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Why do we trust?

Have you ever wondered why and how we trust? What makes us able to entrust another person with our secrets, possessions, money, friendship or love?
A new study from Dartmouth and published in the Journal of Neuroscience has unveiled deeper insight into why we trust.
The study took a group of people who were asked to play an ‘economic investment game’ with either a machine, a stranger, or a friend. As ScienceDaily reports, “in reality, they were playing with a simple algorithm that reciprocated trust 50 percent of the time.”
Once the data was analysed, the researchers discovered that people found positive interactions were more rewarding when experienced with a friend, versus a stranger or machine.
Study co-author Luke Chang explained that, “These findings show the importance of social relationships in how we make everyday decisions and specifically how relationships can change our perceived value associated with a given decision.
“Our findings also provide a new method to test computational models using brain imaging data, which might be useful for studying concepts such as trust and reciprocity."

Our intuition to trust

Interestingly, it seems we have an intuitive sense when it comes to trust. A Canadian study found that even 14 month-old babies can determine between a genuine and disingenuous person. The study involved a group of babies – half of whom were tricked by a tester who had implied a toy was hiding under an empty container, and the other half who did find a toy hiding under a container. Those who hadn’t been fooled trusted the tester in a new activity. But only five out of the 30 babies who had been fooled decided to participate in another game with the tester.

Trusting feels good

Further studies have shown that we trust because it gives us a lovely little rush of feel-good hormones. That is, when we trust someone, our brain secretes oxytocin, which sparks connections between people. A unique Swiss study discovered this when people who had oxytocin sprayed up their nose were more likely to lend more money to strangers than those who didn’t have the spray.

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