Friday, December 3, 2021

Vilares on How to Rebuild Trust in Institutions

Dr. Iris Vilares
Iris Vilares
, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, has long been interested in social relationships, specifically trust in them. So in a time where trust is lacking in societal institutions how can Vilares’s research help to rebuild this connection? 

A Star Tribune article titled, “University of Minnesota neuroscientist digs into research on how we can build back trust in institutions, each other,” interviewed Vilares on the topic. Defining trust, Vilares sees it as “A positive expectation in the face of social uncertainty.” Trust is first learned as infants and modeled by caregivers. While mistrust may sometimes be learned quickly, usually off of one interaction, it is important to not overgeneralize and offer others the benefit of the doubt. Trust is such an important component of social relationships as having quality relationships is found to be associated with higher life satisfaction and lower mortality. A primary component of these relationships is trust. 

Vilares’s (and others’) research on trust could be applicable to many domains such as marketing or economics, clinical practice, counseling, and labor relationships. External research has shown that the older a person is, the more on average they trust. Typically people trust the military and scientists the most. While people tend to trust politicians as well as business leaders very little. Living in an online world, media has the power to influence who the public should trust or mistrust. One way to lose trust is when someone or an organization acts in self-interested forms that hurt others. A way some researchers suggest fixing loss of trust is through “coaxing.” Coaxing on a personal level would be making amends if you broke someone’s trust. On the other hand, if you are on the receiving end of someone’s apparent break of trust, it is useful to try to understand the reasons for their behavior. We are all human and often make mistakes with no malicious intent. On a country level, education level and trust are positively correlated while income inequality and trust is negatively correlated. 
The first step towards increasing national trust? Decrease income inequality and increase education for all.

Composed by Flora Pollack, communications assistant.