Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
PsychologyOur news, events & seminars

The paradox of trust - why people trust too little and why people trust too much Seminar

School of Psychology
16:00 - 17:30
4 November 2010
School of Psychology, Room 3095, Shackleton Building (Building 44), University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Barbara Seiter on +44 (0) 23 8059 5578 or email .

Event details

A talk by Professor Detlef Fetchenhauer, Department of Economic and Social Psychology, University of Cologne.

Imagine the following experimental paradigm, in which two persons (Person A and Person B) interact with each other under conditions of total anonymity: Person A are given $5 from the experimenter and they have two alternatives what to do with this money. They can either keep this money for sure. Or they can give that $5 to Person B. If Person A hand over their money, the experimenter adds another $15. Thus, in this case Person B is getting a total amount of $20. Then, Person B have two alternatives. They can either keep all the $20 for themselves, or they can split the money evenly between themselves and Person A.

Being in the position of Person A, what would you do? Would you trust that other person or would you rather keep the $5 for yourself? If you were Person B and Person A handed over his or her $5 to you, would you keep all the $20 or would you split the money evenly? What do you guess, out of a 100 Person B, how many would turn out to be trustworthy in such a paradigm?

This paradigm is called a binary trust game and has been investigated by many social scientists from different disciplines (e.g. economics, psychology, sociology) in the last years.

In our own research we mainly focus on the cognitions, feelings and decisions of Person A. What do they think and feel when making their decisions and what determines their ultimate decisions?

Our results over nearly a dozen of studies consistently show that Person A heavily underestimate the percentage of trustworthy Person B in that paradigm (i.e., they are highly cynical about their fellow participants). Nonetheless, a majority of participants hand over their money to Person B when being in the position of Person A.

In my talk I will outline possible explanations for these findings and ways in which we have empirically tested these different explanations.

Tea will be served beforehand at 15:45 in room 3096 (iZone room).

Speaker information

Professor Detlef Fetchenhauer, Department of Economic and Social Psychology, University of Cologne, Germany. Interests: Determinants of prosocial and antisocial behaviour; How laypeople perceive the economy; Evolutionary Psychology.

Privacy Settings