Trust in relationships…

  • Published
  • By Maria Robinson, Military & Family Life Counselor
  • 301st Fighter Wing

How do we decide who to trust? To whom will we give a spare key? Which babysitter should we hire? Who do we confide in? (Note: Asking a person if we can trust them almost never results in a negative response).

There are implied cues for trusting someone: Does he/she sound confident? Or does he/she have shifting eyes?

One researched way of determining the trustworthiness of a person as far as being in a relationship is concerned; involves deontological theories. (Deontological comes from the Greek “deont” meaning duty or binding, plus “the study of”). Put together deontology means the study of moral obligation, duty, rights, or ethics. Research indicates we trust people who we believe make deontological/moral judgements. How did researchers surmise this? By using the Trolley Problem. A large stranger and you are riding on a trolley. If the trolley continues on its course, it will run over and kill a group of five workers on the tracks. If you push the large stranger onto the tracks in front of the trolley, his size will stop the trolley. This will save the five workers, but it will kill the stranger. What would you choose? Most people in the studies chose not to push the stranger off the trolley and felt more trust and a willingness to be in relationship with others who chose the same way.

Across 5 studies, the researcher showed that people who make characteristically deontological judgments, (judgements based on moral obligation), are preferred as social partners, perceived as more moral and trustworthy, and are trusted more in economic games.

So, if you think your ‘picker’ is broken, consider picking partners who you trust.

Compiled from a Journal of Experimental Psychological article, “Inference and Trustworthiness from Intuitive Moral Judgments” by Everett, Pizarro and Crockett, 2016. Brought to you by MFLC Maria Robinson, 24th Fighter Squadron, 301st Fighter Wing, (682) 300-0677.

Public Affairs (817) 782-5000