Establishing trust is complicated. Many data points must be consistent or aligned. Not trusting is simple. A single data point can raise doubts. That's the foundation of America's legal system and why the burden of proof of criminal activity lies in the hands of the prosecuting attorney. To prevail in a jury trial, the defense merely has to introduce "reasonable doubt" in the mind of at least one juror.

In recent years, new technologies are helping both sides, but unequally. Scientific methods, the capability to gather more "objective data", such as DNA evidence, provide more definite, tangible kinds of evidence. Those are of equal value to both the prosecution and the defense. What about other advances in knowledge, especially in regard to human behavior and emotions, such as in jury selection, communications, neurochemistry? Do these actually favor the defense - because it is much easier to influence one person as opposed to 12?

Are we, as a society, are becoming less rational, and more susceptible to emotional influences – and less trusting? There are plenty of signs and opinions to support this view. Is this an unintended and unforeseen consequence of our becoming better educated?

Are the exponentially increasing noise and hype levels driving us to distrust, because it has become easier to find a reason to distrust? Even if only 1 item of "news" out of 100 is false, that will influence a very large number of minds. There is the same network effect as for dissemination of "truth", but isn’t a falsehood far more potent and harder to discredit?

How do we, as humans in society, interact - on "limited/conditional distrust" or "limited/conditional trust"? What are the preconditions for a trust relationship? In what contexts do we trust or distrust?

If I want your help, will I be inclined to trust you? If I desperately need your help, will I be more strongly inclined to trust you? Is the importance and urgency of my own need or priorities the most important determining factor in how and why I will place my trust in you?

This line of thinking puts the trust issue in my head, in how I think. My mental and emotional states are more important and will carry more weight than objective facts when I make decisions. Is this "irrational behavior"? Or simply "selfish"?

Trust is a form of interpersonal communication, non-verbal as well as verbal. Trust comes from the perception and interpretation of a complex pattern of data points, many of which are subconscious. When we want to build trust, how aware are we of how much of our behavior may be perceived as counter-productive?

What questions can help us understand the nature of trust? It’s easy to understand how trust is lost – how is trust built?

When information is shared and processed, here are some examples of factors that affect how we perceive the situation. This list is not meant to be comprehensive.

Rational factors

     Availability of accurate information

     Consistency of information

     Reliable sources of information

     Completeness of information

     Third-party validation

     Expert prior knowledge

     Clear delivery of information

Non-rational factors

     Transparency, ease of access

     Ease of (accurate) interpretation

     Believability of specific information

     Gaps in information or logic

     Third-party questions

     Inexperience in context and/or perspective

     Non-verbal elements of delivery

In this context, the term “non-rational” includes emotion and intuition, any kind of “sense” or “feeling”, distinct from a purely intellectual, i.e., rational, analysis. If we accept that each of us is a unique blend of these two ways of processing information, then the complexity of the challenge of communicating clearly, not to mention building trust, becomes apparent.  Is this why there is such diversity across a population as to what or who can be trusted?

Consider the debate over climate change and global warming. The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity is causing global warming and climate change. Presumably, these people, by virtue of their profession, base their judgments on rational factors – on reliable, consistent, accurate, and sufficiently complete data. What about the large numbers of people, especially in positions of corporate or government power, whose behavior and words deny this claim?

Their position is anti-innovation: “The world is basically ok, no drastic changes are needed in the way we lead our lives and conduct our businesses.” Do these people not believe the data? If they believe the data, but reject the conclusion, what does that mean? If they believe the data, and agree with the conclusion, and still refuse to change, what does that mean?

If we, as a society, are becoming increasingly distrustful, what does that bode for our future? How will we progress and develop a forward-looking culture? Does this reveal a crisis of leadership?

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