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Trust in the Brain (and in Corporations) | SCOAP-Profile

Yes, it’s important but it’s more than important, it’s essential – absolutely essential. There’s almost nothing you will do in life if you don’t trust it. Whether it be buying from a website, buying a car, buying new clothes, etc. There needs to be an element of trust involved – if you don’t trust the website to send your goods you won’t buy from them – simple. Now a few of you may be saying well, I’ve bought a car from someone I don’t like or particularly trust. That may be true but there needs to be some trust: maybe you trusted the brand more than the person who was selling it, maybe you trusted the person in the context of cars but not with anything else. This in itself is an important element of trust that many people and companies fail to use i.e. conditional trust:

Getting to unconditional trust is a high and lofty goal indeed – we often confuse this in business life particularly. Will we ever reach unconditional trust? We may have it with very close friends and in deep relationships – but in business? So in business we need to first focus on conditional trust and build trust around certain conditions i.e. that I can deliver that car in that quality at that time. Building trust here is essential. This is what business is about.


Trust is associated with oxytocin which has been shown experimentally to increase trust. This is important because this is a basic bonding “drug”. It is what bonds mother and child but also friends. What is also interesting about trust in the brain is it stimulates the reward centers – this makes it a “happy drug”as well. Trust makes you feel good, it makes you feel safe, it will make you, literally, see other people in a different light. Though conditional and unconditional trust are processed slightly differently they are both positive.


Mistrust in the brain stimulates the amygdala. These process various emotional responses, most importantly fear and threat. So in short, mistrust is processed as a threat, as danger. This will have a host of negative knock-on effects in the mind: the rational thinking centres will be inhibited, the action centres will be subdued, and your brains monitor will be picking up more negative information than previously. Not a good thing.


The above comments are important because it who’s that trust is a positive experience and mistrust a negative experience. More than that it is linked to our primitive friend or foe construct. This actually raises the stakes of trust in corporate contexts and particularly within corporations because if you have trust you will have a positive chemical environment and if you have mistrust you will have a negative chemical environment in the brain. In addition if we have mistrust, it means we have “enemies” within our own corporation, hardly beneficial for business.  What is more worrying is that according to a study by USA Today more than 7 out of 10 Americans distrust CEOs of large corporations. This shows we don’t have a whole lot of trust in corporations – which is a real shame. Remember just what this is doing to people’s brains  – and unfortunately very few companies really have any idea how to change it.