Sunday, March 19, 2017

Some Thoughts on Trust from Scott Alexander's Reader Survey

Scott Alexander ran a survey of his readership (I participated, along with 5,500 other people) and uncovered these correlations, all of them statistically significant with good effect sizes:
The more trustworthy you think other people are, the higher your life satisfaction
The more trustworthy you think other people are, the less likely you are to like Donald Trump
The more trustworthy you think other people are, the more likely you are to support more open immigration


pithom said...

I generally think people are very dishonest, mostly with others, but, to some degree, even with themselves. I have seen no reason to think otherwise. Of course, I also like Donald Trump and oppose open immigration. However, I am also very satisfied with my life.
I also took the survey.
I suspect the higher your life satisfaction, the more deluded you are, the more likely you are to support open immigration, think people are generally trustworthy (even if they were honest, I doubt they'd be all that trustworthy) and oppose Trump.

G. Verloren said...

There's an old saying: "We suspect of others what we know of ourselves". People tend to expect other people to think and to act in much the same way they do. Therefor, what someone expects of others tells you a lot about what they themselves are like.

If you assume others are going to be dishonest toward you, that suggests you're probably a dishonest person toward others. If you assume people are going to try to exploit you if you give them the chance, that suggests you'd probably exploit someone else if given the chance. If you think it's a dog-eat-dog world, odds are good you're just trying to justify your own voracious appetite and deflect guilt about it.

In contrast, if you expect other people to be pleasant and reasonable, it's probably because you yourself are pleasant and reasonable toward others. If you expect people to be tolerant of your differences, it's probably because you'd be tolerant of their differences. If you assume people are innocent until proven guilty, it means you probably don't have guilt of your own.

Stuart B said...

I am not surprised by the comments by pithorn. Mean-spirited, close-minded people will always deny that freer minds are happy, and will say that theirs is the only way to be more satisfied with one's life. I thinks most people believe that they are satisfied with their life to some degree (I guess those who have real reason not to be satisfied did not take this survey!). Which makes the correlations you cite all the more surprising - some cautious misanthropes seem to have some unexpected self-awareness that distrusting your fellow man leads to a gnawing away of equanimity.

G. Verloren said...

@Stuart B

There are always exceptions, of course.

Your cautious misanthropes with self-awareness are typically people who are in the slow process of self-reforming, having realized that certain habits and ways of thinking they've developed over time are hurting them and the ones they love, and attempting the arduous process of unlearning such behaviors and thought patterns and replacing them with more wholesome ones.

I personally was once a terrible pessimist long ago, always depressive and angry about the world, and I spent years fighting back against my worst demons to become an optimist instead - because I managed to realize that despite often telling myself I was perfectly happy the way I then was, I actually wasn't remotely happy, it was actually substantially my own fault rather than that of the rest of the world, and I was actyakky overwhelmingly reliant on flawed coping mechanisms I had developed from an unhappy childhood.

And (fittingly, I suppose) I believe most mean-spirited and closed-minded people are much like myself, and are only ever negative people because they were trained or taught to be by their upbringings or life's fortunes, and only stay that way because they are too unhealthy and too reliant on coping mechanisms to recognize the problem, choose to make personal changes, and then work hard to understand how to change and then enact those changes.

Susi said...

The man who looks behind the door is the man who has stood behind the door.

pithom said...

Stuart B, wrong. Some might call me mean-spirited, though that is a totally subjective evaluation, but in all honesty I am one of the most open-minded people out there. I do not deny other people are happy -I, for one, am very happy- but firmly deny their general trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is a rare currency in this world. There are many ways to be satisfied with one's life -don't make stuff up- and mine is one of them.

G. Verloren said...


Your complete and utter unwillingness to doubt or to question yourself to any degree is a one true hallmark of your arrogance and closed-mindedness. You can't admit even the possibility of your being wrong, nor that anyone else might ever possibly be right.

I mean, listen to yourself! It's not even enough for you to merely insist that you are open-minded. You have to also insist that you are MORE open-minded than basically everyone else!

And anyone who doesn't think you're one of the most open minded people in the universe can't possibly be correct! Surely they can't possibly have any rational basis or demonstrable evidence to back up their notions! They're just making stuff up for some reason!

And because they so clearly must automatically be wrong, they also must be either wicked or inferior beings! Why else would they make stuff up? They're either stupid, or childishly naive, or bitterly jealous, or just plain contrary, or some other conveniently simple and straightforward answer that just so happens to paint them in the worst possible light while simultaneously casting you in the best possible contrasting light. There can't be any other explanation!

And because they're such inferior and/or wicked being, obviously that reinforces and confirms your pre-existing beliefs about them automatically being wrong! Because if they weren't so inferior or wicked in the first place, they obviously would agree with you and your obviously correct notions!

You know, for being one of the most open-minded people out there, I've never once witnessed you admit to being wrong about something, even when other people directly proved that you were. You've never even implied the possibility of it.

And hey, maybe I'm misremembering. It's entirely possible you actually have admitted to being wrong, possibly multiple times, and I've merely fallen prey to confirmation bias and discounted such occasions.

But even if that actually ends up being the case, the mere fact that I have this powerful perception of you as being so extremely arrogant, overconfident, and closed-minded, should at the very least suggest to you that you absolutely do not come across as open-minded to other people.

And maybe you could discount me alone as just one single person who is being contrary or jealous because I'm either inferior or wicked. But you can't really rationally discount multiple independent people all telling you the exact same thing, and insisting that you actually aren't the shining beacon of pure and lofty open-mindedness you apparently think you are.