An Inquiry on How Politics Shapes How We Develop Trust

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Authors of Political Competition, Partisanship, and Interpersonal Trust in Electoral Democracies Ryan E. Carlin and Gregory J. Love questioned how democratic politics inform the debate of the evolution of co-operation between humans, and which various social preferences supported it. They found that political competition drastically shaped how much trust we put in each other, with trust being the groundwork to a strong co-operative community. 

They discovered through the ‘trust game’ that we are more willingly to put our trust into a stranger than someone that harbours a different political belief to our own. Our own @andrea7061 posed the question, “is there a way to convince individuals to co-operate towards a positive common goal rather than a common enemy”, and this question brought up a lot of ideas about our current society.

I think one way to look at this is to think about the end result. I believe that it is much easier to direct anger and hatred than to deal with our emotions and push them towards making positive change. A common example is dating. It seems much easier to dislike other girls who flirt with the person you are courting than to discuss ways in which to positively improve your outcome with said person. Another example prevalent in daily life and scientific discourse is climate change. It is a huge modern day objective that is currently being undertaken by many governments, organizations, and humans to reverse and stop global warming. However, despite hundreds of studies, the pleading of scientists and children alike, our differences in political views make many inherently impossible to convince.

@melaniechen9985 brought up her grandfather in her own piece about this article, and how he tends to place more trust in those who hold a similar belief system to his own, and distrust those who do not. We often think that our problems are our own, something new that we have to combat, but each generation faces the problem in a new light. We flock to similarity, as it reassures the validity of our own choice, and it can be quite difficult to veer off of this path.

Each generation paints itself as more understanding and liberal than the last, but we are truly more open to others than before? I would argue the contrary when it comes to political beliefs and trust.

John Stuart Mill argued a Liberal Theory of Freedom, in which all citizens should have the ability to voice their opinions so that there is ample opportunity to support the rational and discredit the extremists early on. Our lack of cooperation may be due to the increase of extremist party members that have arisen, whose ideas are deemed politically incorrect to hear out, and are never given the chance to be shot down. Due to this factor, there voice bubbles and grows until it reaches the surface, where the citizens now can be swayed away from the middle. If we were to allow and be more open to all voices being heard, society would have a greater chance of coming to its own conclusion to disregard extremes, and this might allow for a larger opportunity for cooperation between parties and people.

@melaniechen9985 also points out how Garcia mentions that we are more willing to help out a stranger than a friend, and wonders how that applies to this situation. In our case, partisans view the in-group as the one in the position of the ‘stranger’ – there is no competition arising from this member, while the ‘friend’ is actually the out-group. Competition is viewed as a threat, instead of something that can foster cooperation.



  1. I really enjoyed the way you played out all the main ideas that you attained from the Carlin and Love’s paper. I also liked when you implemented examples of dating and climate change as an easier way to use competition to convince people than to use cooperation. This idea of using anger as a way to convince people does however seem similar to manipulation which in a way should not be seen in politics but is. I wonder in what ways do you think we could go about convincing someone to go towards a positive change without using anger and negativity?


  2. I really liked how you touched on our generation and whether or not we are more trusting than previous generations before us. I was curious about the idea of being politically correct. Currently, being politically correct is extremely important in maintaining one’s career, status and personality. Do you think that getting the majority of a nation to be on the same page, the page of being ‘politically correct’ and saying what is deemed to be appropriate negative? Personally, I think it creates a sense of an artificiality around personal viewpoints and despite how being politically correct may in some sense, die down conflict between the plethora of perspectives, outrageous or not, which may seem good, ultimately trust in one another, and in not just your group but other groups can be the way to not simply avoid conflict altogether, but solve it.


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