“Trusting behavior is distinct from a more general tendency to take risks”

Trust is often described in terms of your willingness to make yourself vulnerable to others.  It’s a type of risk-taking.  But some recent research by Derfler-Rozin, Pillutla and Thau (gated PDF at OBDHP) adds to the evidence that trusting as social risk-taking is completely different from asocial (non-trust-related) risk taking.

They found that when people were made to worry about being socially excluded, they became risk-averse, shying away from risky plays in a game.  But despite their risk-aversion, they became far more trusting in social versions of the same game:  They didn’t like risk, but they would take lots of risks if it was seen as a way to build social connections with others.

Economists often see trust as simply a way of reducing the transaction costs associated with getting the material outcomes we need.  But this research affirms that we also trust as a way of seeking social connections with others.