What is Trust?

by Nam Chu Hoai about 9 years ago

As we were traversing the internet recently, we stumbled upon an interesting definition of trust in this paper. The paper focuses on security and cryptography, but its definition applies to a wide variety of activities. The authors reason that “the local trust depends on the gap between behavior and expected behavior of an ideal agent in that role.”

In terms of a person, this means that someone is trustworthy if his or her actions are almost always what you expect an ideal person to do. Someone who isn’t trustworthy will frequently deviate from your expectations. In short, trust is your ability to predict accurately another person’s behavior.

Let’s say you have a cousin who you have seen steal cookies from the cookie jar many times, breaking a promise to his mother. If today your cousin says he won’t steal any cookies, you probably will expect him to steal them anyway. His actual behavior—stealing cookies—is not the same as the ideal, promised behavior—not stealing cookies—so he is less likely to be considered trustworthy.

In simple situations, evaluating trustworthiness is easy. However, trust becomes much more difficult in new situations when you’re interacting with new people because it’s hard to predict the behavior of a stranger.

People don’t always think rationally when evaluating trust. Since trust is your judgment of how well you can predict someone else’s behavior, evaluating trustworthiness depends on your own thoughts and feelings. For example, if you repeatedly witness your cousin stealing cookies, you may be predisposed not to trust another person with cookies, even though your cousin’s stealing history has nothing to do with the other person.

At the end of the day, trust is subjective. It’s nearly impossible to predict human behavior, so people have developed their own methods to determine whether a person can be trusted.

We plan to give people the power to make their own decisions about trust online by providing them with the right information.

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