The Surprising Link Between Trust and Racism

Drake Bennett, Businessweek, September 23, 2013

Whether we’re socializing or flirting or hawking our old furniture online, we want others to trust us. {snip}

It turns out there’s something to be said for distrust, though, and not just in dealing with con men or strangers with candy. A new paper by psychologists at Harvard and the University of Cologne suggests that a healthy dose of distrust is an antidote to racism, sexism, and other forms of stereotyping. A mistrustful person, the researchers found, is a less biased one.

Here’s how the studies worked: The psychologists Ann-Christin Posten and Thomas Mussweiler primed their German test subjects to feel either trusting or mistrustful. In one study, the experimenters had subjects play a game with a partner who turned out to be either trustworthy or not, in another they were primed by the German words vertrauen (to trust) or misstrauen (to distrust) in milliseconds-long flashes on a screen—too fast for conscious awareness. Afterward, the subjects were presented with either pictures of people or stories about them, and asked to evaluate them. Consistently, the subjects who had been primed to be mistrustful were less likely to impose stereotypic characteristics onto the people they were exposed to than those who had been primed to feel trusting. They were less likely, for example, to automatically see women as less logical and less technically skilled than men, and less likely to see Turks as “noisy” and “vengeful.”

What’s going on here? Reached by phone at Harvard, where she is a postdoctoral fellow, Posten argues that distrust sharpens people’s thinking. As she puts it, “people in a distrustful mindset seem to use non-routine information-processing strategies.” Trusting people essentially means assuming they are what they seem to be, which, if we don’t actually know the person, can lead us to rely on stereotypes. It’s a form of complacency. Not trusting someone means we’re not sure if a person is what they seem to be or not, and that makes us pay close attention to the actual information we have rather than vague generalities.

Priming research using methods like these has come under attack from skeptical psychologists recently, but Posten and Mussweiler’s findings fit with a broader set of results that show both the limits and the underside of human attributes like benevolence and trust. The Dutch psychologist Carsten K.W. De Dreu has found that oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” that drives mothers to bond with their newborns and may play a role in romantic love, also has the effect of making people more ethnocentric. {snip}

{snip}

Topics:

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • cecilhenry

    All liberal media should have a package warning:

    All data, interpretations and conclusions will be used to justify the prevailing underlying PC orthodoxy.

    Reader beware!!!

    • Evette Coutier

      It seems every article or scientific study anymore is about racism. Have they nothing else to study?

      • So CAL Snowman

        I know right? Meanwhile on the other side of the world the Fukushima disaster threatens the survival of all life on Earth but hey they have “blacker” fish to fry i guess.

      • sbuffalonative

        They’re all hard-core champions of the cause. I suspect this research is a kind of cathartic experience for them to understand their own racial awareness.

      • Sick of it

        If they studied anything real, they’d have to provide their own funding. The elites don’t want dangerous new innovations.

    • Puggg

      Why is it that almost all social science these days drools out research that such and such either causes or prevents racism? As if the only thing social scientists are obsessed with is racism.

      • John Ulfsson

        Because they’re Cultural Marxists subverters whose job it is to destroy us.

  • “Posten argues that distrust sharpens people’s thinking”.

    Welcome to Amren.

  • Puggg

    Is this the same kind of junk science research that recently concluded that bowling leagues lead to Hitler?

    • Evette Coutier

      Maybe we should start a league.

      • So CAL Snowman

        Mark it zero Dude, next frame.

      • Romulus

        That was excellent. Perfect delivery! Thanks for the pick me up!

      • CoweringCoward

        I don’t even bowl, perhaps a shooting league instead? Who couldn’t use a little more range time?

  • Evette Coutier

    there is an interesting truth hidden in this article. Oxytocin, the love hormone, promotes ethnocentric feelings. Maybe we need to offer more love and fellowship to our fellow whites to bring back the brotherhood in white communities. We are too fragmented and isolated, and the community bonds that use to exist are all but gone in America.

    • DerekaGrandon

      Yeap. That’s right. Love your kith and kin.

    • Franklin_Ryckaert

      This discovery that love is connected with ethnocentrism creates a dilemma for liberals. Ethnocentrism for them must be connected with HATE, but now science has proved the opposite! Once again, facts are not politically correct.

  • Progressive’s vision of equality is when no one trusts anyone else ‘equally’.

    • Sick of it

      If we were actually that distrustful, we’d have broken out of the brainwashing worldwide.

      • If we’re alone in our distrust, how?

        • Sick of it

          Trusting people accept explanations without evidence. Distrustful people do not. What evidence exists which proves liberal theory? If skeptical people take a peek at even a small bit of the mountain of evidence which runs contrary, they start to think differently.

          A perfect example is the liberal indoctrination mill a.k.a. the public school system. If their arguments had any weight, why did they feel the need to push them on small, gullible children?

  • MekongDelta69

    Their ‘study’ is the exact opposite of reality.
    (But they shield themselves, by throwing in the obligatory, ‘racism,’ ‘sexism,’ ‘homophobic,’ etc., etc. terms.)

  • Spartacus

    “Consistently, the subjects who had been primed to be mistrustful were
    less likely to impose stereotypic characteristics onto the people they
    were exposed to than those who had been primed to feel trusting. They
    were less likely, for example, to automatically see women as less
    logical and less technically skilled than men, and less likely to see
    Turks as “noisy” and “vengeful.”

    ———————————————————————————————————————

    So they were mistrustful of logic, common sense and prior experience ?

    • Sick of it

      Don’t forget thousands of years of history.

  • So CAL Snowman

    Well this dovetails nicely with Harvard professor Robet Putnam’s study that found that trust was much higher in racially homogeneous communities than in mixed race communities. Obviously when you live around your own kind you understand what to expect from them. When you live in a mixed race community you have no idea what the hell to expect, so of course there is no stereotyping.

    “Trusting people essentially means assuming they are what they seem to be, which, if we don’t actually know the person, can lead us to rely on stereotypes.”

    Well I won’t argue that point. I live in a White neighborhood in a White city and I assume it’s a wonderful place to live because the White people living here are law abiding, hard working, nice people (i.e. they are typical White people). I am stereotyping the people of my community because I assume they are what they seem to be. On the flip side, even though I don’t know any black ghetto dwellers, I can assume they are not as law abiding, hard working and nice as my White community, based on their living conditions. I trust my White community because I am familiar with it. I suppose that’s why White racism is so deadly in the eyes of the lefty communists. White racism is merely the push back against filthy, substandard non White living conditions. The fact that the words “racism” and “trust” have been demonized to control thought should tell you all you need to know about the US of A.

  • David Ashton

    Research has already established that, other factors being more or less equal, people trust people who look and sound like themselves more readily than those who do not. Hardly surprising.

  • 1stworlder

    So let me see if I understand this if someone tells me don’t trust him, before I see a black guy, I am going to ignore everything I know about blacks I have meet?

  • GeneticsareDestiny

    Stereotypes are almost always accurate reflections of reality, except of course for stereotypes manufactured by liberal social engineers, which are not genuine and did not come into being organically. (An example of this would be “all races are exactly the same.” That is not a real stereotype and almost no one actually thinks that.)

    Therefore, it is completely rational and reasonable to trust in stereotypes in the absence of more certain information.

    “Trusting people essentially means assuming they are what they seem to be, which, if we don’t actually know the person, can lead us to rely on stereotypes. “

    This is the entire reason stereotypes exist. It is impossible to know all 7 billion people on Earth personally. If humans had no way of predicting with accuracy what people we don’t know might be like, day to day life would be incredibly complicated and downright impossible to get through.

  • NorthernWind

    If we must make everyone distrustful in order to end the evil of racism then so be it!

    Haha. I have a question guys, is it better to build a trusting homogenous society or a distrusting multiculty egalitarian society? Is the latter even capable of being a real society?

  • Sick of it

    Interesting conclusion, considering that my distrust of the lies taught to me led to my change in worldview.

  • Romulus

    The Dr. Franken& steinbergs are at it again!!

  • Romulus

    Another shining example of junk science. All birds of a feather prefer to flock together.
    Kinship and racially bonded communities existing over thousands of years would absolutely trust each other. They would exhibit the same cultural behaviors and mores, so each would know what to expect. Logically, any outgroups would have to be viewed through the lens of collective behaviors that any outsider would recognize that are indicative of the group.That’s why stereotypes exist,generally speaking. For example, a traditional Italian family will display particular behaviors that one will see in no other outgroup. This analysis is simplified, but you get the point.

  • MBlanc46

    So this incredibly realistic experiment establishes conclusively that…. Well, it establishes that if you have people play a game and then look at pictures or read stories they’ll evaluate them in ways that the “researchers” characterize as non-stereotypical. Doing this will apparently get you a postdoc at Harvard.,

  • pcmustgo

    I was a very trusting type, Here’s how trust leads to racism- you trust blacks, and the other groups. They burn you over and over again. You then are truthful enough to admit you’re distrustful of them. Trust and truth…

    • pcmustgo

      The distrustful probably never get involved with Blacks or others to begin with, never reveal themselves, never become vulnerable around anyone.

      • ShermanTMcCoy

        Some of us had to learn the hard way.

        Beatings in school, countless thefts of personal property, attempted rape while I was in the military, betrayals by black “colleagues”, finally the death of my mother due to blacks.

        All the while, society constantly reassured me that “I” was the problem.

        No more. I don’t know that I hate blacks as much as I hate the deception that enables them to destroy us.

  • CoweringCoward

    Amen, in SPADES!

    • itdoesnotmatter

      Make that X2. Good one, mendells.

  • prunepit

    Ironically, the stereotyping that leads to castigating others as “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, and “anti-Semitic” would seem to be based on a low level of thinking and complacency.

  • Evette Coutier

    For ones that can be saved, yes. For completely lost losers, it’s to much fun to put the smack down on them.

  • Sentinel9

    The psychologists Ann-Christin Posten and Thomas Mussweiler primed their
    German test subjects to feel either trusting or mistrustful… and less likely to see Turks as “noisy” and “vengeful.”

    They only call it racism because they only tested white people.

  • David Ashton

    They scold us – without due cause.

  • David Ashton

    This illustration is not so outrageous as it might seem. Look at the ridiculous abolition of words like “blackboard” used quite naturally by “black” people (who are not absolutely black) themselves. In Britain the BBC issued a guide to multi-cultural “education” which quoted some Afro-American (I have this booklet somewhere but cannot put my hand on it just now): “The English language itself is racist.” At our teachers’ centre we were expected to ask for “coffee without milk”, etc. And this is going back many years.

    Anyone interested in the Higher Nonsense of Thought Crime should sample the ravings of academic “anti-racist buffoons” like Theo Goldberg.

  • ShermanTMcCoy

    Niggardly?

  • T_Losan

    “They were less likely…to automatically see women as less logical and less technically skilled than men, and less likely to see Turks as “noisy””

    But these views are true. The whole study seems to be based on a flawed assumption.

    If you are starting from the supposition that people other than white males can only be as good or better than white males in everything, then don’t waste your time “studying” differences, as the conclusion is foregone.

  • Bantu_Education

    Many years ago I read a letter to a South African newspaper by a black who said he admired whites for their ability to trust each other whereas, despite their much-vaunted “black pride”, the truth (he said) is that blacks do not trust their fellow blacks. This would explain their inability to co-operate except when it comes to doing something destructive, like attacking whites. (an action which is against their interests). So does this confirm or deny the confusing theory postulated here? Are blacks more racist? I know the answer to that of course, I was just thinking aloud.

  • Katherine McChesney

    It’s a SAFE thing. Avoid them if you can.

  • Funruffian

    This is Psuedo science trying to make unbiased people look racist. I’ve heard a few absurd research studies that are Pro- minority and Anti-white, but this is the first one that tries to flip logic. I often don’t trust other races, especially Blacks. I’m just more racially aware than I used to be.

  • FormerlyEdNY

    Agreed! My experience reflects yours.

  • Franklin_Ryckaert

    Crayon of color? You must be kidding!That is far too offensive! The correct term is “African-American crayon”.