Monday, November 26, 2012

Forming blind trust for a pretty face might be influenced by gestures and nonverbal cues.

In 1979, the French pop artist, Lear Amanda, released an album titled: “Never trust a pretty face.”

Amanda Lear. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Never trust a pretty face
You could regret it
Never trust a pretty face
It's so inviting
Amanda Lear, never trust a pretty face.

She must have been speaking our minds. We need trust for social and economic interactions like building friendship, forming business partnerships and allowing strangers into our premises to work smoothly. Don’t fall into the inviting trap of trusting a pretty face. You might regret it. One fact is clear: as humans, we ignore what people say but place how they act, how they talk, how they move their body, as telling points in whether we are going to trust or not.

Good communication skills are not enough for trust. Non-verbal cues, along with gestures that stimulate trust, are more important than speaking well and speaking clearly.

Trusting is not as simple as that.

The decision to trust people is an intuitive process. It is honed over the years due to experience gained by interacting with several persons, and relating each interaction. Some research done at the University of Warwick also makes it clear that how people look can influence whether we trust them or not. It was found that we tend to ignore a person’s past history or reputation, whether good or bad, if their look rubs us off the right way, and can trust them with our money.

The incentive to trust is also inscribed in our genes. The love hormone, oxytocin, can affect our behavior when triggered and make us either show positive emotions like trust, empathy and generosity, or make us exhibit negative emotions like jealousy and gloating. Oxytocin bolsters pro-social behavior and can increase negative sentiments when our association with a person is negative.

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A new research, by using a robot Nexi, suggests that the decision to trust others with our money and relationships is carried out by complex interacting mechanisms involving sight, hormones and nonverbal cues, or what one of the researchers, David DeSteno has termed “a dance” or interplay between strangers. According to him, "…there's no one golden-cue. Context and coordination of movements is what matters." The mechanisms are complex and interesting. It can help us explain why we can suddenly decide to trust someone because he talks glibly and the next moment, on a seconds’ notice, we decide not to trust him because he placed his hands into his pockets while talking glibly. It could help explain to you why you had to undergo a body scan at the airport while the passenger next to you was allowed to walk freely without questions asked!

To receive, give trust signals.

So, when next you thought you were discriminated against when a situation requires trust, ask yourself whether you made it happen so? Your behavior must have been a mimic of someone who turned out to be untrustworthy in the past. No wonder, the company and the role models we imitate can make or mar our fortunes. Also, the way your dress, your clothing, and how your face looks to other people, can make them trust or count you out as untrustworthy. Your reputation might rank low in the trust ratings if you do not make the effort to look your best for that occasion.

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As Dr. Chris Olivola from the University of Warwick’s Warwick Business School observed, “…the temptation to judge strangers by their faces is hard to resist.” So, as trustworthiness is an important trait for social and economic interactions, you could end up losing that job interview, or that much sought for contract, if you do not do your best to look well for the occasion.

Look like you can be trusted. Act like you can be trusted. In addition, do not allow your emotions to rule your head when confronted with negative emotions.

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