or she develops distrust and even a guilt complex.
What else affects the development of trust?
The environment and, more broadly, the society in which a person finds himself. We know that in some countries the level of abstract trust is very high. In the Nordic countries, for example, it reaches 60%, while in Portugal or Romania, for example, it is only 10%. This is a significant gap. It is clear that in these countries the style of upbringing and relations between people is different.