Intelligent People Are More Trusting of Others

Do people think that you are just too trusting of others and call you naive?  Well maybe you’re just smart.  Recent research has found a positive correlation between intelligence and trust.  Plainly put, intelligent people are more trusting of others.

The study used two methods to measure intelligence: a 10 question vocabulary test and a follow-up questionnaire to find out how well they understood the original questions.  Although the test would be considered brief by many, it has a positive correlation of 0.71 to administered IQ tests.  Basically, it’s a pretty good indication of intelligence.

Trustiness is was measured in terms of “generalized trust” as a measured by the General Social Survey, which is published every other year in the United States.   It is a measure of public sentiment and attitudes, with trust being one of them.  Questions that related to trust is something along these lines, [g]enerally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can never  be too careful in dealing with people?”.

Researchers found a positive correlation between generalized trust and how well the respondents did on the two tests.  Here is are two graphs that show the positive correlation.

intelligence and trust 2 intelligence and trust 1

As you can see, trustiness goes up along with the number of vocabulary questions answered correct as well as a deeper understanding of the questions asked.

In this specific study, the variables that were controlled for included social status, race, and parental education. In other words, social status, race, or education of your parents did not matter in this study—all the variables reached the same conclusion—that the more “intelligent” you are, the more trusting you are.

The study also tracked a few other things—and among them was happiness. What they found was that trust was also positively correlated with happiness. Those who ranked high on generalized trust were also self-reported as being “very happy.”

As for why intelligent people are more trusting is outside the scope of the study. However, we can venture to guess a few possible reasons. For one, intelligent people may be linked to a better judge of character—so more intelligent people are able to quickly judge who is trustworthy and who is not—and thus only choose to associate with people that are deemed trustworthy. As a result, intelligent people are saved from the headache of being burned. Another possible reason is that intelligent people make overall smarter decisions, so do not put themselves in a position that can potentially lead to being betrayed.

But this is not the first time trust and been associated with intelligence. Many other studies have found a positive correlation, including a study in 2012 documenting cognitive ability is strongly associated with both political trust and with generalized trust and that education is directly to trust, even after controlling for cognitive abilities and occupational prestige.

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