Highly intelligent people are more likely to be trusting and generous, research finds.
Trusting people tend to believe that others are honest and will not harm them.
Intelligent people are able to override the perfectly natural worry that other people will betray them.
While being trusting is not something people usually associate with intelligence — this research clearly shows a link.
The reason for the link may be that human intelligence has evolved to be trusting as it helps society function.
For the study, 80 people played an economic game that tested how trusting they were.
They were also given a test of their ‘cognitive reflection’.
Cognitive reflection measures people’s ability to override a quick, obvious response that turns out to be wrong in order to get the right answer.
Here are two of the tests of cognitive reflection used in the study:
- If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long will it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
- In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
The answers are at the bottom of the article.
The results showed that smarter people behaved in a more trusting way towards others.
The study’s authors write:
“It is not hard to imagine that the ability to trust is largely beneficial in a society where survival and prosperity crucially hinge upon the capacity to exchange with counterparts with various degrees of familiarity.
All such transaction […] require an important element of trust.”
In other words, society gets on better if people trust each other.
The study’s authors write:
“…trust has been shown to impact economic variables such as growth and financial development as well as entrepreneurship and trade.
In sum, trust is seen as the lubricant that facilitates exchange in society so its relevance cannot be overstated.”
The answers are…
The answers are 5 minutes to the first problem and 47 days to the second.
If you didn’t get this, remember the test is designed to make you think a little longer and harder.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (Corgnet et al., 2015).