Charles Green’s recent post, Do People Trust Rationally? prompted me to leave a comment. He got me thinking about how trust could possibly be formed quickly through rationality. I procrastinated a bit before I typed in my comment. After that, I had to have a cup of tea and a lie down.
The brain tires like a muscle:
In a recent paper, Professor On Amir suggests that the brain works in a similar way to a muscle, in that “when depleted, it becomes less effective.” Deliberating and procrastinating over making choices depletes the so-called executive resources in the brain. As a result, subsequent decision-making can be adversely affected when making choices with a tired brain.
But it is the switch from deliberating to actually executing the choice that does the depleting, says Amir. People with overtaxed brains make worse decisions than those whose brains are well rested. Those who do not deliberate make decisions that also tend to be inferior.
Trust is about choice:
It's supposed to be cool to be capricious, cool to be democratic (whatever that means), cool to be so laid back you fall off the fence. When it comes to making a choice, there is a whole mystique associated with that moment of decision. Often there is an urgency associated with making the right choice and a person has to draw on the executive functions when executing that choice.
In my comment on Charles’ post, I maintained that decisions about trust that are made rapidly, are less likely to be useful. Most people don't like being unsure about certain things. In situations where trust is seen to be important, they feel an urgency to make up their minds. So they will find short-cuts to do this quickly, presumably saving on their brain’s executive function:
"I didn't like the shoes he was wearing . . . "
"Something about the way she came into the room . . . "
"I always distrust a man with a beard . . . ", etc.
Unease in uncertainty:
When there is a need to make a choice or form an opinion about trust, there is a discomfort that people feel until their mind is made up. The ease that is felt when this is done is gratifying to such an extent that it tends to dispel residual doubt about the first formed opinion. It's almost as if it's chemical, like a shot of alcohol, for it brings about a feeling of wellbeing.
Comfort can be found in the smug idea, "I know I'm right." Doubt is pushed into the background by this. As positive as people might be about their own opinion, later they may still want to look for other evidence to support their choice. Goethe was purported to have said, "If you look for evidence to support your opinion, you'll find it."
Deliberation makes for sound decisions:
Though procrastinating and making a decision involving trust may deplete the executive function of the brain, it is likely to be superior to a decision made without forethought. In some ways this is the payoff for the mental effort that is spent. Trust built through rationality takes time. It has to be earned, and achieving that can take a long time. When it eventually happens through this formative process, it can be deep and solemn - a trust on which life-long relationships are built.
Can sound trust be built quickly? If it is proved that trust quickly formed remains in tact over a long and testing period of time, was it through good judgement that it was built? Or was it just pure chance that the right decision was made?