Intelligent people more likely to trust others

Surprisingly, This Type of People Are More Trusting – PsyBlog  Mar 2014

Intelligent people are more likely to trust others, according to a new analysis of US public opinion poll data. This may be because more intelligent people are better judges of character.

The researchers focused on the idea of generalised trust: not trust of close friends and family, but of other unknown members of society.

They found that people who were more trusting were also happier and had higher levels of physical health.

It’s smart to trust

The new research chimes with a number of established findings about the link between trust at the individual and societal level.

Previous research has found that people who are more trusting are:

  • More likely to start a business.
  • More likely to do voluntary work.
  • Happier with their lives.
  • Have better physical health.

Below is the scientific study upon which the article was based:

Generalized Trust and Intelligence in the United StatesPLoS One – 2014 Mar – Free PMC Article

Generalized trust refers to trust in other members of society; it may be distinguished from particularized trust, which corresponds to trust in the family and close friends.

An extensive empirical literature has established that generalized trust is an important aspect of civic culture.

It has been linked to a variety of positive outcomes at the individual level, such as entrepreneurship, volunteering, self-rated health, and happiness.

However, two recent studies have found that it is highly correlated with intelligence, which raises the possibility that the other relationships in which it has been implicated may be spurious.

Here we replicate the association between intelligence and generalized trust in a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. We also show that, after adjusting for intelligence, generalized trust continues to be strongly associated with both self-rated health and happiness.


The finding that generalized trust is highly correlated with intelligence, even after conditioning on socio-economic characteristics such as marital status, education and income, supports the hypothesis that being able to evaluate someone’s quality as a trading partner is a distinct component of human intelligence, which evolved through natural selection

The finding that generalized trust continues to be associated with self-rated health and happiness after adjusting for intelligence reinforces the view that generalized trust is a valuable social resource–one which governments, religious groups and civic organisations should strive to cultivate.

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