'Intelligent people are more likely to trust others'

March 12, 2014
'Intelligent people are more likely to trust others'
Intelligent people may be better at judging character

(Medical Xpress)—Intelligent people are more likely to trust others, while those who score lower on measures of intelligence are less likely to do so, says a new study.

Oxford University researchers based their finding on an analysis of the General Social Survey, a nationally representative public opinion survey carried out in the United States every one to two years.

The authors say one explanation could be that more intelligent individuals are better at judging character and so they tend to form relationships with people who are less likely to betray them.

Another reason could be that smarter individuals are better at weighing up situations, recognising when there is a strong incentive for the other person not to meet their side of the deal.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, supports previous research that analysed data on trust and from European countries. The authors say the research is significant because social trust contributes to the success of important social institutions, such as welfare systems and financial markets. In addition, research shows that individuals who trust others report and greater happiness.

The Oxford researchers found, however, that the links between trust and health, and between trust and happiness, are not explained by intelligence. For example, who trust others might have only reported better health and greater happiness because they were more intelligent. But this turns out not to be the case. The finding confirms that trust is a valuable resource for an individual, and is not simply a proxy for intelligence.

Lead author Noah Carl, from the Department of Sociology, said: 'Intelligence is shown to be linked with trusting others, even after taking into account factors like marital status, education and income. This finding supports what other researchers have argued, namely that being a good judge of character is a distinct part of human intelligence which evolved through natural selection. However, there are other possible interpretations of the evidence, and further research is needed to disentangle them.'

Researcher Professor Francesco Billari, also from the Department of Sociology, said: 'People who trust others seem to report better health and greater happiness. The study of therefore has wider implications in public health, governmental policy and private charity, and there are good reasons to think that governments, religious groups and other civic organisations should try to cultivate more trust in society. Social has become an increasingly important topic for academics, who want to understand the causes of better health and greater happiness within society.'

Explore further: Trust in your neighbors could benefit your health, study shows

More information: Carl N, Billari FC (2014) "Generalized Trust and Intelligence in the United States." PLoS ONE 9(3): e91786. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091786

Related Stories

Resilience in trying times—a result of positive actions

June 12, 2013

Communities that stick together and do good for others cope better with crises and are happier for it, according to a new study by John Helliwell, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, and colleagues¹. Their ...

Recommended for you

Oxytocin enhances spirituality, new study says

September 21, 2016

Oxytocin has been dubbed the "love hormone" for its role promoting social bonding, altruism and more. Now new research from Duke University suggests the hormone may also support spirituality.

Study reveals a biological link between stress and obesity

September 21, 2016

Metabolic and anxiety-related disorders both pose a significant healthcare burden, and are in the spotlight of contemporary research and therapeutic efforts. Although intuitively we assume that these two phenomena overlap, ...

Men with anxiety are more likely to die of cancer, study says

September 20, 2016

Men over 40 who are plagued with the omnipresent of generalized anxiety disorder are more than twice as likely to die of cancer than are men who do not have the mental affliction, new research finds. But for women who suffer ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2014
I don't want to sound unintelligent, unhappy or unhealthy, but how do they know what is cause and what is effect?
1 / 5 (3) Mar 12, 2014
I'm skeptical as well. What happened to learning from experience and not trusting everyone..
not rated yet Mar 12, 2014
Wow, 1/5 from two people, who can't even tell me what was so wrong about my argument... Bloody cowardly.
not rated yet Mar 12, 2014
This is what I meant earlier about people believing everything they read.. *hint* vietvet *hint* judge_fudge
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2014
Missing is the 'blind' trust from birth til an age where trust gains 'sight' from being broken.

The first breaks in trust determine how future trust is dispense.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2014
dispense = dispensed
typo - see above comment
5 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2014
Wow, 1/5 from two people, who can't even tell me what was so wrong about my argument... Bloody cowardly.

Maybe they don't trust you enough to engage... ;)
not rated yet Mar 14, 2014
Wow, 1/5 from two people, who can't even tell me what was so wrong about my argument... Bloody cowardly.

Maybe they don't trust you enough to engage... ;)

Haha, that's what I was thinking... Too bad, I was going to ask them for donations for cancer research. :P
5 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2014
Its not intelligence at all. Its life experience, and if you spend most of your formative years dealing with unsavory sorts-----another drug deal gone bad, your buddy snitching you out for a more lenient sentence, ----you become kind of leery.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.