The Social Trust

A look at the social issues that matter, from public education to social trust, from criminal justice to economic inequality

How We Can Rebuild a Sense—and Sensible—Society

Our nation needs to do far more to support civic society.

Why would you trust someone that you don't know? You shouldn't, after all. If you look at the problem rationally, no one should ever place their faith in someone that they don't know. Or as economist Paul Seabright has written, "Trusting strangers is, to put it simply, a most unnatural thing for us to do."

But it turns out that we place our faith in unfamiliar people all the time. What's more, experts believe that trust is a type of "social glue," the thing that keeps every group together as a group. Or as Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz once argued, "it is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round."

These ideas are at the center of my forthcoming book, The Leap: The Science of Trust and Why It Matters, and as part of my reporting, I visited a radio soap opera in Rwanda that aims to rebuild the country’s broken trust—and profiled the man who brought honesty to one of the most corrupt cities in Latin America. I even jumped out of an airplane with neuroeconomist and fellow Psychology Today blogger Paul Zak to see if the experience would boost my levels of oxytocin, the so-called "trust hormone."

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Over the next few months, I'm going to be posting here some crucial things that you should know about social trust--and the ways that we can improve our faith in others. Some of the blog items will be excerpts from my book. Others will be items that never made it into the book for one reason or another.

I'm also going to talk a lot about other social issues that shape our sense of society, from education to criminal justice. I'm particularly interested in how we can do more to bring back a sense of grassroots community, from better schools to improved economic inequality.

As for me, I've write a lot about social issues, and my work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. I'm also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

As for this blog, my hope here is to share some ideas, create a bit of community, and in the end, earn a bit of your faith.

Portions of this blog item have appeared before in other work by Ulrich Boser, including his forthcoming book The Leap: The Science of Trust and Why It Matters. 

Ulrich Boser is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the author of The Leap: The Science of Trust and Why it Matters and The Gardner Heist.

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