Given the various platitudes and banalities told and written about trust, I thought I would offer some cautionary notes to those interested in researching this topic.
1. Trust is not to be trusted, and academic literature on trust even less ;
2. Nearly all academic literature on trust, presupposes that trust is a good thing and mistrust is a bad thing. This is seriously flawed (see Democritus quote at the bottom). Most scientific effort is the product of mistrust:
a. mistrust of our senses
b. mistrust of existing authority
c. mistrust of current interpretations and viewpoints
d. mistrust of common sense
e. mistrust of other theories
3. Trust is more often than not a post facto rationalization. It can be used to explain any happy end to any story, even one built on mistrust. Hence trust is often a delusion.
4. Trust is only tested in hard circumstances – when the temptation to breach agreements is high. Everybody can trust everybody else in fair weather. Hence trust is not a fact, but a provisional disposition.
5. Trust built over repeated patterns and occurrences in not sensible. As Bertrand Russell famously said, turkeys should not trust the people who feed them until Christmas is over.
6. Trust in stories, accounts and theories amounts to little more than blind faith. Conspiracy theorists know this well, and this is why I mistrust conspiracy theories.
7. I also mistrust them because a consequence of conspiracy theories is the erosion of trust (as provisional disposition, see above) towards social institutions, without which opportunists, populists and other undesirables get the upper hand.
8. Breach of trust is itself very often a social construction (and part of a political ploy as a means of justifying virtually any subsequent behaviour).
“Do not trust all people, but trust men of integrity; the former is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.”
* With acknowledgements to my student Paul Richards whose good work prompted these thoughts.