Here’s something to think about. If you’re of higher intelligence, new research from the UK’s University of Oxford finds that you are more likely to put your trust in other people compared to those who are not as smart. The work appears in PLOS ONE and supports earlier research that examined trust and intelligence in European nations.
For the project, the team looked at data from the General Social Survey (GSS). This is a survey of public opinion that a nationally representative sample of US adults complete every 1-2 years. As part of the survey, the participants’ intelligence is measured using a 10-word vocabulary test and an assessment to see how well the participants understood the questions being asked. The questions themselves are focused on socioeconomic characteristics and behaviors as well as social attitudes. The data from this survey has been used in past studies to examine generalized trust and intelligence. This work is the first to use the information to understand the relationship between the two.
Generalized trust is the trust in other members of society and is different from trust in people we know… family and friends. Generalized trust is an important part of civic culture, and has been linked to positives for people – entrepreneurship, volunteering and personal ratings of health and happiness.
Turns out, those who scored highly on measures of intelligence were also more likely to trust others. This result remained even after the researchers accounted for the subjects’ socioeconomic characteristics… things like marital status, income and education level. Generalized trust is also shown to be strongly linked to self-related health and happiness. Why is this?
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Study: Smart People More Likely To Trust Others Continued…
One reason the team suggests is that smarter people are better at judging character,
so they seek out and develop relationships with those who are less likely to
betray them. Being a good judge of character is a part of human intelligence
that likely evolved through natural selection. Smart people are also better at
sizing up situations. This makes them more able to see a strong incentive for
the other person to stick to an agreement made.
Earlier work in the area of trust and intelligence has found that those who trust others appear to have greater health and happiness. In this project, the link between trust and health or happiness was not explained by the intelligence of the subjects. The current team suggests that earlier study hasn’t overestimated the part played by generalized trust on both health and well-being. There’s also a study that found the length of a relationship has an impact on which area of the brain was used to make decisions, including the decision to trust someone.
The researchers believe their findings show that generalized trust is a key social resource, for people and for society as a whole. It plays a part in the success of social institutions like financial markets and is a quality that government, religious organizations and civic groups may want to cultivate.
Future work in this area needs to focus on understanding exactly how generalized trust might impact a person’s health and well-being.
To your good health,