A paper that was recently published in the The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found a very surprising clue. Guilt. Yep. People's tendency to experience quilt was the big determining factor on who humans trust. "Lead author Emma Levine, assistant professor at the University of Chicago, and her colleagues write, “When deciding in whom to place trust, trust the guilt-prone.”
Why might the guilt-prone be worthy of our trust? Researchers found that the key element linking guilt and trust was interpersonal responsibility; people who were guilt-prone also reported feeling an obligation to act in ethical and responsible ways while interacting with others. The emotion of guilt becomes activated when "individuals recognize a wrongdoing they have committed, and people who are guilt-prone tend to avoid engaging in behaviors that might harm or disappoint others (behaviors that would make them feel guilty). If they do commit a wrongdoing, guilt motivates them to take action to try to make things right again." Okay, so now this is all beginning to make sense! Research has also looked at the numerous benefits of trust from its role in helping to build strong relationships to its effects on society as a whole and even on the economy.
So how can we use guilt to determine who to trust? Lead author Levine says, "One way to do this might be to observe how they respond to past transgressions and whether they appear to experience remorse." Another way is to ask them to describe a difficult dilemma they faced in the past. This can be particularly telling, researchers have found, because it allows us to see if they are concerned about the effects their actions have on others. In other words, whether they have a sense of interpersonal responsibility.
Guilt may be an uncomfortable feeling, but this research helps remind us why it exists. Not only does it motivate us to make amends, but it may also be a signal to the people around us that we can be relied upon.
I don't know about you, but I found this information enlightening. I have always thought of myself as a trustworthy creature, and know I know I really am. I do suffer guilt quite often and go out of my way to rectify any situation where I may have inadvertently caused someone to experience unpleasantness.
Well, dear reader, this does it for me today. After a couple of dreary days, the sun is shining brightly here in Land of Lily Pad. And I for one can't wait to go bask in the warmth and have a long luxurious swim. Until tomorrow.