A Matter of Trust

A Matter of Trust

We’ve been looking at the research on trust and the role it plays when a network of people or organizations are dealing with complex issues. Here is a little nugget that we thought was particularly interesting. This comes from a foundational work that dates back to 1985. It has informed nearly all of the trust-related research done between then and now.

It is not possible to develop plans of action which consider all possible contingent futures. If all possible future events were accorded equal probability, the future would appear with such enormous complexity as to preclude rational action in the present. What is needed, then, is a way to reduce this complexity.

Rational prediction is one such approach. By collecting and processing information about known causal relationships, we can make predictions that certain futures are highly probable and others are too remote to require serious consideration in present planning. Unfortunately, rational planning alone is not sufficient. Even if we assume a deterministic universe, we simply do not have the necessary time and resources to rationally predict and control the effects of oncoming futures. 

Trust is a functional alternative to rational prediction for the reduction of complexity

Indeed, trust succeeds where rational prediction alone would fail. 

Trust reduces complexity far more quickly, economically, and thoroughly than does prediction

Trust allows us proceed on a simple and confident basis. In the absence of trust monstrous complexity would paralyze us.

Lewis, J. D., & Weigert, A. (1985). Trust as a social reality. Social forces63(4), 967-985.

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