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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Random notes from a lecture on the neuroeconomics of trust

Oh yes. 

Paul Zak

Who’s more trustworthy?
    Children: women.  Facial expressions. Eye contact, body language
    Many cues doen’t exist in institutions where strangers interact
    Civilizationa [gesellshaft] as non-face-to-face relationships
    How did they evolve in kin-based groups?

To trust or not to trust as worldview
Madison: “There is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain circumspection and distrust”
Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

% per country who think others are trustworthy – 66% in Norway.  10% in Brazil, Columbia, Turkey, and Peru

    happiness correlated with trust levels  (direction of correlation later)
    self-recorded depression negatively correlated with trust.

Environments in which trust cultivated
    Trust reflects environments: Social, economic, political, legal environments
    Low trust a powerful indicator of poverty
    Investments (like legal contracts) have a drag on them when trust is low
        Then growth can’t happen

Individuals decide to trust
    Given a constant environment, how do individuals come to trust each other?
    What happens in the brain when I decide to trust John?

Trusting strangers unique to human beings
Subjects in lab cannot articulate why they make trusting decisions
Calculative trust doesn’t appear in lab

Origins with mother?

Oxytocin in animals – hormone that makes fish want to approach other fishes
    Very hard to measure, very labile, degrades quickly.
Areas of the brain associated with emotion accumulate oxytocin
    All done out of conscious control
    Kinda a gestalt
Try to get brain to make lots of the stuff

Vernon Smith’s lab – measuring trust
    Requires individuals to make monetary sacrifice to trust stranger
    Correlated with prayer, trust of president, trust of other people
    Leave yourself open to exploitation because you expect some benefit
    Hallmarks of schizophrenia is being withdrawn;

    Receiving a trust signal causes oxytocin to rise
    Trust begets trustworthiness
    Oxytocin correlates with trustworthy behavior

Trait vs state – how to measure oxytocin processing as nature vs nurture
    Violations of trust
    Measure five exceptions who keep everything – 2% “bastards”
        Brain dysfunction?
        Social phobics?
        Turn out to be emotionally labile, sexually very active
            Oxytocin creates higher levels of bonding
            Believe others are trustworthy
            Rate themselves as very trustworthy
        Nasal spray
            People on exytocin don’t have fear of interacting with strangers
            Dw1s Don’t expect to get things back
            Dw2s don’t change – already trusting. 
            Just like fish
        Massage therapist
            Increases trust levels 300%

On/off switch?
    HDT – circulates both in men and women, biologically inactive most of the time
    Women are more distrusting, but more generous
    The less you send a guy, the more dht.  Men resent it. 
Women don’t have a physiological response. 

Current research – where in the brain

Women who are ovulating are less trustworthy.  Progesterone stops trust.
Oxytocin produces dopamine so physically feels good.

Still a problem with social vs economic trust.   – swiss Presbyterian farmers have a psychotic relationship with money but a high degree of trust. 

Wilhelm Reich crackpot psychologist says that armored and unarmored man perceive and react to the world differently, hold their bodies. Differently.  You seem to have provided the physiological proof of this theory.  The extension of his thought is the theory of an “emotional plague” which transfers from person to person.  Can only be prevented by careful selection of educators and media figures.  What do you think?


test: attention and trust. More trust more attention.  Ragmenting attention by lack of trust. 

Problem: same conclusions already reached by philosophers and psychologists without need for blood test.  So having a odel for why – based on hormones – tells nothing.  Merely provides an easy answer to the why question (it’s always evolution) and the solution question (more drugs)

These people are dangerous.


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10:13 AM  

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