Trust has been treated in fields of knowledge as diverse as literature, organizational theory, linguistics, social psychology, economic theory, philosophy, mathematics, sociology, history, and law. It is not surprising, therefore, that the word trust is accompanied by the most diverse qualifiers. Thus, trust has been described as basic, cognitive, emotional, group, impersonal, institutionalized, interpersonal, systemic and organizational.


Of all of them we are interested in the first place the interpersonal trust that we can define as the belief (feeling / feeling / intuition / bet) in which other people will fulfill the agreements, tacit or explicit, on which the relationship is based or that will be able to Do a concrete task, that is, they will act with honesty, integrity and truthfulness. Trust is reinforced by experience, that is, a person who has proved to be trustworthy, will tend to elicit more confidence in the coming times. When trust is beyond rationality, that is called faith (see our post on beliefs).
Acquiring trust is, therefore, a voluntary acceptance of being vulnerable or depending on the action of another part of which we cannot monitor or control its compliance.
Individuals capable of building trust in others have more influence over other people. The attributes of trustworthy people are:

  1. Competence (technical): knowledge, skills and experience to perform tasks and to have influence in a specific area.
  1. Predictable (predictable) and integrity behavior: Consistency between thought, communication and action (“walk the talk“). Consistency in time and in different contexts.
  1. Careful with commitments: in what it undertakes to do, in its feasibility in the established time and in its fulfillment, the most adjusted to what is planned or agreed (“to the letter”).
  1. Empathy generator: Involving, offering participation to the people who will be affected or will have to assume some role in the solution of a problem or in the implementation of the agreements / decisions, correctly delegating the tasks according to the Level of development of the people to whom it is delegated. The greater the development, the greater empowerment.
  1. Action centered on ethical and moral principles: Reciprocity and goodwill. Concern shared for the well-being of other members / colleagues. Openness and accessibility: sharing information, values ​​and goals, including expectations and interests.
  1. Good communications skills: High levels of communication in different directions, facilitating the exchange of opinions, requesting help and offering when needed.


Interpersonal relationships
Interpersonal relationships, as a basic need (see our post on intrinsic motivation), need trust as one of its most important components – and perhaps the most essential ingredient – for the development and maintenance of good relationships (happy / successful / healthy / Safe / durable).

Several theories argue that early exposure to relationships defined by strong trust is the basis upon which future relationships are built. Without a minimum (basic) level of trust, individuals are reluctant to initiate, invest, or sustain most voluntary relationships.

The betrayal of trust is one of the most commonly cited reasons for the disappearance of relationships.
Coordination, cooperation and teamwork
Thus, from our point of view, cooperation and altruism in human co-operative interaction are mediated by varying trust relationships between agents.
The most basic human needs – affectivity, help, support, companionship and security – push towards cooperation and require the existence of trust.
Yamagishi (1998), after reviewing evidence that confidence can help create and improve cooperative links, concludes: “In the face of high social uncertainty and high opportunity costs, the very confident will have a better chance of getting more benefits than Those who trust less. ” As a result, individuals who create stronger and more diversified ties are more likely to survive than those who confine trust to few people because they diversify the chances for cooperation. This need to link others to common goals may be the result of the evolutionary pressure that encourages the tendency to trust as a means to reduce anxiety. Anxiety caused by the need to take big risks, sometimes even leaving one’s life in the hands of others. (See trust for cooperation in our post on conflictology).


The climate of confidence in a negotiation

Being a good negotiator means conducting the meetings in order to reach a satisfactory agreement between the parties involved and, in order to achieve this, on many occasions, the negotiation technique may not be the most important, but the intentionality from which it is negotiated and, for Consequently, the generation of trust between the parties.

Trust is one of the main agents of influence and one of the most critical components in building and maintaining a relationship, to negotiate. When trust is established, it is much easier to reach a successful negotiation, whereas if it is lost, it will be much more difficult to establish viable bases for establishing agreements.

Confidence, mistrust, risk-taking and uncertainty

The Rational Choice Theory approach conceives trust as a risk calculation and emphasizes its usefulness to economize on transaction costs. The underlying assumption is that people are profit-maximizing and their decision to rely is based on a balance between the benefits of cooperation and the costs of desertion or betrayal.

Deciding to trust involves a risk, requires a lot of openness to others and sometimes expose yourself to acts of others that can produce a very intense emotional load on the trust. Trust that someone does not guarantee the certainty that that person will respond to expectations. All of these elements can cause individuals reluctance to take those risks.

Recent research questions that distrust is the absence of trust and posit that both attitudes are independent, which would allow to distinguish between the naive attitude and the prudent attitude in the trust.

In Liquid Modernity, Zygmunt Bauman , (recently deceased) underlines the importance of developing the optimum confidence to favor the development of social skills and social participation.

Social capital

The society is based on a minimum trust that allow the coexistence and the establishment of common norms and the creation of value (see our post about it).

Social capital represents the degree of social cohesion that exists in communities. It refers to the processes that exist between the people who create (stable) networks, norms and social trust, as well as to facilitate coordination, cooperation and reciprocity in order to obtain mutual benefits.

John Stuart Mill already warns us of the importance of trust in economics: “The advantage of humanity to be able to trust one another penetrates all the cracks and joints of human life: economics is perhaps the most important part Small of it, however, of incalculable value. ”

For Kenneth Arrow, trust is a very important issue in the life of organizations and in the economy in general. It says: “There is an element of trust in any transaction; Typically, an object of value changes hands before the other, trusting that in fact the counter value will be given. ”

The social capital studies, popularized by Robert Putnam (1993; 2000) and Francis Fukuyama (1995), start from the postulate that trust is based on norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement. For these authors, modern societies undergo a crisis of trust, because trust involves fundamentally emotional attitudes based on shared habits, ethical values ​​and moral obligations reciprocally, which is increasingly difficult to obtain in today’s societies. For these authors, trust is required for societies to function properly and productively, since it reduces the need for regulation by the state and other institutions, and reduces the costs of transaction and control of ordinary spontaneous relations.


If you want to know a little bit more ….


Gambetta, D. (2000) Can We Trust Trust?, in Gambetta, Diego (ed.) Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations, electronic edition, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, chapter 13, pp. 213-237.

Mill, J.S. (1909) Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy. William J. Ashley, ed. Library of Economics and Liberty. Book I, Chapter VII, 1.7.1.

Putnam, R. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in modern Italy. Princenton: Princenton University Press.

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. New York: Free Press.

Simpson, J.A. (2007) Foundations of Interpersonal Trust. Chapter 25 in Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles edited by Kruglansky, A.W. and Higgins, E.T. The Guilford Press.

Yamagishi, T. (1998) The Structure of Trust: The Evolutionary Game of Mind and Society. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.

Bauman, Z. (2002) Modernidad líquida. Fondo de Cultura Económica de España.

Arrow, K. J. (1974) The limits of organization. New York: Norton.