Trust and Honesty

August 17 2010 - Trusting others may be indicative of good judgement of honest behaviour rather than gullibility according to University of Toronto research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The researchers asked volunteers to watch videotaped job interviews of 2nd year MBA students. Interviewees were told to do their best to get the job. Half were completely truthful; the rest told at least three significant lies to appear more suitable. All interviewees were guaranteed a small financial reward for participating and would receive double the amount if a supposed "lie detection expert" was convinced by their performance.

Volunteers first completed a questionnaire measuring their trust in other people, responding to statements such as "most people are basically honest," and "most people are basically good-natured and kind." Having watched the videotaped interviews, they were asked to rate the truthfulness and honesty of the interviewees.

The study found that the greater the degree of trust participants showed in others, the more able they were to identify lying interviewees and the more they wished to avoid employing them. Participants who were low in trust were less able to distinguish between those telling the truth and those who were not, and were more willing to hire liars.

Co-authors Nancy Carter and Mark Weber of the Rotman School of Management commented:

"Although people seem to believe that low trusters are better lie detectors and less gullible than high trusters, these results suggest that the reverse is true. High trusters were better lie detectors than were low trusters; they also formed more appropriate impressions and hiring intentions. People who trust others are not pie-in-the-sky Pollyannas, their interpersonal accuracy may make them particularly good at hiring, recruitment, and identifying good friends and worthy business partners."