Trust, Emotion, and Limited Feedback

By understanding the intricate interplay between trust, emotion, and limited feedback, we can make more informed judgments in our personal and professional relationships. Embrace the complexity of trust, acknowledge the impact of emotions, identify guilt-prone individuals, and be wary of relying solely on limited feedback. These practical insights will guide you towards building trust on a solid foundation.

Josh Ether

1/3/20203 min read

In the realm of trust, there are two crucial aspects to consider: emotion and feedback. Understanding how these factors influence our trust judgments can help us navigate relationships and make more informed decisions. So, let's dive into some practical insights on trust, emotion, and limited feedback.

  1. Emotion: The Feeling Behind Trust Emotions play a significant role in how we perceive and evaluate trustworthiness. When forming judgments, we often rely on our feelings as a summary of various factors. Imagine you're considering a candidate for a job position. You might assess their competence, skill set, and compatibility with the team. These dimensions are all intertwined in your overall feeling towards the candidate. Similarly, when house-hunting, you integrate information about the location, price, and layout to generate a gut feeling about each home. Trust judgments work in a similar way—we gauge whether we feel we can trust someone based on a multitude of factors.

But here's where it gets interesting. Not only do direct emotions related to specific incidents impact trust, but incidental emotions from unrelated experiences can also sway our judgments. Let's say you had a bad day and got into an argument with your spouse before heading into a business meeting. If your emotions from that argument bleed into your interaction with a colleague or client, it can affect your trust in them. On the other hand, if you received great news or experienced unrelated happiness, it could boost your trust levels, making you more trusting than usual. It's important to recognize that these incidental emotions can influence our trust judgments, especially when dealing with new acquaintances or unfamiliar situations.

Moreover, emotions don't just affect our own judgments. They also impact how others perceive and trust us. If someone is upset or experiencing emotions from an unrelated event when they interact with us, those emotions may inadvertently influence their assessment of our trustworthiness. To mitigate this, it helps to acknowledge their emotions explicitly and reassure them that their unrelated feelings won't impact the current situation. By doing so, we can foster more accurate trust judgments in our relationships.

  1. Guilt Proneness: A Marker of Trustworthiness When it comes to deciding whom to trust, individuals who are prone to feeling guilt are the ones we should rely on. Guilt-prone people possess a strong sense of responsibility and are likely to feel remorse if they fall short. To identify these trustworthy individuals, we can ask questions that probe their responses to making mistakes at work. Do they feel bad about their errors, even if no one else knows about them? Do they exhibit a sense of responsibility towards others and express remorse for letting them down? These guilt proneness questions provide insights into a person's trustworthiness.

Conversely, individuals with low guilt proneness should be approached with caution. If someone shows little remorse for their mistakes or lacks a sense of responsibility towards others, it might indicate a lower level of trustworthiness. Understanding the role of guilt proneness helps us make more informed judgments about whom we can trust.

  1. Limited Feedback: Beware of Appearances When evaluating trust, limited feedback can pose a challenge. We cannot monitor others constantly, and sometimes we can only observe their behavior in specific situations. People tend to act strategically when they know they're being evaluated. They exhibit exemplary behavior during these observed periods, but their actions might not accurately represent their overall trustworthiness. On the flip side, when individuals know they're not being watched or that their behavior isn't consequential, they may slack off.

The problem arises when we rely solely on these limited observations to gauge trustworthiness. Consider the boss who returns from vacation and witnesses their staff working diligently. This observation reinforces the belief that the employees are hardworking, but the boss fails to account for how the staff behaves when they are not being observed. It's essential to recognize that people can strategically act differently based on the presence or absence of monitoring.

To avoid making inaccurate trust inferences from limited feedback, we need to be mindful of how people may behave strategically. Recognize that observed behavior may not accurately reflect their overall trustworthiness. It's crucial to consider how they might act when they don't expect to be monitored or when they believe their actions have little consequence.