FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 28 July 2016

The Science Behind Hillary Clinton's Problems With Trust

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Jillian Jordan, Yale University and David Rand, Yale University

Large swaths of the American public want Donald J. Trump to be their president - maybe even a majority, according to an analysis from Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight in late July.

Many people - Democrats and Republicans alike - find this shocking.

Trump made his name as the "You're fired" guy. He has never held political office, has arguably failed to generate concrete or realistic policy proposals, regularly changes his positions on issues and consistently gets the facts wrong.

This stands in sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton, who has served as secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady of the United States. In his endorsement of her, Barack Obama described Clinton as the most qualified presidential nominee in U.S. history. Presumably experience with, and knowledge of, the system and issues are qualities that make for a good president - so why is this race even close?

How to build trust

Research, including new work from our Human Cooperation Laboratory at Yale, suggests Trump may be successful precisely because of his hotheadedness and lack of carefully thought-out proposals. Being seen as uncalculating can make people trust you.

Hillary Clinton is the opposite of hotheaded. She is careful and calculating - which, despite being a strong asset in actually carrying out the duties of public office, has become a liability in her presidential campaign by undermining the public's trust in her.

In a recent paper, we found that if you take an action that people like, you come off as much more trustworthy if you decide to act without doing a careful cost-benefit analysis first: Individuals who calculate seem liable to sell out when the price is right.

What's more, the desire to appear trustworthy motivated participants to act without too much forethought.

Our research didn't focus on perceptions of politicians, but rather looked at behavior in a more abstract context. We conducted a series of experiments involving economic decisions between anonymous strangers on the internet. Our goal was to create a scenario that would capture the classic trade-off between self-interest and helping others. This is something that comes up in a lot in politics, but also in all sorts of social interactions, such as in our relationships with friends, coworkers and lovers.

Our experiments occur in two stages, with participants assigned to specific roles.

Helping Game.

In the Helping Game stage, "Helpers" are given some money and have the opportunity to give some of it away to benefit another participant.

The second participant is a total stranger who is assigned to the "Recipient" role, and not given any money.

Helpers know that helping the Recipient out will come at a cost - sacrificing a predetermined, but undisclosed, amount of money.

We then give Helpers a choice. They can decide whether to help the Recipient without "looking" at the cost (i.e., without knowing how much money they'll be giving away). Or, they can choose to find out how much money they'll be giving away and only then decide whether to help.

Trust Game.

Next, in the Trust Game stage, Helpers engage in a new interaction with a third participant. This person is called the "Truster." The Truster learns about how the Helper behaved in the first interaction, and then uses it to decide how much the Helper can be trusted.

To measure trust, we give the Truster 30 cents. He then chooses how much to keep and how much to "invest" in the Helper.

Any money he invests gets tripled and given to the Helper. The Helper then chooses how to divide the proceeds of the investment.

Under these rules, investing is productive, because it makes the pot grow larger. But investing pays off for the Truster only if the Helper is trustworthy, and returns enough money to make the Truster a profit.

For example, if the Truster invests all 30 cents, that amount is tripled and the Helper gets 90 cents. If the Helper is trustworthy and returns half, they both end up with 45 cents: more than the Truster started with.

However, the Helper may decide to keep all 90 cents and return nothing. In this case, the Truster ends up with zero and is worse off than when he started.

So the Truster bases his decision of how much to invest in the Helper on how trustworthy he thinks the she will be in the face of a temptation to be selfish - that is, how much he trusts her.

We found that Helpers who agree to help the Recipient without "looking" at the cost are trusted more by Trusters. Moreover, they really are more trustworthy. These "uncalculating Helpers" actually return more money to Trusters in the face of the temptation to keep it all for themselves.

Somebody is watching you

We also found that Helpers are motivated by concerns about their reputation.

For half of participants, there were reputational consequences of calculating: The Truster was told whether the Helper looked at the cost before deciding whether to help - and thus Helpers could lose "trust points" by calculating. For the other half of participants, Trusters found out only whether Helpers helped, but not whether they looked at the cost. Our results showed that Helpers were less likely to look at the cost when they knew it would have reputational consequences.

This result suggests that people do not make uncalculating decisions only because they cannot be bothered to put in the effort to calculate. Whether this strategy is conscious or not, uncalculating decisions can also be a way to signal to others that you can be trusted.

Uncalculating cooperation in daily life

Our studies demonstrate that there are reputation benefits to seeming principled and uncalculating.

This conclusion likely applies broadly to social relationships with friends, colleagues, neighbors and lovers. For example, it may shed light on why a good friend is someone who helps you out, no questions asked - and not someone who carefully tracks favors and remembers exactly how much you owe.

It may also reveal an unexpected reason for the popularity of rigid ethical guidelines in philosophical and religious traditions. Committing to standards like the golden rule can make you more popular.

To trust Trump or Clinton?

Our studies may also help to shed light on Trump's appeal. One of his greatest advantages appears to be the authenticity that he conveys with his emotionally charged behavior.

But it's important to understand uncalculated decisions will benefit your reputation only if the actions you end up taking are perceived positively. In our experiments, Helpers who decided not to help without calculating the costs seemed especially untrustworthy - presumably because they seemed committed to be selfish no matter what. Similarly, Trump's impulsiveness may be a plus for those people who support his values, but a huge turnoff to those who do not.

In contrast, Clinton's persona is often unattractive even to those who support her values - because it suggests that she may not stand by those values when the cost is too high. This may shed light on why she does not inspire more enthusiasm among some liberals, despite her experience and progressive record.

However, there's an important nuance to what it means to be "calculating." One sense of "calculating" is self-interested: Before you agree to adhere to your ethical principles, or to sacrifice for others, you consider the costs and benefits to yourself - and you follow through with doing the "right" thing only if you conclude that it will be best for you.

Another way to be "calculating" is to carefully consider what's right for others. Instead of acting on her gut, a policymaker could conduct a complex analysis to figure out the best way to implement a policy to maximize its benefit to the population.

Our theory and experiments apply only to the first sense of "calculating": They suggest that engaging in self-interested calculations is what undermines trust.

But in what sense is Trump uncalculating - and in what sense is Clinton calculating?

Of course, there's room for debate, but a common argument in support of Clinton is that her calculations reflect her ability to effectively play the game to deliver the most progressive policies possible, given the constraints of our two-party system.

To win, Clinton needs to convince voters that her calculations have their best interests at heart - a major goal of this week's Democratic National Convention.

The ConversationJillian Jordan, Ph.D. Candidate in Psychology, Yale University and David Rand, Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics, Cognitive Science and Management, Yale University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Rising Tide Does Not Lift All Ships
Comments on Feyerabend’s ‘Against Method’, Part II
News Blog
The Numbers Behind The Zumwalt
Docking A Huge Cruise Ship Is More Complicated Than You Think
New Seasonal Outlook Updates from NOAA and JAMSTEC - Let's Compare Them.
Infographic Of The Day: Driving Into A Battery Powered Future
Earthquake Risk - Location Matters
Investor Alert: Be On The Lookout For Investment Scams Related To Hurricane Matthew
Lost In Translation: Five Common English Phrases You May Be Using Incorrectly
The Size And Scope Of Samsung's Business
Immigration Is The Top Worry For Britons
People Killed By Russian Airstrikes In Syria
Have You Taken These 4 Simple Steps To Improve Your Trading?
14 October 2016: ECRI's WLI Growth Index Insignificantly Declines
Mom Breaks Down In Tears When Son With Autism Meets Service Dog
Investing Blog
FinTech Is Taking A Bite Out Of Banks
Options Early Assignment - Should You Worry?
Opinion Blog
US 2016 Election: Will US-China Relations Change
Prop. 51 Versus A State-Owned Bank: How California Can Save $10 Billion On A $9 Billion Loan
Precious Metals Blog
How Will The Election Outcome Impact Precious Metals?
Live Markets
21Oct2016 Market Close: Major US Indexes Close Flat On Low Volume, Crude Prices Resume Climb, US Dollar Stabilizes In Mid 98 Handle, Yes, Most Investors Are Worried Which Way This Market Will Go
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved