Trust: the pizza connection.

Trust is the glue that holds a community together – in the private sphere as well as in the professional environment. Collaboration which is based on trust is generally more efficient, despite the German proverb that suggests that control may be the better option. The question as to why we place our trust in certain people gives rise to some surprising answers.

Common food preferences build up trust

Human thought and behaviour is to a great extent directed by unconscious experiences, as we now know since the publication of Daniel Kahneman’s bestseller “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. This automatism is also effective when the question of trust arises in dealing with strangers: we spontaneously trust people who look like others who we have had positive experiences with. In a similarly spontaneous way, we develop a feeling of mistrust towards people who look like those who we find more disagreeable, as a research team led by Oriel Feldman Hall at the Brown University established. 

Trust is (also) a matter of taste.

A further academic finding may well be useful to you in the planning of your next business dinner, for example with new customers or employees: people who eat the same things have a tendency to trust one another from the start. Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach from the University of Chicago established this correlation in a series of experiments.

However, unlike the concept of sharing a pizza, the distribution of standardised T-shirts at your next team building meeting will not achieve anything – at least not as a measure to build trust or promote cooperation. According to Woolley and Fischbach, similar clothing has a neutral effect in terms of encouraging people to trust one another. This may be one reason (but certainly not the only one) why the wearers of uniform suits or costumes do not tend to spontaneously trust one another.

Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach’s complete study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and can be accessed here online (for a fee).

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